NEW MASS TAX PROPOSED: A Paint Tax

by Ted Tripp
Did you know that the can of house paint you just bought will be classified as “architectural paint” by Massachusetts’ politicians come next year, and be subject to a newly proposed tax on paint if legislation now underway passes? This tax would be in addition to the 6.25% you now pay in sales tax on that gallon or 5 gallon pail of paint.

So what do you get for this new tax? For most people: nothing. Nothing. If you use up that gallon while painting, you will get no benefit from the extra money you will be forced to pay.
The legislation is in Senate Bill S.2109, an Act Establishing the Paint Stewardship Program (previous bills S.2052 and S.408). It has already passed the Senate (by a vote of 25-11 on 1/21/2016) and is currently waiting in the House Ways and Means Committee to be assigned a House bill number. If it passes the House and is signed by Governor Baker, it is scheduled to take effect on October 1, 2017. Note that the tax would sneakily pop up in a non election year long after consumers would have a chance to do anything about it.
The program would set up collection points for “post-consumer paint” (that’s used paint for the layman) where “at least 90% of residents shall have a collection site within a 15-mile radius and at least 1 collection site shall be established in each municipality with a population of 50,000 or more unless otherwise approved by the department …” The collected paint would be transported to a process center for recycling or disposal.
A fee or tax will be added to each container of paint to cover the cost of the program. In other states this has reportedly been about 75 cents/gal or $1.60/5 gal. However, Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts – which opposes the legislation – says the actual cost differential, when you include the sales tax, between New Hampshire and Massachusetts, will be about $4/gal of paint. Can you say: Hello New Hampshire?
Jon Hurst also calls this paint program “a gateway drug to extended producer responsibility.” He says, what’s next: electronics, batteries, carpeting, household chemicals, etc.? The list is endless.
The paint stewardship program is being pushed by the paint manufacturers and local environmental activist groups. Call me cynical, but I would guess that the paint companies are pushing this legislation because it will excuse them from paying future superfund site costs when their products are found abandoned. The proposed program makes the consumer pay the cost directly through a tax, at no cost to the paint company.
Environmental proponents claim it will save cities and towns $12 million a year in hazardous waste costs. It’s hard to see how that will happen based on how the bill is written and how waste companies now charge for disposal.
Maine, Connecticut, Vermont and Rhode Island are some of the states that have already passed similar legislation. What do they all have in common? They are “nanny” states. Their governments like to tell you what to do. Note that “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire is missing from the group.
The real problem here is … there is no problem. Due to prior legislation, almost all house paint today is latex-based, which is classified as non-hazardous waste and isn’t even accepted at most hazardous waste collection sites. Once the water dries out from a latex paint, the remainder is basically harmless.
Here’s a no-cost solution I heard a town was using more that 30 years ago. The town had a recycle site where people could bring partially full cans of paint which were then stored in a shed. Others could then visit the shed and – free of charge – take whatever they wanted. There was a constant turnover of colors and types of paint as people became aware of the free paint program. Non-problem solved with no additional tax on those buying new paint.
Is this too simple for the Legislature to understand?
Senators voting in FAVOR (25) of the new paint tax: Barrett, Brady, Brownsberger, Chandler, Chang-Diaz, Creem, DiDomenico, Donnelly, Downing, Eldridge, Forry, Gobi, Jehlen, Joyce, Lesser, Lewis, L’Italien, McGee, Montigny, Pacheco, Rodrigues, Rush, Spilka, Timilty, and Welch.
Senators voting AGAINST (11) the new paint tax: deMacedo, Donoghue, Fattman, Flanagan, Humason, Keenan, Lovely, Moore, O’Connor Ives, Ross, and Tarr.
Absent or not voting were Petruccelli and Wolf. ♦

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