Gas Tax Battle Heats Up

The political battle over the Governor’s proposal to hike the gas tax by 19 cents per gallon moved up a notch today, with (the great and powerful) Senator Steve Panagiotakos, Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, appearing to weigh in against an increase of that magnitude. From the Globe:

“Let’s put it this way: I think there’s a lot of resistance toward going up to 19 cents,” said Senator Steven Panagiotakos, a Lowell Democrat and the chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “These are difficult times. And asking more from the citizenry in terms of money is going to be difficult.”

Panagiotakos is among the more powerful senators as the head of the committee that reviews and approves state budgets.

And Senator Steve Baddour continued his anti increase drumbeat, once again blasting the proposal as being favored by Boston elites.

State Senator Steven A. Baddour, a Methuen Democrat who cochairs the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, said he does not support a 19-cent hike because not enough is being done on money-saving changes.

“It’s much too high, particularly in light of the state of the economy,” he said. “I’m not prepared to have a conversation on revenues until we have a conversation about reforms. And if that means holding revenues hostage to reforms, that’s what I’m going to do.

“The Boston elite are talking about a gas tax increase,” Baddour added. “But working families in all parts of the Commonwealth are saying otherwise.”

The Governor is marshalling support for this proposal, with some business and trade groups expressing support.

The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce endorsed this week raising the gas tax by at least 19 cents. The Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers and Scientists – a union representing 3,000 people, many of whom work in the road-construction industry – also came out in support of increasing the gas tax, but did not specify a size.

And the Governor has sent out Lt. Governor Tim Murray to build support as well.

Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray sent a letter to supporters yesterday, trying to rally them to support the administration’s proposal.

“No one likes to pay more in taxes, and the governor and I would not ask people to pay more unless we thought it was necessary,” Murray wrote. “I believe, however, that the people of Massachusetts are fundamentally fair-minded and will take the time to look past the headlines and think about the real issues at stake here.”

The battle lines are begining to harden on the Senate side, with the Globe quoting an unnamed Senator as saying that consensus had begun to form at a 9 cent increase. Secretary Aloisi, in response, practically guaranteed a veto at 9 cents, saying that it was not worth doing at that number.

But Transportation Secretary James A. Aloisi Jr. said yesterday that he would not support a compromise on the tax gas tax at 9 cents.

“It’s not worth doing, and I wouldn’t recommend that the governor sign it,” he said in a phone interview while he was traveling in the Berkshires in an attempt to build support for the plan.

The House appears to be more fluid, with battle lines not yet hardened. The rhetoric flowing from the House side is significantly more flexible than the Senate talk. Can the Governor beat the Senate in this political struggle? I am not sure, but it will be fun to watch.

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3 Responses to Gas Tax Battle Heats Up

  1. Fred Mertz says:

    Heard on NPR last night that the Feds are interested in raising the gas tax too: but they are also looking beyond to the day when cars get more efficient, or don’t use gas.

    Can that vehicle chip be too far behind?



  2. Gerard Donahue says:

    Mayor Manzi:

    Hi. I think Senator Baddour is right. Reform before Revenue and also the Tax should be put to the voters in an up or down vote.



  3. Bob LeBlanc says:

    Quite frankly, the Governor is confronting a problem NOT of his own making. It is a problem that easily could have been forseen as Republican Governors managed and Democrat legislators oversaw the financial and operational managment of the Big Dig. I am assuming of course that they all really minding the store which frankly I doubt.

    Now everyone wants to harden positions and point fingers. That is a luxury and high school “fun” exercise that only makes REFORM more difficult and only hardens the public’s view that no one really wants to solve the problems.

    I don’t know who failed the public ( well I do but it doesn’t matter at this point of the discussion). Sen Baddour has stated that his way saves $1 BILLION….I have not seen how he does that..but let’s take him at his word. How does his approach differ from that of teh Governor? If there is not much difference let’s get it done. NOW!!


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