BOSTON — Senate Republicans are making a last-ditch effort to include Gov. Charlie Baker’s stalled tax relief package and a gas tax holiday in next year’s state budget.

The Democratic-controlled Senate will take up a $49.7 billion budget that calls for tapping into record surplus revenues to make major investments in childcare, workforce development and housing and boost local aid to cities and towns, but rejects a buffet of tax cuts pitched by the Republican governor.

Undeterred, the Senate’s GOP minority has filed a laundry list of amendments to the budget calling for a temporary suspension of the state’s .24-cent per gallon gas tax, lowering the capital gains business tax to 5%, overhauling the estate or “death” tax, and doubling the circuit breaker tax credit for senior citizens.

The proposals mirror parts of a $700 million tax relief package filed by Baker alongside his preliminary budget plan.

Republicans argue that the state is awash with surplus tax revenue and can afford to provide some relief for consumers who are paying higher prices for everything from gas to food amid record inflation, supply chain issues and the impact of economic sanctions against Russia.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, said with state revenue collections far exceeding expectations and a record surplus that continues to grow, the time is right for tax relief.

“The budget makes sound expenditures in many areas, but, given the circumstances we are in, it must do more, by recognizing and responding to the realities being faced by the people who pay the bills of state government,” Tarr said Friday. “They are struggling with the staggering costs of fuel prices and the impacts of inflation on household budgets.”

To be sure, the renewed push for tax cuts faces long odds in the Senate, where the GOP’s three-member minority gives them little say over the final spending package. The minority caucus have received support for the move from a handful of Democrats, who have filed their own tax relief amendments to the budget.

While there are no tax breaks in the Senate’s spending plan, it doesn’t call for wholesale increases in taxes or fees and pumps more money into the state’s reserves or “rainy day” fund, bringing the fund to a record $6.74 billion.

Overall, the Senate spending plan calls for boosting state aid to cities and towns by more than $63 million to $1.23 billion in the next fiscal year. Chapter 70 funding for public schools would also rise to more than $6 billion in the next fiscal year under the plan.

A key provision of the Senate budget calls for spending $250 million for continued pandemic-related state grants to buoy early education and child care providers.

The Democratic-controlled House approved its version of the budget two weeks ago after adding another $130 million in spending to the plan.

House Republicans also sought to amend the spending package to include parts of Baker’s tax cuts plan and a gas tax holiday, but they were rejected by the Democratic majority.

Democrats argued that a temporary suspension of the gas tax could jeopardize the state’s bond rating while providing little relief for motorists at the pumps.

Some Democratic lawmakers have suggested that the governor’s tax proposals are skewed toward the state’s wealthiest, a claim the Baker administration refutes.

Baker, who steps down at the end of the year after two terms in office, is making a major push for approval of the buffet of tax cuts as he tries to leave his final imprint on the governor’s office by pursuing an aggressive legislative agenda that includes a $3.5 billion economic development plan and other major initiatives.

To be sure, lawmakers are still separately considering Baker’s tax relief package as part of a standalone bill, which went before a public hearing in April.

Last week, Senate President Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, announced that she has directed Senate leaders to work on a tax relief package for consideration this session but only after the budget is approved. Spilka didn’t say what provisions might be considered as part of the tax plan.

Debate on the Senate's version of the budget is set to get underway on May 24.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at cwade@northofboston.com

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