Patrick muted in response to House-Senate tax plan

'There is such a thing as too small'

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK spent months racing around the state trying to whip up support for his $1.9 billion tax plan, but he seemed muted on Wednesday as the Legislature prepared to go in a different direction early next week.

Patrick described his transportation and education plan as “negotiable,” but said the Legislature may have gone too far in the opposite direction with its $500 million plan for transportation initiatives only. He has often linked additional transportation and education investments as critical to the Bay State’s future progress.

“I do think that there is such a thing as too small,” Patrick said at a short press conference after meeting with advocates brought together by Stand for Children Massachusetts to lobby for more education funds. “We have to be serious about these investments if we want to get this kind of growth.”

The House is preparing to take up the tax bill on Monday. Republican lawmakers failed to persuade Democratic leaders to hold public hearings on the plan before a vote is taken.

“Everybody knows it is never a good time to ask citizens to pay more taxes, but you have to help us make the connection between what people pay and what they get,” Patrick told the education advocates.

The governor questioned how lawmakers plan to pay for a $300 million transportation bond bill winding its way through the State House that boosts Chapter 90 road and bridge funding. Patrick said that an analysis of the House-Senate proposal being prepared by the state’s Department of Transportation raises questions about whether the state “could afford that level of funding on this revenue package.”

Patrick offered one word, “politics,” to describe why House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray developed a joint tax proposal. He declined to elaborate. Typically, the House votes first on any tax package and then the bill goes to the Senate for review and action.

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Gabrielle Gurley

Senior Associate Editor, CommonWealth

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Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

The governor downplayed lawmakers’ fear of losses at the ballot box if they supported his revenue package, even as 24-year-old Republican Leah Cole beat out two Democrats in a Peabody special state representative election. Cole campaigned as an opponent of the governor’s tax plan and waste on Beacon Hill. Patrick noted that none of the lawmakers who backed the 2009 sales tax increase lost their seats.

Patrick also rejected suggestions that his lame-duck status hinders his influence on revenue issues. “I will be around next year,” he said.