EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 17, 2013

Local lawmakers leery about Patrick's tax hike plan

Governor wants to raise state income tax to help generate $2 billion a year

Local lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans alike, don’t appear ready to support Gov. Deval Patrick’s call to raise the state income tax.

Patrick wants to raise the income tax rate and possibly other taxes and user fees to generate up to $2 billion a year to pay for transportation infrastructure projects and massive new education initiatives — a plan he outlined at last night’s State of the State speech.

Boosting the income tax from the current rate of 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent would raise $1 billion annually. The remainder of Patrick’s proposals would be funded through other fees or taxes.

Patrick also proposed lowering the sales tax, from 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent.

House and Senate leaders have said they are not opposed to a tax increase this year — unlike past years when they called the idea a nonstarter. Still, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray have said Patrick’s tax and spending plans will be carefully scrutinized, not rubber stamped.

State Rep. Brian Dempsey, a Haverhill Democrat and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, played it close to the vest in commenting on Patrick’s tax proposal yesterday, only going so far as to say he anticipates “a robust debate” over any tax increases proposed by the governor. Dempsey said the his budget committee will spend the next several months analyzing revenue and spending proposals — a process set to begin next week when Patrick files his budget recommendations for fiscal 2014.

“As chairman of the committee, it is my responsibility to examine how the governor’s proposals will impact the state’s overall budget, our fiscal stability and our ability to attract and sustain businesses that will supply jobs to the Commonwealth,” Dempsey said in a written statement.

Other area lawmakers called the proposals outlined last night overly ambitious and off-timed — on both the revenue and spending sides — given the state’s fragile economy.

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