NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

July 6, 2013

Dems fighting over tax plan

BOSTON -- Maybe the mood just struck him.

On the eve of Boston’s celebration of American independence, House Speaker Robert DeLeo took one step out of his office door to deliver a blunt, declarative message to the state’s chief executive: governor, you’re wrong.

Now let’s see who has the votes.

Forget party unity. This was a display of American democracy at its most basic, a functional separation of powers deciding that age-old question of taxation.

So after the fireworks faded above the Esplanade, the fuse was still burning at the State House. Heading into the weekend, it remained to be seen whether Gov. Deval Patrick’s rejection of a transportation financing plan, and a verbal takedown of his alternative from legislative leaders, would turn out to be a dud, or blow up the whole debate.

Back in the saddle after a week on the West Coast, Gov. Patrick delivered his verdict on a transportation financing plan that would hike taxes by $500 million and deliver, at least according to lawmakers who wrote the bill, about $800 million in new funding for infrastructure improvements and public transit. His response? Not good enough.

Without a guarantee that turnpike tolls from Newton to New York remain beyond 2017, Patrick says the $800 million may never materialize. And so he returned the bill with a proposal to raise the gas tax an additional 4 to 5 cents per gallon if the tolls do come down in four years.

And there it stands, the one major piece of legislation to gain traction so far this session besides the budget, caught between the executive and legislative branches over a disagreement about tolling.

Sometimes forgotten in the back-and-forth of this debate is that legislators have moved from not-the-time-to raise-taxes to time-to-raise-taxes to their latest posture: not-the-time-to-raise-taxes by that much.

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