Legislators react to Patrick tax plan
Feb 7, 2013 By Allison Thomasseau, The Lowell Sun
BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick’s ambitious plan to raise $1.9 billion in new taxes is not generating much enthusiasm among Lowell-area lawmakers who want to reform inefficient programs instead of raising taxes.
“We need to continue a discussion on reform before we have a discussion on revenue, and that’s the consensus between my constituents and colleagues,” said Rep. Tom Golden, D-Lowell.
Patrick’s plan includes raising the income tax from 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent and doubling personal-tax exemptions while cutting the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent.
He also wants to raise taxes on cigarettes and gasoline, eliminate the tax exemption on candy and soda, and extend redemptions on recycled bottles.
The additional revenue would go toward expanding early-childhood education, Chapter 70 aid to local schools, and transportation, including roads and MBTA service and expansion.
After holding a Democratic caucus Tuesday, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he has heard “grave concerns” about the plan from his membership and constituents. Many, he said, feel the changes go further than what the governor outlined in his State of the State address last month.
Most Lowell-area legislators fit into that group.
Golden said a top priority for reform should be eliminating welfare fraud, including EBT card and food-stamp-program fraud.
“We want to see that every person who needs assistance gets it, and anyone gaming system gets punished,” Golden said.
To fix this problem, Golden supports legislation to update the software that performs background checks on food-stamp applicants.
Rep. Kevin Murphy, D-Lowell, says all reforms need to be exhausted before raising taxes.
“We have to make sure citizens are convinced that we have done everything to curb spending,” Murphy said.
Murphy supports consolidating agencies, such as housing, education and the Department of Corrections, to save money and make government agencies more efficient.
Rep. Marc Lombardo, R-Billerica, said the governor’s plan was “absolutely ridiculous,” particularly a 19 percent income-tax hike.
“It will hurt hardworking, struggling families, and it shows how out of touch the governor is with my district,” he said.
Lombardo said the response from his Billerica constituents was overwhelmingly negative toward the plan.
“The message is clear from my district that people can’t afford any more of a tax increase,” Lombardo said.
Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, supported the governor’s tax reforms, saying the income-tax increase would mostly affect wealthy citizens while the sales tax cut would benefit lower and middle-class citizens.
“Right now Massachusetts is fairly regressive, with the largest tax burden for working class families. We need to shift up,” he said.
Eldridge said the revenue was necessary for transportation reforms his district needed, such as commuter-rail service, bike and walking paths and road repairs.
“There have been cuts across the board, and we need to restore that with new revenue,” Eldridge said.
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