Michael Rodrigues has been in the Massachusetts Legislature since 1991 representing the Fall River area. He has amassed great leadership positions and power in the one-party state, such that as an incumbent Democrat he reasonably believes he has a lifetime appointment to the Legislature.
So confident is he that he voted to increase taxes in a way that even Governor Michael Dukakis did not dare, and Dukakis, God Bless him, never met a tax he didn’t like. America is blest that Governor Dukakis was not elected President.
Massachusetts adjoins New Hampshire, which has no income or sales tax. Therein lies the rub. New Hampshire residents working in Massachusetts have to pay Massachusetts income taxes on their Massachusetts income, so increasing the income tax rate is not a problem. Even Governor Dukakis recognized that increasing the Massachusetts sales tax above the existing 5% could destroy Massachusetts retailers near New Hampshire as state residents would drive across the state line to purchase high price merchandise in New Hampshire, saving on the sales tax.
The New Hampshire State Liquor Stores feature low prices and no sales taxes. They reap a tremendous volume from non-residents driving up to the state liquor store on I-95 across the border from Massachusetts.
Connecticut tried several decades ago to crack down on Connecticut residents purchasing booze in New Hampshire. Connecticut sent a couple of state troopers to stake out the New Hampshire State Liquor Store and write down the license plate numbers of Connecticut vehicles parked at the Store. The drivers would then be confronted when they returned to Connecticut.
That ploy ended when New Hampshire troopers arrested the Connecticut troopers for trespassing.
So what did Assemblyman Rodrigues do to win notoriety in a state known for political corruption? He voted to raise the sales tax by 25% to 6.25% and to impose it for the first time on the sale of alcoholic beverages.
The effect was obvious. One Massachusetts liquor store owner reported an immediate 10% drop in sales while booze sales rocketed in New Hampshire when the tax went into effect August 1.
Many Massachusetts residents are now willing to waste energy by driving to New Hampshire to stock up.
Among them is Representative Rodrigues, whose district is nowhere near the stateline. He was photographed on a cell phone camera with his vehicle parked outside the New Hampshire State Liquor Store on I-95 across the state line.
How, you might ask, do we know the Ford Crown Victoria was his? It had on it his official Massachusetts State Assembly License Plate, Number 29. The plates stood out. When confronted stashing booze into the large trunk of the Crown Vic, he told the Massachusetts citizen to “mind your own business.” The citizen did by emailing the photo to the Boston Herald.
The Representative then explained that he and his wife had stopped at the Liquor State to use the facilities while on a weekend getaway.
Massachusetts is a beautiful state, and if he ever journeyed to the Western part of the state, such as the Berkshire Mountains, he would have found many delightful sites for relaxation – a few of which are close to another New Hampshire State Liquor Store.
Rodrigues has since refined his story by blaming it on Republican demagoguery. Massachusetts has no Republicans. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts keeps reminding us that it was the only state to vote for George McGovern when he lost in 1992 to President Nixon.
Representative Rodrigues should have simply said he was following his constituents up to New Hampshire.
Of course, stashing booze in one’s trunk is not as bad as Massachusetts State Senator Dianne Wilkinson, who was videoed last year stashing $1,000 in bribe money in her bra.
Nor does it match the Massachusetts trifecta of three recent Assembly speakers, Salvatore DiMasi, Charlie Flaherty, and Tom Finneran, being indicted for corruption. Illinois, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut have nothing on Massachusetts when it comes to corruption in the Statehouse.
And yet, arrogance, hypocrisy, stupidity and a $160,000 campaign fund may led to reelection in Massachusetts.