By John Lynds
On Tuesday night the Lynn City Councilor voted to override Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy’s veto of the council’s proposal to increase the state’s meal tax by .0075 percent as a way of bridging the city’s budget deficit. Ward One Councilor Wayne A. Lozzi was the only no vote during the meeting.
In a letter to the Council from Kennedy that was read into the record Tuesday night. she said, “I am respectfully vetoing the above-referenced order regarding the imposition of a local options meals tax in the City of Lynn. I am well aware that the City is currently facing a structural deficit in the budget. The Council leadership and I are working diligently to put together a package of measures that will close this deficit at minimum cost to taxpayers, and with an aim to preserve the jobs of all people currently employed by the city. However, I cannot support the creation of a meals tax as one of the remedies to the deficit. Less than two months ago, the citizens of Lynn soundly rejected a tax increase as a way of funding two new middle schools. I do not believe that we should ignore the expressed will of our citizens and impose another tax at this time.”
A motion was made for a discussion on the floor with Ward Two Councilor William Trahant arguing that the increase would not burden Lynn residents and that a lot of visitors to Lynn restaurants and entertainment venues would be contributing to the .0075 per cent tax increase.
Council President Dan Cahill was next to speak and said at the last debate on the issue, Council members made it clear that this is a tax adopted in many towns and municipalities and Lynn residents pay the tax already every time they leave the confines of the city.
“This is a nominal tax increase of .0075 percent,” said Councilor Cahill. “There’s talk of an increase in fees as we are considering this veto override.”
Cahill said talk from the Mayoral Administration to increase monthly parking pass fees and other fees is not going to work.
“These increases will be thrusted upon our residents,” said Cahill. “A tax and a fee is the same thing and we are not going to ‘fee’ our way out of this deficit by increasing parking fees a thousand percent.”
Cahill reminded the Council that the recommendation for an increase in a meals tax came from an independent study paid by the Baker Administration.
“We are millions of dollars in deficit, we’ve had seven murders this year in Lynn, we are facing some real issues,” he said. “This is not a political game and the citizens of Lynn deserve better. They deserve proper public safety and education. We are trying to give people a reason to stay in Lynn and I pay this tax everywhere I go except for Lynn.”
Cahill added that Lynn is the last city in Essex County to implement the .0075 percent meals tax increase.
“I’m proud to override this veto,” he ended.
At-Large City Councilor Brian LaPierre pointed out that since its inception under the Patrick Administration cities and towns across the Commonwealth have raised over $60 million in additional revenue.
He gave examples like neighboring Salem that put an additional $560,000 into its budget last year through the meals tax and Peabody was able to add an additional $860,000 in revenue through the tax.
“We are talking about a few cents on a cup of coffee or 8 cents on a chicken dinner,” said LaPierre. “This is a necessity, this budget gap is enormous and we need this for adequate police protection and start to repair our roads. So lets get $800,000 back into this city beginning on January 1.”