A tax hike primer

By By Matt Viser
Globe Staff / May 17, 2009
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The debate over raising taxes in Massachusetts has featured twists, turns, and plenty of limbo-like contortions by the state's political leaders. And it's not over yet, as they continue to hunt for a politically palatable way to solve a budget crisis of historic proportions.

Governor Deval Patrick initially opposed increasing the gas tax, then became its chief advocate. He "ruled out" increasing the sales tax, but three weeks later said he was "not adamantly against" it.

House lawmakers pushed a gas tax increase in December, then panned it several months later in favor of the sales tax.

Senators for months have demurred on most tax discussions, but now seem ready to embrace a sales tax increase.


The one clear signal is that the taxes you pay probably will go up, in one form or another. Virtually every tax except the income tax has been seriously discussed, but there's been little agreement over which taxes to raise and how much to raise them.

Patrick has proposed taxes on items from water bottles to candy, and he also wants a 19-cent-per-gallon jump in the gasoline tax.

But so far, what's most likely to rise is the sales tax, which would increase for the first time in more than three decades.

The House three weeks ago approved, by a veto-proof margin, a plan to increase the sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent. The Senate this week will debate whether to follow their plan or go even further.

It would then be up to the governor to decide whether to sign such a bill or to veto a tax hike approved by his fellow Democrats.