On November 4, 2014, Massachusetts citizens will have the opportunity to preserve the health of the Commonwealth and provide a foundation for continued improvement. The Massachusetts Public Health Association recognizes the public health implications of two important November ballot questions- Question One and Question Four.
Question One (No!) proposes the elimination of gas tax indexing. Eliminating gas tax indexing would require that the gas tax be adjusted annually, relative to the Consumer Price Index. The Massachusetts transportation system and its maintenance depends on funding from gas taxing. Repealing the gas tax indexing law would mean that over $1 billion designated for improved transportation would be lost. As a member organization of Transportation for Massachusetts (T4MA) and advocate for Complete Streets, MPHA strongly opposes this Question. If Question One passes, it would be a step backwards- causing our roads, bridges, public transportation, bikeways and sidewalks to fall into further disrepair. It will threaten the gains we have made towards a sustainable, healthy, and equitable transportation system.
Question Four (Yes!) entitles Massachusetts employees to earned sick time under certain conditions. A law mandating or regulating earned sick time does not currently exist in Massachusetts. Question Four would create a basic standard for Massachusetts employers to provide sick time to their employees if they do not already offer it. Thousands of hardworking people in Massachusetts are forced to choose between going to work sick or losing a day’s pay – or worse, their jobs. Some are even forced to send a sick child to school to save their income or job. MPHA Executive Director Rebekah Gewirtz emphasizes the importance of this question for public health in a recent Pump Handle article: “We need public policies that lift people up and keep families healthy”. MPHA supports the enactment of earned sick time for all Massachusetts workers in order to give way to healthier and more equitable communities.