EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

April 7, 2013

Column: Patrick’s spending spree gets short shrift in the Legislature

Sadly, my chocolate bunny didn’t last long enough to hear the full fate of Gov. Deval Patrick’s beloved $1.9 billion tax increase proposal. I needed it to deal with the suspense.

New spending on transportation and education proposals in the governor’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget depend upon new revenues. House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray had a joint news conference on Tuesday supporting “only” $500 million more: a 3 cents per gallon increase in the gas tax, adjusted for inflation in the future, a $1 per pack increase in the cigarette tax, application of the sales tax to computer system design services, and utility classification.

Last month the Joint House/Senate Revenue Committee held a hearing on the governor’s taxes, including his increase in the 5.25 percent income tax rate to 6.25 percent. Citizens for Limited Taxation’s Chip Faulkner was at the hearing to testify for bills reducing the income tax and sales tax rates to 5 percent: a nicely “balanced approach.”

Good thing he was there, since the mayor of Springfield showed up with a brand new attack on Proposition 2 ½! Because Mayor Domenic Sarno wants one of the proposed state casinos to be built in Springfield, he’s asking for casinos’ property taxes to be exempt from the Proposition 2 ½ levy limit, letting those taxes take the tax rate above the 2.5 percent ceiling.

Dangerous precedent. I can hear a logical argument that a casino is just another business, so if it is exempt, why not all businesses? Why not an industrial park, or a Wal-Mart? Chip was quick to point out that Springfield has been one of the most mismanaged cities in the commonwealth, which is why its tax rate is sitting right on that 2.5 percent limit in the first place, unable to count the casino taxes as new growth.

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