By Jazmine Ulloa, Globe Correspondent
Governor Deval Patrick reiterated his threat today that he will veto a sales tax increase proposed in the Legislature's budget unless lawmakers pass a strong ethics reform bill.
"I've been as clear as possible about the sequence. Unless the ethics bill comes to me in time and is right, I will veto the sales tax increase," Patrick told reporters during a visit to a Juneteenth and Roxbury homecoming celebration at Franklin Park in Boston today.
Patrick had called on lawmakers to pass ethics, transportation, and pension reform bills. The Legislature has passed pension and transportation reforms, but a compromise House-Senate ethics reform bill has not yet been unveiled.
Patrick, who had different ideas about how to raise revenues during tough economic times (including a 19-cent increase in the gas tax), said that before signing off on the sales tax increase, he wanted to see a bill that would have a strong ban on gifts to public officials and stronger enforcement powers for the State Ethics Commission.
"Public officials shouldn't be receiving gifts of substantial value because they are public officials. It's as simple as that," he said.
David Falcone, a spokesman for Senate President Therese Murray, said a veto of the sales tax "would result in an unprecedented economic disaster for the Commonwealth. ... That is revenue that we need for the budget and for the state."
Seth Gitell, a spokesman for House Speaker Robert DeLeo, said the members of a House-Senate conference committee were working "very, very hard on a good comprehensive ethics bill."
The Legislature approved a $27.4 billion budget Friday that will result in closed schools, municipal employee layoffs, and waits for new driver's licenses, the Globe reports today. To compensate for declining revenues due to the faltering economy, the budget includes a number of new taxes, including a 1.25 percentage point increase in the state sales tax.
Patrick has 10 days to sign, veto or offer modifications to the proposal.
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