Gov. Deval Patrick's State of the State mostly pleases local lawmakers
BOSTON -- Area state lawmakers were generally pleased with the forward-looking tone in Gov. Deval L. Patrick's State of the State address Wednesday evening, but they also want to see details of his income tax hike and sales tax proposals.
They said they look forward to debating the plan after it comes before the House next week.
The governor seeks to hike the state income tax rate from 5.25 to 6.25 percent and lower the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent, while earmarking sales tax revenue for public works. The plan, he said, would raise more than $2 billion in new spending for transportation and education.
"My overall impression was that the governor really laid out a vision for the next two years; he didn't do this piecemeal," said state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield.
She said Patrick also was "very clear about including everyone, about including the entire state."
In remarks earlier this week on transportation spending, the governor "was very specific about Pittsfield," she said, referring to rail and other public transportation proposals he outlined.
The representative also lauded plans to fund early childhood education and infrastructure needs in the state. The priorities, she said, "line up well with the vision of the people of Pittsfield."
Farley-Bouvier said lawmakers "need to take time to understand what the numbers mean," but added, "I think he is doing this in an interesting way, and it is a great discussion to have."
If the Legislature can agree on the additional revenue proposed, "this could have a significant positive impact on the Berkshires," she said.
"I think he touched on things I've been highly involved in, infrastructure and higher education, and I am excited about that," said Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lexox.
As for the proposed tax increase, "the devil will be in the details," Pignatelli said, adding that he will be looking for fairness in both the application of new taxes and in distribution of the resulting funding.
"Tax fairness also goes to region," he said. "The Berkshires have not gotten a fair share of funding over the years, but I think this is our opportunity to get our fair share of the pie."
Pignatelli said he is "really disappointed the governor is not running for re-election in two years, because I think he has been a forceful governor. I hope he really pushes his agenda -- I hope this is not just floated out there; let's follow through on it."
Rep. Gailanne M. Cariddi, D-North Adams, said "the details are always in the details, and that is where the debate will be," especially concerning the governor's tax proposals.
"The thing is, we do have to look ahead, but we can't just spend today," Cariddi said. "We have to look at the [correct] investments we need for our future."
She said Patrick expressed "a positive approach," in terms of infrastructure, education and economic growth. "These are all things that look ahead; these are things we have to do," she said.
Cariddi said she was pleased Patrick mentioned preparing children in kindergarten through 12th grade to go on to college or other forms of education or work beyond high school, and that he is proposing to address the kinds of infrastructure needs we have in the Berkshires.
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