DATE: October 26, 2010
Board Opposes Question 3
An initiative to reduce the state sales tax from 6.25% to 3 % will appear on the November 2010 ballot as Question 3. At its October Board meeting, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) voted to oppose Question 3 on the basis on that its enactment would have a severe negative impact on library services, programs, networks and entire systems that have made Massachusetts libraries among the strongest in the nation.
The Board unanimously approved the following motion:
Be it resolved that as the primary stewards of library service for all residents of the Commonwealth, the Board of Library Commissioners opposes Question 3 on the basis that its enactment would have a severe impact on all types of libraries in Massachusetts and would result especially in an overwhelming and wholly destructive loss of public library services that are fundamental to the educational, social and economic well-being of all residents of the Commonwealth.
In discussion of the sales tax initiative, the Board referred to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (MTF) report on the impact of Question 3. The report titled "Question 3: Heading Over the Cliff" provides a perspective on state funding from the beginning of fiscal year 2009 (July 1, 2008) to the present.
According to the MTF report the impact of a full year of reduced sales tax revenue would be $2.5 billon. It documents an existing $2.0 billion structural deficit going into FY2012 and estimates that the total revenue loss for FY2012 would be $4.5 billion if Question 3 passes. This would require a 28% reduction in all discretionary spending.
A 28% cut in the library budget would require cutting $5.9 million from existing programs. This is roughly the equivalent of eliminating the State Aid to Public Libraries program ($6.9M) or eliminating the Massachusetts Library System ($6.9M). Taking such a cut across multiple programs would require elimination of the Talking Book Libraries, the Library of Last Recourse and Library Technology & Resource Sharing (total of $6.4M).
However, cuts to library spending may be more drastic. According to MTF state spending has been reduced by 11.6% since July 1, 2008. As a point of comparison, during that same time period, state spending on libraries (MBLC accounts) has been cut 38% from $34.1 million to $21.1 million. If this trend in state reductions continues, libraries will experience 3 times the average reduction which would mean an 84% cut.
"Libraries are experiencing a historic demand for services fueled, in part, by the difficult economy. The passage of Question 3 would not only result in a serious erosion of our entire library system but would also cause cuts in public safety, health care and education. These are services that the public wants, needs, and uses-especially now," said MBLC Chair Katherine Dibble.
The Board of Library Commissioners (mass.gov/mblc) is the agency of state government with the statutory authority and responsibility to organize, develop, coordinate and improve library services throughout the Commonwealth. The Board advises municipalities and library trustees on the operation and maintenance of public libraries, including construction and renovation. It administers state and federal grant programs for libraries and promotes cooperation among all types of libraries through regional library systems and automated resource sharing. It also works to ensure that all residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of their geographic location, social or economic status, age, level of physical or intellectual ability or cultural background, have access to essential new electronic information technologies and significant electronic databases.