BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick says he will veto a tax and spending plan legislative leaders are ushering through the State House, if it makes it to his desk in its current form.
The legislative plan would raise only a quarter of the $1.9 billion in new revenues the governor says is needed for a strong transportation network and a sound public education system. Patrick, in a news conference Thursday, said that is shortsighted.
“Above all, the middle class of Massachusetts need better jobs and a stronger economy and needs it sooner rather than later,” Patrick said. “My proposal provides that. The leaders’ does not. The leadership’s proposal is a return to an old way of doing business. It’s the same short-term fiscal shell game that got us unto the Big Dig and the mess that followed.”
Patrick ticked off the ills he says the transportation system would suffer under the leaders’ plan, from continued budget problems for the MBTA to failing bridges and more.
“Clogged intersections at I-95 in Woburn and Canton,” he said. “A crumbling viaduct at I-91 in Springfield with chunks of it falling off just yesterday. No Green Line to Medford, no train to New Bedford. Red Line cars with doors stuck open — again, just like yesterday.”
At the same time, Patrick says the lawmakers’ proposals would force hikes in fees and tolls at a quicker pace than his plan.
And, he noted, the legislative plan provides none of the $900 million he wants for a wide array of new education investments.
Taken together, Patrick says, that’s a retreat from a new philosophy of government he and the legislature have been pursuing — to invest for the next generation, as he puts it, and not just the next election.
But House Speaker Robert DeLeo was unconvinced.
“New way of government by $2 billion in additional revenue?” he asked.
DeLeo says the leaders’ more modest half-billion-dollar plan – which relies on gas, tobacco and business taxes — would make substantial progress toward stabilizing the state’s transportation system.
He says it is the governor’s plan that asks too much of the middle class.
“It’s not the House and Senate plan that’s talking about the increase in the income tax,” DeLeo told reporters. “It’s not the House and Senate plan that’s talking about the elimination of many deductions that people presently get, whether they be for education, whether they be for the selling of their home and the like. So I think it’s our plan that is the one that addresses the concerns of those most needy, namely the middle class.”
Patrick says he is unsure of whether he would be able to muster the votes needed to sustain a veto. And it’s clear that many lawmakers would stick with their leaders.
One member of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, Worthington Rep. Stephen Kulik, says he’s surprised by what he calls the governor’s “combative” move.
“Threatening to create a stalemate situation with a veto threat I don’t think is a productive way for the governor to lead on these issues,” he said.
The House is scheduled to begin full debate on the leaders’ plan Monday. And one observer says the standoff could force negotiation or result in a big failure. Andy Bagley is research director for the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed lobbying group.
“You don’t know whether this is really a bluff by the governor or a game of chicken,” Bagley said. “I mean if the House and Senate go ahead and pass this and then go, ‘Okay, governor it’s up to you to sign it’ and if he does veto it, the Legislature might say, ‘Well, we don’t have the votes — fine, so we didn’t fix transportation. We didn’t do anything.’”
Minority Republicans, meanwhile, are watching the Democrats’ intramural fight and saying “a pox on both your houses.” GOP leaders Wednesday released their own budget proposal, which relies on predicted revenue growth and includes no new taxes.