Gov. Deval Patrick has spoken, and so have lawmakers on Beacon Hill.
In his Patrick pushed for a $2 billion investment in transportation improvements and early childhood education and proposed raising the state's income tax by 1 percentage point to do so. He also proposed decreasing the sales tax to 4.5 percent and setting all sales tax proceeds aside to pay for infrastructure.
Patrick also said he wants to double personal tax exemptions to make the increase have less impact on people who don't make much money.
The Republican lawmakers representing North Andover -- State Sen. Bruce Tarr and State Rep. Jim Lyons -- responded swiftly with opposition.
"Transportation and education are important priorities that we all share, but those priorities come in the context of an uncertain economic recovery, a state budget is wrestling with a gap of $540 million, and too many people that are unemployed or underemployed," Tarr said in a statement immediately after Patrick's address. "We need to have a discussion that first focuses on what we need, what state government has already committed to, and what people can afford. Only then can we have a serious debate about revenue."
Tarr added that he doesn't think raising tax rates is the way to raise revenue.
"Building a stronger economy with more taxpayers is also important, and we need to fully understand the adverse impacts a nearly $2 billion tax increase will have on the economic growth we need for the sustainable revenue to fund priorities like transportation and education," Tarr said.
A staunch conservative, Lyons was even more blunt in his response.
"The Patrick Administration has already increased our taxes," Lyons wrote in a Patch blog post. "They pushed through both 25% Sales Tax hike and 25% Meals Tax hike. With the Patrick Administration, there's never enough tax dollars to satisfy them. There's always an excuse to extract something more from hardworking taxpaying families. We need reform in state government, not unending tax hikes. Every day news reports chronicle the scandals in the administration's shoddy drug testing labs and in its lack of oversight of pharmaceutical manufacturing. It's time to put a halt to these excesses. Instead of reforming state government, the Patrick Administration insists on pressing more and more burdensome taxes on working families."
The two Democrats representing the town -- State Sen. Kathleen O'Connor Ives and State Rep. Diana DiZoglio -- were cautious about the plan and hesitant on tax increases.
"We can all see there's a backlog of needed infrastructure and transportation improvements, but I want to make certain we've exhausted opportunities for reducing waste and inefficiencies in our transportation system if we have a funding problem," O'Connor Ives said. "Cutting the sales tax to 4.5% would be helpful to businesses in the Merrimack Valley struggling to compete with New Hampshire but the rest of the proposal definitely requires more study."
DiZoglio also embraced the idea of a sales tax cut but said she has concerns about the magnitude of Patrick's proposal.
"I think it’s great that we are discussing rolling back the sales tax as it highlights that border communities are being heard up on Beacon Hill," DiZoglio said. "Still, I have many concerns relating to how the reduced sales tax revenues would begin to be appropriated. The House will be coming up with a proposal as well. We will have a better idea of what we are really looking at once that happens. Knowing the concerns of my district, however, I will say that the current proposal [the income tax hike] is way too ambitious."