Why I Voted “No” on the 2% Tax on the Sale of Alcohol in Boston

By Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George

I want to start by thanking the Makers of this Order. Councilors Bill Linehan and Frank Baker have been passionate forces of advocacy and support for families that are struggling to connect their loved ones to treatment. I’m proud to be their colleague and I’m grateful for their work.

Substance use disorder is personal for so many of our constituents and us. We see and feel its impacts every day.

As the Chair of the Committee on Homelessness, Mental Health and Recovery, I know how drastically this issue is affecting our City and how badly we need additional resources to fight this battle on all its fronts.

No doubt we can do better. But this isn’t a battle that we can fight alone.

Substance Use Disorder is a crisis. It impacts every community in the state and every state in the country. Accidental overdose is now the number one cause of accidental death in Massachusetts. Five people a day in our state lose their life to this disease.

Because this isn’t just a problem in the City of Boston, it’s going to take a coordinated effort to make real progress. We need other cities and towns, the state, and the Federal Government to step up. We need insurance companies to step up and provide much needed mental health services.

We in Boston are working every day to help people and families battling substance use disorder.

  • We have led the way to recovery for individuals with our innovative PAATHS program.
  • We have fought to prevent a decline in federal resources for transitional housing programs.
  • We have worked to site services in communities and remove stigma both for those in recovery and active addiction.

We know that there is more work to do – the nature of this challenge is that there is always more work to do. But I will not lay that responsibility on the backs of our small-business owners before others have stepped up.

Just last week Governor Baker cut $1.9 million from Recovery Services in the state.

That is unacceptable.

This legislation from Councilors Baker and Linehan comes from the right place – a place of wanting to take action. But ultimately it takes too much from the City and leaves the State with too much room to take advantage of our efforts.

The state legislature, not this body, will have the final say on all of the language of this bill. I’m not comfortable with that.

We have too many examples of the State not returning tax dollars collected in Boston and owed to the City. I’m not willing to risk that happening again here.

Boston needs real, long-term, budget line items from the state and the federal government to help us fight this battle, not unpredictable tax revenue. The State, as well as the Federal Government, has failed us in this.

For these reasons, I voted ‘No’ on the proposal to file a Home Rule Petition to levy a 2 percent tax on all alcohol sales in the city of Boston.


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