Democratic governor of Mass., Deval Patrick spoke out angrily today against a citizen's vote on his tax plan. Voters in Massachusetts have gathered enough signatures to put a rollback of the state’s historic gas tax increase on the ballot. The new tax is unusual in that it pegs the state’s gas tax increases to inflation. Historically, tax increases in the Commonwealth have been voted on individually by the legislature. This ensures taxes are considered in light of current circumstances and also makes the politicians take responsibility for the votes they cast.
Governor Deval Patrick reacted angrily to the voters and legislators that have backed this initiative. Commenting to the Boston Herald Patrick said “I think those who are advocating that the indexing be undone need to answer for why it is they keep showing up for all the ribbon-cuttings every time there’s a new bridge or a new road project done, but don’t seem to want to participate in how to pay for it.” This is political speak that means Patrick will cut local aid to those legislator’s districts that back the initiative. Patrick’s invoking the bridge and road repair argument is hard to square with the gas tax revenue that went to bailout the state’s indebted subway system, the MBTA. A recent $500 million “transportation tax” increase includes $115 million for the MBTA to cover past debt.
If the initiative to stop the gas tax being pegged to inflation succeeds, the state legislature can still override the voter’s wishes, as it did with the successful ballot initiative to roll back the state income tax rate.