Many local Democrats are balking at Gov. Deval Patrick’s expansive transportation and education proposals because of the tax increases included to pay for them.
However, several would support a more modest version, saying higher taxes, even with a cut in the sales tax, are a tough sell. Republicans are dead set against any tax increase, and they say any new education spending should come from reductions in spending elsewhere.
“Any time you talk about a potential tax increase, it’s going to be a tough sell,” said Bryan Sweet, chairman of the Methuen Democratic City Committee. “In the Merrimack Valley, it’s a working class area.”
Patrick, in his State of the State address in January, proposed increasing education and transportation spending, paid for with a hike in the income tax from 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent. The impact would be softened with a sales tax cut from 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent. Overall, the proposal is estimated to net an additional $1.9 billion in annual tax revenue.
Many Democrats, most of whom are politically active but not elected officials, said while they support the broad goals of the proposal, the tax increase is too much.
“We have growing needs for transportation and education and local aid,” said Joseph LeBlanc, Ward 7 chairman of the Haverhill City Democratic Committee. “There are great needs out there.”
State Rep. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, said the governor’s plan is too ambitious
“Concerning taxes, there were some good ideas in the governor’s proposal, such as lowering the sales tax, which should benefit border communities in regard to keeping business local,” she said. “His suggestion to raise the income tax by a full percentage point, however, has raised great concern throughout my district.”
Many were unsure whether Patrick intended to push for enactment of his current plan, or whether he proposed something he was prepared to negotiation down.