State House leaders today said that the Legislature would take up Governor Deval Patrick’s plan for increased transportation spending next week, continuing the ongoing battle on Beacon Hill over how much to raise taxes to support increased infrastructure investments.
Patrick last week rejected the Legislature’s transportation financing measure, which included an increase in the gas tax along with other higher taxes. He countered with his own proposal to further increase the gas tax in 2017 if certain Massachusetts Turnpike tolls expire as scheduled, saying it was necessary to have a replacement source of revenue if the tolls are removed.
Speaking to reporters, Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said the House of Representatives would take up Patrick’s amendment on July 17 with a Senate vote on July 18.
Last week, both leaders condemned Patrick’s revised plan and said they would encourage their respective chambers to reject it.
Today, DeLeo reiterated that sentiment.
“Speaking, I would think, on behalf my membership now,” DeLeo said, “I don’t see a real boatload of support for either [an additional] gas tax or a toll hike.”
If the House and Senate reject Patrick’s proposal and return the bill to the governor, Patrick would be presented with the option of signing it, vetoing, or allowing the measure to become law without his signature. If the governor vetoes the bill, both chambers would require a two third majority to override his veto.
DeLeo today declined to discuss whether he had the votes to override a veto.
A state budget approved last week by the Legislature relies in part on revenue contained in the transportation bill. The fate of the transportation legislation will directly impact what happens to the state budget, which Patrick is due to act on this week.
Patrick canceled today’s weekly meeting with the two legislative leaders. Asked why, spokeswoman Jesse Mermell said in an email that the governor is working from his home in western Massachusetts. She did not provide any additional details. Patrick owns a home in the town of Richmond.
Murray addressed Patrick’s absence as she spoke to reporters.
“If the governor wants to work from home – is there high-speed internet out there yet? I don’t know,” Murray said to laughter.
“I’m here,” she added.