BOSTON -- Now that both branches of the Legislature have voted overwhelmingly to repeal the computer and software services tax, lawmakers face a new task: filling the $161 million hole in the budget created by their vote.
Options range from raising other taxes and fees to make up the difference, raiding the state's Rainy Day surplus fund or doing nothing.
Some Republican legislators, noting that tax collection is already ahead of expectations for the fiscal year, are talking about lowering other taxes.
"The fact that anyone wants more revenue is not using the facts that currently exist and we have plenty of money within the state budget to accomplish our goals," said Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover, who wants to drop the sales tax from 6.25 to 5 percent.
The House voted Wednesday 156-1, while the Senate voted 38-0 Thursday, to repeal the tax that both branches and Gov. Deval Patrick initially supported to fund transportation projects across the state.
Condemning House Republicans as "the party of no" for not supporting transportation efforts, Rep. Joseph Wagner, D-Chicopee, also criticized the governor for retreating from his initial support of the tax.
"If we move forward with this repeal, we're taking a step back from the commitment we made," Wagner said. "And we're creating a $161 million gap somewhere."
Lawmakers took different views of the potential gap. House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in a statement that he was "proud" of the House's decision to repeal the tax and he does not plan to seek any new revenues to plug the gap.
Rep. Jim Miceli, D-Wilmington, said one potential solution would be using the Rainy Day fund or looking into budget cuts if the money is needed down the road.
"I can assure you that any alternative on the deck will have my attention and support," he said. "Any alternative to implementing another tax."
Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, said the repeal was a "pivotal" moment, referring to it several times as "corrections day."
He said he now hopes the change in direction could prompt a change in the way the Legislature handles other issues.
"I hope that we will not only understand that we have in the past taxed first and asked questions later, but resorted too soon to taxation," Tarr said.