SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

April 3, 2013

On Beacon Hill, taxes and April fools

By the time my Easter lily begins to fade and my chocolate bunny is gone, we may know the full fate of Gov. Deval Patrick’s $1.9 billion tax increase proposal, which is presently being sniffed and nibbled on Beacon Hill. Not that there’s anything sweet-smelling/tasting about a tax hike.

New spending on transportation and education proposals in the governor’s fiscal year 2014 budget depend upon new revenues. Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray had a joint news conference yesterday supporting roughly $500 million more: a 3 cents-per-gallon increase in the gas tax, adjusted for inflation in the future; a $1-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax; and application of the sales tax to computer system design services and utility classification.

Last month, the Joint House/Senate Revenue Committee held a hearing on the governor’s taxes, including his increase in the 5.25 percent income tax rate to 6.25 percent. Some income tax hike could still be included in the House budget, due out next week.

Chip Faulkner was at the hearing to testify for bills reducing the income tax and sales tax rates to 5 percent: a nicely “balanced approach.”

Good thing he was there, since the mayor of Springfield showed up with a brand-new attack on Proposition 21/2! Because Mayor Domenic Sarno wants one of the proposed state casinos to be built in Springfield, he’s asking for casinos’ property taxes to be exempt from the Proposition 21/2 levy limit, letting those taxes take the tax rate above the 2.5 percent ceiling.

Dangerous precedent. I can hear a logical argument that a casino is just another business, so if it is exempt, why not all businesses? Why not an industrial park, or a Walmart? Chip was quick to point out that Springfield has been one of the most mismanaged cities in the commonwealth, which is why its tax rate is sitting right on that 2.5 percent limit in the first place, unable to count the casino taxes as new growth.

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