Brookline, MA – Harold Hubschman, founder of Massachusetts ballot question committee Sign2SuspendTheGasTax.org, announced today the launch of a statewide campaign to pass a law, by a vote of the people, to suspend the Massachusetts state gas tax whenever the average price per gallon of regular gas is $3 or more.
The campaign has already successfully completed the first step to get on the ballot. On September 7, Attorney General Maura Healey legally certified the proposed law to suspend the gas tax and ruled that it is in “proper form for submission to the people” as required by Article 48 of the Massachusetts constitution. This allows Sign2SuspendTheGasTax.org to begin collecting the 100,000 signatures of registered voters as required by Massachusetts law to place the initiative on the November 2024 ballot.
Sign2SuspendTheGasTax.org is employing a never before attempted strategy for collecting signatures. The campaign will not raise any money to hire paid petitioners or recruit volunteers to stand in front of supermarkets with clipboards. Instead, Massachusetts voters will be invited to visit https://Sign2SuspendTheGasTax.org and request that a petition be mailed to them.
To receive the petition, voters will be asked to donate $2.95 to cover the cost of collecting and processing all the signatures on their petition. (If everyone in the voter’s household signs, it’s still $2.95) This includes printing and mailing the petition packet to the voter; postage on a prepaid business reply envelope that is included in the packet for the voter to mail the signed petition to their local election department for the election clerk to register and count their signatures; and the postage and courier costs for the campaign to retrieve all 100,000 signed petitions from the 351 Massachusetts city and town election departments and deliver them to the Massachusetts Secretary of State.
“We created this online platform to make it easy for voters to put common sense laws on the ballot so we can pass them ourselves if our legislators refuse to act,” said Hubschman. “Instead of needing to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire an expensive army of paid petitioners, or needing to build a massive volunteer signature drive organization with clipboards and walk lists and supermarket schedules – both of which are out of reach for most political organizations – we are using social media and crowdsourcing to assemble and mobilize an online community of voters who want to sign initiative petitions to help get issues that they support and care about on the ballot.”
Hubschman is the founder and president of SignatureDrive.com, the leading signature drive firm in New England and one of the top firms in the country. He has been running signature drives for nearly 30 years. Together with his two business partners, and a team of very talented managers and elite petitioners around the country, his firm has run over 100 statewide signature drives (all of them successful) in 26 states, for ballot initiative and for candidates at all levels, from city council and mayor to presidential campaigns.
“Access to the citizen ballot initiative process should not be limited only to wealthy individuals and organizations,” said Hubschman, “The goal of this project is to democratize the process of getting initiatives on the ballot by having the signers of the initiative finance the entire signature drive themselves. Our plan is to collect all 100,000 signatures from voters who request a petition be mailed to them and who agree to pay $2.95 to cover the cost of processing their own petition. We are so committed to having our signers literally be our sole source of funding our signature drive that we don’t even have a mechanism on our platform to raise money to hire paid petitioners. Our donation page is hardwired to only accept $2.95 to pay for a petition packet and only after the donor submits their postal address so we can send it to them.”
Putting this initiative to suspend the gas tax on the ballot is only the first step. “Our long-term objective is to build an online community of Massachusetts voters, and eventually voters in every ballot initiative state in the country, who want to sign petitions to put issues on the ballot that have broad popular support but that our legislators won’t pass,” explained Hubschman. “Eventually campaigns will be able to use our platform to collect signatures the way they now use political donation platforms to raise money. Voters will come to our platform to, in effect, donate a signature the way they go to websites such as ActBlue or WinRed to donate money.”
The next step, after completing this signature drive, is to expand the platform to other issues. “Signing a petition for a candidate or ballot initiative is one of our most basic rights as voters,” says Hubschman. “It’s as fundamental to our democratic system as voting. This will completely change how signature drives are run.”
Additional background information
What does the proposed law do? The proposed law would require the Department of Revenue to suspend collection of the 24 cent per gallon tax on automotive fuel during any week that the average price per gallon of regular, according to the weekly benchmark price published by US Energy Information Administration is $3 or more.
The proposed law also moves responsibility for collecting the gas tax from gasoline suppliers to the gas stations. Currently, gas stations pay the gas tax on their bulk gas deliveries and then pass it on to their customers at the pump. Under the proposed law, the per gallon gas tax will be collected by the gas station and will appear as an explicit line item on the driver’s receipt. This way, a driver filling up at a time when the gas tax is suspended will be sure that they are not paying the gas tax and that the distributors, suppliers and gas stations are not making a windfall profit.
The full text of the proposed law and the Attorney General’s summary can be found at https://Sign2SuspendTheGasTax.org/Language/
Can Massachusetts afford to suspend the gas tax? Massachusetts can clearly afford to intermittently suspend the state gas tax, which generates approximately $720 million in revenues each year, or approximately $13 million per week. The state’s budget is over $50 billion dollars per year. According to the state treasurer, in June the state had nearly $16 billion in unspent cash on hand, including nearly $7 billion in the rainy-day fund alone. It was recently announced that Massachusetts collected so much excess tax revenues in the last fiscal year that under Chapter 62F of Massachusetts General Law, the Department of Revenue is required to refund nearly $3 billion to tax payers. The legislature also announced recently a proposal to send one-time cash payments to taxpayers totaling $500 million.
How will the proposed law affect highway funding? All gas tax revenues are deposited into the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund. The proposed law will not reduce deposits into the fund. Under the proposed law, the gas tax is only suspended if the legislature has previously appropriated money to replace the suspended gas tax revenue.