BOSTON — Lawmakers have begun their examination of Gov. Deval Patrick’s $34.8 billion state budget proposal, which includes nearly $2 billion in new revenues to boost transportation and education.
The House and Senate Ways and Means committees jointly held the first public hearing on the spending plan on Thursday, with administration officials among those called to testify.
Patrick has proposed hiking the state income tax from 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent, while at the same time lowering the sales tax from 6.25 to 4.5 percent. He’s also called for higher taxes on cigarettes, candy and soda.
Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Stephen Brewer told administration officials that residents are not feeling any less strapped than they were last year. Even legislators, he noted, took an $1,100 pay cut.
“We’re not feeling it,” he said. “We’re not feeling terribly the ability so much that everybody can dig even deeper, and quite honestly we hear from our constituents in that regard.”
Patrick has said he’s open to alternative revenue proposals, but only if they provide enough money to modernize the state’s transportation network and enhance public education.
On Thursday, Administration and Finance Secretary Glen Shor added that the tax reforms would require higher-income taxpayers to shoulder a larger share of the burden.
The budget also calls for a $400 million withdrawal from the state’s “rainy day fund.”
With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom