Upcoming tax debate awkward for GOP

As the House prepares to debate new funding sources for transportation, Massachusetts Republicans find themselves in an awkward situation.

They generally oppose raising taxes, particularly the gas tax, but the party’s top elected official, Gov. Charlie Baker, is leading the charge for an 11-state transportation climate initiative that would place a price on the carbon contained in automobile fuels and have an impact similar to raising the gas tax. An analysis released by Baker’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs indicated the transportation climate initiative, often called TCI, would hike the price of gas 17 cents a gallon just to have a modest impact on emissions.

Republicans on Beacon Hill so far seem to be staking out anti-gas tax positions, while glossing over the fact that Baker is off the reservation when it comes to the transportation climate initiative.

House Minority Leader Brad Jones told State House News that the state is flush with cash and simply needs to prioritize better, He noted lawmakers have already given initial approval to a constitutional amendment that would impose a surtax on millionaires, raising $1.5 to $2 billion a year.

The state comptroller released a year-end report for fiscal 2019 on Monday that also highlighted the state’s strong cash-flow position. The report said tax revenues in fiscal 2019 totaled $29.741 billion, up $1.862 billion, or 7.2 percent, over fiscal 2018.

“It’s not a revenue issue, it’s a spending issue,” said Rep. Steven Howitt, the ranking Republican on the Legislature’s Transportation Committee. He said an overall increase in the gas tax “just is not something that we would be in favor of.”

Jim Lyons, the former rep who now heads the state Republican Party, made the same point more forcefully. He issued a press release on December 31 hailing the recent reduction in the income tax rate to 5 percent but said Massachusetts taxpayers should be wary of a “new gas tax” disguised as a climate initiative.

“The taxpayers sent a message to Beacon Hill when they voted in 2014 to overturn a different automatic gas tax scheme, but it looks like Beacon Hill didn’t listen,” he said. “The state is already awash in taxpayer cash. When will it ever be enough?”

Lyons, who said “more common sense Republicans” are needed on Beacon Hill to block the transportation climate initiative, never mentioned in his press release that the initiative is being pushed by Baker, the top Republican in the state.



The size of the overall state workforce increased slightly in fiscal 2019, but the numbers are still below where they were five years ago. The Baker administration is down 5 percent from when he took office. (CommonWealth)

Amid a spate of anti-semitic attacks, the state awards $1.5 million in security grants for nonprofits considered at risk. (MassLive) 


The most diverse City Council in Boston history was sworn in for a two-year term yesterday in a ceremony at Faneuil Hall. (Boston Globe

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito swears in Shauna O’Connell as the new mayor of Taunton. Polito and Gov. Charlie Baker paved the way for O’Connell’s landslide victory by moving the former mayor into a register of probate job and giving O’Connell a headstart in the mayor’s race. (Taunton Gazette)

Newly inaugurated Fall River Mayor Mayor Paul Coogan stressed civil and respectful civic conversations Monday. Coogan was referring to what was likely the most challenging political environment the city has encountered, with now former Mayor Jasiel Correia II twice indicted on a combined 24 counts of federal charges. That criminal trial is set for May. (Herald News) 

Robert Sullivan, who served as a councilor at-large since 2006, stepped into his new role as mayor of Brockton on Monday morning. (The Enterprise) Longtime City Councilor and former School Committee member John Leahy is Lowell’s new mayor, decided by a unanimous vote on Monday. (Lowell Sun) 


Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the US would not target cultural sites in Iran and acknowledged such acts would constitute war crimes, contradicting a vow by President Trump to attack such sites if Iran retaliates for the US killing of Iran’s top military leader. (New York Times) US Rep. Seth Moulton holds a town hall meeting in West Newbury, and the ex-Marine criticizes Trump for conducting a deadly drone strike without having a long-term strategic plan in place for what follows. (Gloucester Times)

Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona tweets out a doctored photo of former president Barack Obama shaking hands with the president of Iran. (Washington Post)


Julian Castro, the former US housing secretary who abandoned his presidential run last week, is endorsing Elizabeth Warren, a good get for the Massachusetts senator whose campaign has been flagging in recent months. (Boston Globe

WBUR runs down the pros and cons of ranked-choice voting, an alternative system for electing candidates that will appear on the state ballot this fall. 


Individuals appearing in immigration court in Boston are far more likely to have attorneys than their counterparts around the country. Having an attorney offers a much better chance of remaining in the country. (CommonWealth


The firm redeveloping the Suffolk Downs site and area construction unions have reached an agreement that all work at the site will be done with union workers. (Boston Globe

Quincy Mayor Tom Koch has been sworn in as the city’s longest serving mayor, and used the opportunity to offer a vision of development for the city, which includes the demolition of alf of city hall, the construction of a new performing arts center, new city offices, and the continued plan to build a new police headquarters. (Patriot Ledger) 

Northeastern commercial fishermen and seafood businesses are calling for transit lanes four nautical miles wide between rows of offshore wind turbines. (Standard-Times) 


The longtime dean of tiny, low-ranked New England Law will retire later this year with an eye-popping exit package of more than $5 million. (Boston Globe


Libraries cry foul as book publisher Macmillan limits public libraries to only one e-book version of a new release for the first two months. (MetroWest Daily News)


Overtime costs at the MBTA keep growing, hitting nearly $100 million last year with 41 employees pulling in more than $100,000 in added pay. (Boston Herald)

The idea of free MBTA bus service is gaining some traction. (Boston Globe) CommonWealth reported on the push toward free bus service on Monday, noting that former transportation secretary Jim Aloisi has become the latest convert. In Worcester, the city council seems poised to hold hearings on the issue. (Telegram & Gazette).


Discarded materials are being used to expand an artificial reef two miles off the coast of Yarmouth. (Cape Cod Times) 


Starbucks is offering free digital news subscriptions with its coffee. (Mediavillage.com)

Four daily newspapers in Maine will stop publishing a print edition on Mondays to save money. Subscribers will have access to a digital subscription only on Mondays. (Portland Press Herald) Media critic Dan Kennedy has more on the decision.