Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is expected to call for higher taxes in his State of the Commonwealth address tonight.
Governor Deval Patrick started making the case for higher taxes Monday when he endorsed a plan from the state department of transportation to increase spending by more than $1 billion a year on the highway system, commuter rail and regional transit authorities.
And, the next day Patrick called for a $500 million increase in state spending on education from pre-school through college. Tonight he’ll talk about how he would prefer to pay for his transportation and education proposals. The governor’s aides would not confirm a report in the Boston Globe that Patrick will propose an increase in the state income tax.
The transportation reform plan included a menu of possible revenue sources. It mentioned broad based taxes on income and sales, also the gasoline tax, a tax on miles driven, and various fees. The state’s sales tax was increased by 25 percent in 2009. Patrick has said the gasoline tax is not his first choice.
A 100 plus member coalition of progressive political activists, unions, and advocates for the elderly and the poor are campaigning for an income tax increase. Andi Mullin, director of the coalition, called Campaign for Our Communities, said they are advocating an increase in the income tax from the current rate, 5.25 percent to 5.95 percent, coupled with a large increase in the personal exemption.
Mullin said raising the income tax rate to 5.95 percent would raise $2 billion and she insists would not be a drag on the state’s economy.
Citizens for Limited Taxation, in a news release, pointed out that voters in 2000 approved a roll back of the state’s income tax to 5 percent, but the legislature later froze it at a higher rate.
Unlike past years, tax increases have not been preemptively rejected by the legislative leadership. State Senator Gale Candaras said she’ll carefully review the governor’s tax and spending plans.
The Massachusetts transportation plan proposed this week would direct significant money to western Massachusetts under the plan, state funding for the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority would go from $17 million to more than $50 million a year. PVTA Administrator Mary Macinnes said it would allow for more frequent buses, cutting wait times. Buses could run later at night and on weekends.
The state plan would also fund rail improvements and a $400 million rehabilitation of I-91 through downtown Springfield.