Senate President Karen Spilka said Thursday she is not planning to raise taxes this session but left open the possibility of increases if the pandemic worsens.
Gov. Charlie Baker’s $45.6 billion budget for fiscal 2022 cuts overall state spending, does not include new taxes on individuals, and House Speaker Ronald Mariano said last month that taxes “are not on the table.” Asked on Bloomberg Baystate Business if she could make the same statement Thursday, Spilka equivocated.
“I think that we’ll have to see how the year progresses,” she said as she recounted the last year of Beacon Hill budget management, which included a wait-and-see approach on the state spending plan and use of the state’s rainy day fund. And she noted the potential that another federal stimulus bill could be passed soon.
“At this point, I am not planning on anything but I think we could [raise taxes]; we have to see what happens with COVID,” she said. “I am hoping with my fingers crossed that we’re on a downward slide, a downward trend, but you just don’t know what will happen. And with the new strains and with some states in particular loosening the reopening guidelines, or no masks and people traveling, I mean, it’s so important that people continue to be vigilant and wear their mask and use the hand sanitizer.”
The Senate president pointed out in her response that the House raised taxes last session — in an $18 billion transportation bond bill and a revenue package passed in early March 2020 — and said the Senate resisted tax hikes last year.
Notably, Spilka did not cite the work of the Senate’s revenue working group that Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, has led with the idea of bringing forth possible changes to the state tax code. Hinds plans to offer recommendations this budget season.
In November, when the Senate debated the fiscal year 2021 budget, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sen. Michael Rodrigues said his committee would not support tax amendments, but said all signs indicated “a robust debate on revenue in the new year, and I for one look forward to that.”
Tax collections over the first eight months of fiscal 2021 have beaten expectations by nearly $2 billion and the state could receive another $4.5 billion in aid under the American Rescue Act moving through the Congress. In addition, Spilka also did not mention a roughly $2 billion increase in income taxes on the wealthiest Massachusetts households that could move to the November 2022 ballot if it receives a favorable vote at a Constitutional Convention that she will oversee.