By Bob Katzen
STATEHOUSE -- The Massachusetts House 123-33 and Senate 35-5, overrode Gov. Deval Patrick's veto of a transportation package that proponents say will raise $500 million through tax hikes. Some opponents of the measure dispute the those projections, and argue that the total in tax hikes will be substantially more than $500 million.
Provisions include a 3-cent-per-gallon hike in the state's current 21-cent-per-gallon gas tax, which, beginning in 2015, would also be indexed to inflation. Other provisions include a $1 hike in the current $2.51-per-package cigarette tax, an increase in the tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco, a change in the way utilities are classified for tax purposes, and the reinstatement of tolls at exits 1 through 6 on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Western Massachusetts. The legislation also imposes a new 6.25 percent sales tax on computer system design services as well as services to modify prewritten software.
Supporters said the bill is a reasonable and responsible package that will provide $805 million in revenue by 2018 to begin to solve many of the structural and financial problems that plague the state's transportation system. House Speaker Robert DeLeo said, "I think that we have provided a good piece of legislation providing proper financing for transportation for many years to come." Some supporters said they reluctantly voted for the package as the lesser of two evils. They said they would rather vote for these hikes than vote to sustain the governor's veto and have the process start from scratch again with the looming prospect of passage of an even bigger tax package.
Opponents said the proposed tax hikes will hurt already overburdened taxpayers and businesses and urged the state to live within its means. House Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R-North Reading) said, "Today's vote in the House of Representatives is about one thing, and one thing only - a crippling tax increase. Massachusetts' taxpayers should not be lulled into a false sense of hope that the $500 million tax increase approved by House Democrats is better than the nearly $2 billion increase being pushed by Governor Patrick."
(A "Yes" vote is for the tax hikes. A "No" vote is against them.)
Rep. Jennifer Benson, Yes; Rep. Sheila Harrington, No; Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Yes; Sen. James Eldridge, Yes ; Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, Yes.