House Speaker Bob Deleo, faced with a transportation system that is in financial shambles and some slowing of state tax collections against the benchmarks this year, is refusing to rule out tax hikes for the coming year. From the State House News Service:
DeLeo said he wants “to see where the numbers fall on next year’s budget” and with transportation financing before making a decision on whether to rule tax hikes in or out, a line the Winthrop Democrat has drawn the past several years, and which Democrats have followed, prior to the release of the House budget in April.
“That’s never been a desire of mine to increase taxes. But on the other hand . . . I’m smart enough to know that until you see the figures of what you’re working with, you don’t make any pledges.” DeLeo, the former House budget chief, said after a meeting Tuesday afternoon with UMass officials and local entrepreneurs.
There would probably not be a big story here, except that Deleo had been adamantly against any tax increases since becoming Speaker. The Legislature is faced with a post-election review of transportation financing, and that is the elephant in the room. The political debate during the campaigns has only dealt with this issue on the margins, with the real extent of the problem not truly being discussed. It will be discussed post election, and if it is an honest evaluation then some pretty hard decisions are going to have to be made. The Speaker knows this, and is leaving his options open. But that leaves a tough question for those running for office. Will the Speaker’s hesitation become an issue? How can it not?