Saturday, 2:15 PM
By Matt Viser, Globe Staff
Governor Deval Patrick said this afternoon that he is “very, very reluctant” to raise the state’s sales tax to help the state cope with deep budget cuts, a proposal that is being widely discussed among House lawmakers.
Governor Deval Patrick
“That’s not where I am,” Patrick said at a State House press conference to launch a Green Communities program. “Our proposals are where I am. I am very, very reluctant in times like these to ask as much as we are asking, and certainly more than we are asking.”
Patrick, who has proposed a variety of other tax increases, refused to say whether or not he would veto a sales tax increase if it were approved by House and Senate lawmakers.
“I want to engage with them directly, rather than, with due respect, through the media,” Patrick said. “We have not talked about this in any depth. We’ve made some very particular proposals about particular ways of funding particular needs. They’re very targeted. We’ve asked a lot of the public with those proposals, and that’s where I want us to be.”
Patrick’s posture is almost identical to the one he took last fall on raising the gasoline tax, when he repeatedly said the focus should be on toll increases instead. He later began advocating for a 19-cent-per-gallon increase in the gas tax.
Senate President Therese Murray, echoing comments made Tuesday by House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, said today that the sales tax was “one of the things on the table” and the only tax increase that had been ruled out was an increase in the income tax.
DeLeo said Tuesday that he is "open-minded" about raising the Massachusetts sales tax to help the state cope with a historic economic downturn, a sign that representatives will seriously entertain at least a one percent hike in the sales tax in an upcoming budget debate.
"I'm open-minded towards it, as I am with the others," DeLeo told reporters Tuesday, after being asked how he felt about increasing the sales tax.
DeLeo said the only tax increase he has ruled out is a boost in the state income tax, an idea he called "dead on arrival." On all other taxes, he said, "I'm willing to talk."
In January, Patrick released a budget that included a host of tax increases, on everything from candy and soft drinks to alcohol and hotel rooms. Lawmakers have resisted his approach, saying that increasing a variety of taxes by small increments could cause a greater political backlash than if one broad-based tax were raised.
“You don’t want people to think you’re raising a tax a week,” Representative Daniel Bosley, a North Adams Democrat, said today in an interview. “If there is any coalescing around here, it’s for a sales tax.”
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.