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Gov. Patrick, talking gas tax and business in Newton

Posted November 25, 2008 11:01 AM

This morning the Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce held its 93rd annual Achievement Breakfast and award ceremony with special guest speakers Governor Deval Patrick and TripAdvisor President and CEO Stephen Kaufer.

In an event that combined politics with business, Patrick signaled a willingness to consider a gas tax increase, saying he was not hostile to it as part of a reform of the state's transportation system.

Timothy Braceland, the Chairman of the chamber's board, began the breakfast by talking about the importance of overlapping entrepreneurial and political relationships.

“For far too long there has been a divide between businesses and the political system,” Braceland said. “There is a sense by the politicians that businesses only care about making money with no regard to the community. And on the other side many business people think that politicians only want to tax us and burden us with regulation...The future is too important not to come together and get this mission done correctly.”

Governor Patrick represented the political side of the event and talked about what was on the mind of many Newton residents: the debate between a gas tax and a Mass Pike toll increase.

“We have an opportunity for real reforms,” he said. “There’s nothing like limited resources to lead to that. Transport has suffered from chronic neglect for more than decade.“

He has backed a toll increase, but he also indicated a willingness to debate a gas tax increase, saying he wasn't hostile to the idea.

"The toll proposal comes up in a context. A context of chronic neglect of our transportation infrastructure. A strategy that is not very coherent of dealing with the Big Dig debt. In comes up in context of trying to deal with long term strategy,'' the governor said.

"Others prefer a gas tax. And by the way, that's not a bad idea. I'm not hostile to it. But I think if we're going to go there, whether it's in the context of a toll increase or a gas tax, let's have a discussion that is complete. It needs to address at least three principles. Is it enough, is it dedicated, is it comprehensive set of reforms.''

Although Patrick did not lay out a specific plan, he discussed the importance of creating a serious discussion about what to do next.

“I am asking for a mature debate,” he said. “A lot of people have spent a lot of time thinking about gas tax over the years, and have figured out their soundbites. This is equally true for toll increases. But the solution doesn’t lend itself to soundbites, it lends itself to people who have open minds and have mature conversation. It’s time to leave aside who is to blame for the situation.”

After Patrick spoke, Kaufer gave the keynote address about the history of his company, TripAdvisor. Kaufer spoke of the importance of being quick with your innovation and noted that it wasn’t until his company was backed into a corner financially that they broke through.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” he said.

The list of the awards given is as follows:

Volunteer of the year: Mike Ciolino owner of the Web design company Verve Creative for his help with the Chamber of Commerce Website.

Non-Profit of the Year: West Suburban YMCA for its continued support for the community and its expansion in facilities and membership.

Leading Business Award: Roche Brothers Supermarkets for its constant support of the community and its dedication to going green.

Leading Communities Award: To Needham Field of Dreams, for the new turf field in Needham.

Robert L. Tenant Award: Cabot’s Ice Cream.

Chairman’s Award: To Mt. Ida College.

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