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January 17, 2013

Bracing for new taxes, fees

Lawmakers react to reports prior to governor's address

On the day of Gov. Deval Patrick’s State of the Commonwealth address, some North Shore lawmakers reacted to reports that the governor may propose new taxes and fees to fix the state’s ailing transportation infrastructure, build more projects and boost education spending.

In his remarks last night, Patrick asked the Legislature to hike the state’s income tax from the current 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent, while also calling for a reduction in the state sales tax.

The proposed changes would help support $2 billion in new spending on transportation and education, he said.

“Certainly, my eyes have really opened as to what the next year or two is going to look like,” said state Rep. Brad Hill, R-Ipswich, who said he has received “correspondence” from constituents who are struggling financially and say tax hikes “will be very detrimental to their lives.”

Hill favors making the transportation system more efficient rather than raising taxes.

“We want to look at reforms, and we want to look at where our dollars are spent, now,” Hill said.

State Sen. Thomas McGee, D-Lynn, the Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation, did not address the notion of tax or fee increases, but said: “We have a real need to address what is a pretty big crisis in Massachusetts.”

McGee said that crisis is a structural deficit in the state’s transportation infrastructure, something that was identified back in 2007.

“Our future is really linked to having a safe and efficient transportation system,” said McGee, who said of any talk of fees and taxes, “I think it’s all part of the discussion of transportation.”

McGee noted that the state’s commuter trains date back to the 1970s and need to be replaced. Five bridges along the Newburyport/Rockport line are about 100 years old. Discussions about transportation funding involve talk of a new interchange at Brimbal Avenue in Beverly, changes to Route 128, and new MBTA parking garages in Beverly and Salem. The question of how to pay for these projects is not an easy one to answer, he said.

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