BOSTON — While pledging to keep an open mind, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he has heard “grave concerns” from lawmakers and constituents about Gov. Deval Patrick’s plan to enact sweeping tax code changes that would raise $1.9 billion.
DeLeo said he gives the governor credit for offering a plan to raise revenues to invest in education and transportation, but the plan went further than lawmakers thought it would after Patrick highlighted some elements of it in his State of the Commonwealth address.
The governor wants to raise the income tax to 6.25 percent, cut the sales tax to 4.5 percent, double personal tax exemptions and eliminate handfuls of other personal and corporate tax deductions. The governor also wants to allow regular hikes in transportation fees, raise the cigarette tax, eliminate the sales tax exemption on candy and soda, and expand the bottle redemption law.
“As we started to review the proposals there was various discussions about elimination of certain deductions, for instance. And as I’m hearing from members, and I’m hearing from constituents, and I’m hearing from folks who aren’t my constituents but want the speaker of the House to know what their feelings are, people have grave concerns about, you know, the proposal as a whole,” DeLeo said. “But in fairness to the governor, I told him I would keep an open mind, and I will keep an open mind.”
The elimination of some deductions – including the mortgage interest and the college tuition tax deductions – have drawn particular concerns from lawmakers and residents, DeLeo said.
DeLeo said he was working with Rep. Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill), the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington), chairman of the Revenue Committee last session, to get a sense of what the entire tax package would mean to residents at all income levels.
Patrick proposed what he calls a “growth budget” for fiscal year 2014 that relies on $1.2 billion in new tax revenue to support major investments in education and transportation. The governor has said his plan would create a tax code that is fair to lower- and middle-income residents, make Massachusetts more competitive with other states, and produce revenues for needed investments that could boost the economy.