Beacon Hill legislators have once again picked the pockets of taxpayers. And this time, they’ve made the pilfering permanent.
Led by the Democrats, state representatives and senators yesterday voted to override Gov. Deval Patrick’s veto of a $500 million tax hike aimed at funding improvements to the state’s roads and highways and propping up the woefully mismanaged Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
The bill calls for a 3 cents per gallon hike in the state’s gasoline tax and makes future increases a certainty by indexing the tax to inflation. It increases the cigarette tax by $1 per pack and applies the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax to computer and software services.
In the House, where the override passed 123-33, just three Democrats joined all 30 Republicans in voting to sustain the veto. In the Senate, the vote was 35-5 with just two Democrats voting in opposition.
And please, hold any applause for Gov. Patrick. He had only vetoed the measure because he wanted a much larger increase in the gas tax.
The gas tax hike is particularly egregious. The tax on gasoline in Massachusetts will increase from 21 cents per gallon to 24 cents per gallon at a time when gas prices already are on the rise. Legislators have long complained that increasing fuel efficiency has cut into gas-tax revenues. Indexing future increases to inflation therefore accomplishes two goals: It punishes drivers for daring to try to save money by driving tiny, fuel-sipping econoboxes and it frees cowardly legislators from having to stand up and be counted to raise the gas tax again.
Drivers who enjoy a cigarette on their way to and from work must feel doubly put upon. Smokers are the ripest target available to tax-happy legislators, as few will rise to defend them. The hike raises the cigarette tax to $3.51 per pack of 20, the second highest rate in the nation after New York’s $4.35 per pack.