EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 2, 2013

Gas tax indexing opponents hoping for another Beacon Hill repeal

By Matt Murphy
State House News Service

---- — BOSTON — After watching state legislators repeal a tax on software services last week, proponents of rolling back the new gas tax law that links future increases to inflation hope “flip-flopping” becomes contagious on Beacon Hill.

“We’d like them to consider the gas tax linked to the CPI a real flop and repeal that one as well,” said Rep. Geoff Diehl, a Whitman Republican and lead supporter of a ballot question to repeal the gas tax indexing law in 2014.

Diehl was joined by three of his House Republican colleagues and several other repeal proponents outside the State House yesterday to continue the push to decouple the gas tax from inflation. He was joined by Reps. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton), Leah Cole (R-Peabody) and Lenny Mirra (R-West Newbury).

The indexing provision was included in the recent transportation financing law and defended by Democratic leaders as a way of protecting against the declining value of the gas tax over time. Lawmakers who crafted the gas tax law estimate the indexing provision will generate $15 million a year over the next five years.

Opponents, however, say tying the gas tax to inflation amounts to “taxation without representation,” ensuring that future increases in the tax occur without the Legislature having to cast votes. Critics say the rising gas tax will not only hurt drivers and businesses, but drive up the cost of food and other goods for consumers.

“I urge them again to flip flop on this gas tax to infinity and beyond,” said conservative activist Marty Lamb. The small group stood in front of a sign that read “Tank the Automatic Gas Tax” and displayed two pairs of flip-flops on the sidewalk in front of them, including a pair of black and white Kate Spade sandals.

Republican State Committeeman Steve Aylward said ballot drive organizers have collected more than 16,000 signatures so far in the two weeks since petition papers were made available, and have recruited more than 1,000 volunteer signature gatherers.

The group must collect at least 68,911 certified signatures by Nov. 20, and has set a goal of 100,000 to ensure they gain access to the 2014 ballot.

“Unlike the tech people who had lots of money and lots of big money behind them which helped to overturn that particular tax, we don’t,” Aylward said.

Though the Republican lawmakers expressed hope for the Legislature acting to repeal the gas tax indexing law before it reaches the ballot, Democratic leadership in both the House and Senate have shown no inclination to bring it up for a vote.