Massachusetts governor threatens veto on rival transportation bill


BOSTON (AP) -- Gov. Deval Patrick derided a $500 million transportation financing plan offered by legislative leaders as a "fiscal shell game" and said Thursday he would veto the bill if it reached his desk in its current form.

The governor, who has called for nearly $2 billion in new tax revenues for transportation and education, said the lawmakers' scaled-down plan failed to provide a long-term fix for the state's aging infrastructure and would only lead to even higher taxes and transportation fees.

"It's a fiction to claim this bill somehow avoids new taxes," Patrick said at a Statehouse news conference.

The plan outlined earlier this week by House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray calls for raising the state's gasoline tax by 3 cents a gallon and boosting the excise tax on cigarettes by $1 per pack. Patrick had called for raising the state income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent while lowering the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent.

The lawmakers' bill is scheduled to be debated in the House on Monday, and Patrick said he would have no choice but to veto it if it comes to him unchanged. But he acknowledged he wasn't sure he would have enough votes in either branch to sustain a veto.

"The leadership's proposal is a return to an old way of doing business. It's the same short term fiscal shell game that got us the Big Dig and the mess that followed," Patrick said, referring to the massive Boston highway project and the ensuing debt that continues to hamper the state's transportation system.

DeLeo on Thursday defended the Legislature's plan, saying it addressed critical infrastructure needs without resorting to the dramatic tax increases proposed by Patrick.

"We're addressing the issues of transportation while at the same time not putting a bigger (tax) burden on families and business that the governor's plan would," the speaker told reporters outside his office. "Our plan is more responsive to the needs of the middle class."


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