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April 3, 2013

Lawmakers struggle to find new way to raise taxes

BOSTON — While state officials were crammed into a meeting room upstairs hearing details of a $500 million tax proposal patched together by legislative leaders, lawmakers on Tuesday took turns airing proposals to adjust the levers on local taxes.

One proposal (S 1343) would enable municipalities or regions to pass voter referendums for new forms of transportation-dedicated tax revenue.

“This would allow local communities, either an individual community or a group of communities, to present to the public a proposal for revenue, which might take any different number of forms,” said Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville), the bill’s sponsor, who highlighted a payroll tax or a parking tax as potential revenue raisers.

Revenue was in the air at the State House, as legislators proposed an extra $500 million for funding transportation in the House Members’ Lounge. However not all the ideas before the Joint Committee on Revenue concerned ways to boost local coffers.

Concord residents spoke for and against proposals filed by Rep. Cory Atkins that would create a local option income tax available to cities and towns (H 2492) and another (H 2491) that would allow Concord alone to tax income as a means of lessening the tax burden on property taxpayers.

“This is not a new tax,” said Jonathan Keyes, who co-chaired the local committee that looked into the idea. “It is simply a shifting of the present real estate burden to those who are better prepared to bear the burden.”

Breht Feigh, who said he is a health care CEO and Concord resident, said the bill was flawed and Town Meeting had only narrowly supported exploring the idea.

“Relying upon the local income tax for 50 percent of the town’s annual budget would likely bring significant volatility to tax receipts to fund the cost of our schools and public safety and likely would deter high-income earners from selecting Concord as a residence,” Feigh told the committee.

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