PEPPERELL -- Gov. Deval Patrick's budget proposals for fiscal 2014 are not set in stone, said Sen. Eileen Donoghue. The House and the Senate are examining Patrick's proposals and will be coming forward with their own versions of the budget in upcoming months.
"Chances are the final budget will look much different than what we're looking at right now," she said.
Donoghue addressed the Board of Selectmen on Monday to explain the state budget process. Each year, the governor makes his proposals in January. The House and the Senate digest the proposals and the House puts forth its version of the budget in April. The Senate follows in May. An agreement is reached between the House and the Senate and the consensus is sent back to the governor for approval.
"We hope to have a (final) budget by the end of June 2013," said Donoghue.
The governor proposed a budget of $34.83 billion, which represents a 7.1 percent increase over fiscal 2013's budget of $32.5 billion. Patrick is proposing to raise $1.9 billion in revenue. While some of that would be coming from the state's rainy-day fund, $1.2 billion would be through new tax revenue.
Patrick outlines a number of methods for increasing revenue. He proposed to cut the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent, while increasing personal income tax from 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent.
The proceeds from the sales tax would be dedicated to transportation and infrastructure improvements, including school building funds. The proceeds from the additional income tax revenue would be dedicate to his education initiatives.
Cigarette tax would be increased by $1 per pack. Candy and soda, which have been exempt from sales tax in the past, would no longer be exempt. The bottle bill would expand to include sports and water drinks.
Patrick also proposed to eliminate certain tax exemptions, one of them on the sale of homes. Certain tuition deductions for parents would also be eliminated under his proposal.
Many of these aspects are under careful examination by the Legislature, said Donoghue.
"I think it's fair to say we're respectfully analyzing and digesting what the governor has proposed, but I would also think it's fair to say that both the House and the Senate are going to be very hard at work coming up with our own version of what should happen in this next fiscal year. These are dramatic and aggressive proposals on many fronts that the governor has put out. I need to stress that the legislature is also going to be weighing in very heavily on this," said Donoghue.
In other business, selectmen extended the deadline for residents to apply for the veteran's tax work-off program until Feb. 28. The initial deadline was in January, but the selectmen have not yet received any applications for the program.
Veterans can receive up to $1,000 off of their property tax in exchange for putting in 125 hours of service to the town. The applicant must own his or her home and must have a maximum income of $35,000 for an individual or $50,000 for a married couple.
"At those wage limits, I'm not sure those people would own a house," said Town Administrator John Moak.
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