Where Excise Taxes Go...and Other Trivia

Where do your taxes go? What do you call former convicts? Where can you find a smoke free restaurant? Do you pay meal taxes on alcoholic beverages in a restaurant?

One of the great things about being a state representative is the opportunity to always learn about things. Some dumb. Some fascinating. .

Excise taxes. An irate citizen called me this week, asking where his automobile excise taxes go. Do you know? Keep reading. You'll find the answer below.

Booze. Yes, you do pay meals tax on alcoholic beverages served in a restaurant. Now if you're sitting at the bar, the tax is probably included in, say, the $3.50 you pay for that martini or manhattan, and you leave just $3.50 (plus tip of course). If you have that drink at the table, and it's added onto your dinner bill, look out....you may see the meal tax added on again. But don't think I'm the one to point that out to the barkeep. You try to explain it. And how the tax is collected is up to the guy holding the license.

Criminals. At a Ways and Means Committee Hearing last week, I was confused for a moment when a state bureaucrat, talking about former prisoners, said they had a "criminal justice background." He didn't mean they were a bunch of felonious law enforcement officers. Just ex-cons. Dumb.

Money. At another hearing a representative referred to "resource issues." He meant money.

Prisons. The Boston Herald says "Bad news is good news." Following up my column on prisons two weeks ago, I learned that America's prison population is at an all time high. So, crime has fallen to levels not seen since the late 60s. There are 668 inmates per 100,000 people. The Herald says that locking criminals up is a very effective technique in cutting crime, noting that for every year that a felon is kept behind bars, 15 crimes aren't committed. Says the Herald, "locking up more criminals and keeping them locked up longer is essential."

Electric Cars. Massachusetts isn't meeting its own goals when it comes to electric cars. Thank goodness. Not that I have anything against electricity mind you. It's just that I got a ride in the one that's kept in the State House garage. Its electric cord runs from the wall plug to the would-be gas tank. It's charged all day. But, for an 8 hour charge, it'll only go 40 miles. And my ride on Beacon Hill, which is not flat, was the slowest I've ever gone in Boston. You can't turn the heat on, either, without wasting some of those 40 miles. We're supposed to have 20,000 zero-emission cars on the road by 2003, but a test drive program has been cut, and almost no one is building electric charging stations.

Aging. We hear a lot in the state house about elder care, Alzheimers Disease, and the costs of aging. Well, did you know that, unless the diseases of aging are controlled or cured, society will be overwhelmed by the costs of giving custodial and palliative care to people with these diseases. Alzheimers alone costs the country $100 billion annually, according to a medical tip sheet I got this week that outlines research and education in medical innovations.. As the population ages, that cost will soar. There's hope. Pharmaceutical companies are testing 23 new medicines for Alzheimers and other dementias.

Smoke-free. There's a new guidebook out, a list of the restaurants in Hampden County that are smoke-free. Want a copy? Call the Hampden County Tobacco Free Coalition at 734-7381. It was funded in part by the Westfield Health Department with state cigaret tax money.

Parking meters. Silliest ad I've read, by someone politically correct. For a meter maid (meterman?). "Successfully candidate...must be able to walk for extended periods of time; to use hands to finger, feel and handle objects and controls and to reach with hands and arms; must be able to talk and hear; and must be able to lift and/or move up to 50 pounds."

Communications. As you may or may not know, Curt and I are partners in a corporation that formerly operated a radio station. Celia Communications. This week I got a letter which began "Dear Ms. Communications."

Excise taxes. I didn't forget. The money you send to the Westfield Collector goes to the City of Westfield, to spend as the city sees fit. For fiscal year 1998, the city collected $2.6-million. That's 2.5 percent or $25 per thousand on the Blue Book Value.

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