FRAMINGHAM — Three speakers at the Framingham Public Library weighed in Saturday on Governor Deval Patrick's $1.9 billion tax hike to improve transportation and education in the Commonwealth. And if there was one thing the panel appeared to agree on, it was that the governor's expectations were unrealistic.
The discussion was hosted by the Framingham Taxpayers Association, which opposes the tax plan.
State Representative Chris Walsh, Democrat of Framingham, stopped considerably short of endorsing the governor's proposal, and instead focused on the budget that's before the House.
"The governor's budget is a wish list," said Walsh. "He's a big-picture thinker who would like to see taxes be more progressive."
Walsh said he sympathized with Patrick's wishes to improve education and transportation in the state, and said that if investments aren't made in those areas, Massachusetts could find itself "a backwater in the world."
In filing his nearly $35 billion state budget in January, Patrick's called for lowering the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent, but also increasing the state income tax 1 percent to 6.25 percent.
Paul Craney, executive director of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, said he appreciated the break in the sales tax, but decried the income tax hike.
Echoing Walsh, Craney called Patrick's budget a "wish list." While calling House and Senate budget proposals "more realistic," Carney was still wary of those proposals.
"Even though the legislator's proposal is easier to swallow, it's still equally bad," Craney said. "Now's not the time to start increasing taxes."
Craney said his organization opposed the $500 million in new tax hikes he said was included in the House plan. Specifically, he warned against a 3 cent increase on gasoline that will be linked to inflation by 2015, bring the total gas tax to 24 cents per gallon, 3 cents more than the national average.
Craney also warned against a $1 increase in the cigarette tax, which would place Massachusetts' cigarette tax the second highest in the nation, just behind New York. He was also alarmed at an increase in utility taxes and a 4.5 percent tax on technology services and upgrades. "That's a sector that's growing, yet you're taxing it," he said.
"The governor's package is not realistic," said Craney. "If you watch transportation funding, we can't pay for what we have. … It's like you buy a home, can't pay the mortgage, and then put on an addition."
Governor Patrick was invited to send a representative to the discussion, but none attended.
John Swinconeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.