Massachusetts Voters will decide on ‘Forever Tax’

Tom Warne Report, 11 December 2013

Land Line Magazine – December 3, 2013

Massachusetts – Massachusetts voters will get a voice on paying a higher fuel tax. The state’s fuel tax went up 3 cents this summer from 21 cents per gallon to 24 cents. The tax hike was part of a new transportation funding package approved by legislators that links the state’s fuel tax to the rate of inflation, resulting in regular increases.

Activists have joined with a group of Republican lawmakers to eliminate this provision that allows for regular increases. They call the law a “forever tax” because the tax rate can rise without legislative approval.

The group, which goes by “Tank the Gas Tax,” gathered 100,000 signatures to get the question on the 2014 ballot to halt the regular tax increases. Qualifying for the fall ballot required gathering 69,000 voter signatures.

Gov. Deval Patrick is calling the ballot initiative “a mistake.” As a Democrat, he supported the 3-cent tax increase but not tying the tax rate to inflation. He has at other times referred to indexing the tax rate as “wise” and “fair” because it means lawmakers do not have to repeatedly reevaluate the issue.

The fuel tax increase is part of a transportation funding package that includes a $1 excise tax on cigarettes and applying the state’s 6.5-percent sales tax on computer software services. The new revenue is applied to roads and bridges. The plan is expected to raise $800 million by 2018.

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