DEDHAM, Mass. (MyFoxBoston.com) – Gov. Deval Patrick appeared on the Fox 25 Morning News Thursday, just hours after he proposed raising the state income tax in his state of the Commonwealth address.
In his Wednesday evening address Patrick asked the legislature for $1.9 billion in state taxes — boosting the income tax while lowering sales taxes — to support major new spending on transportation and education.
Under his proposal the state income tax would rise from 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent while the sales tax would drop from 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent.
The governor said the changes would make the state's tax code fairer, because the sales tax is generally considered more regressive than the income tax. He also said the changes would keep Massachusetts competitive with most neighboring states.
In a 20-minute interview with Fox 25 anchor Gene Lavanchy the governor continually stressed that despite the increase in the income tax everything he has proposed is about growing Massachusetts.
"Years ago you proposed the gas tax hike and you said, ‘Man, I got my head handed to me,'" said Lavanchy. "What's being handed to you now that you've proposed a hike in the state income tax?"
Patrick cited that with the one percent increase in the income tax comes a cut in the state sales tax.
"It's about trying to deliver on the services that people say they want," said Patrick. "People want more transportation and better transportation. And they want more effective schools particularly in the places where we're leaving kids behind."
"This is not a small ask," said Patrick. "We need net new revenues. I don't ask it lightly. But I ask it of the very same people that say they want better, more modern, more efficient transportation. They want better, more modern and more effective schools."
"Are more people saying that than they are ‘I want to keep my taxes low?'" asked Lavanchy.
"That's a choice about whether we invest in the things that we know grow opportunity; that accelerate the growth we've seen in the Commonwealth and spread opportunity to more people," said Patrick. "We're not going to be able to reform our way to stronger economy. We're going to have to invest in a stronger economy"
"When you first ran in '06 it was property tax, that was your concern. You wanted to bring it down and that didn't happen," said Lavanchy. "They've seen fares and fees go up. They've seen tolls go up. They've seen their paychecks shrink because the payroll tax has gone up…so if you want to have that conversation it seems to taxpayers that they're not at the table for this conversation."
"I think that's actually not correct – at least in the time we've been in office," said Patrick. "It's the taxpayers who are saying, ‘We want all electronic tolling on the Pike and we want the T to run on time.'"
Patrick said several thousand people showed up for 17 public hearings on transportation in 2012. He said his office had received thousands of comments online.
The list of proposed projects, Patrick said, has been narrowed down from a grand wishlist.
"We have narrowed it down to where we think the investments will have the biggest strategic impact in growing jobs and opportunity," said Patrick.
"I have a budget at my house. If the roof leaks, like the Callahan Tunnel, we have got to repair that, people understand that," said Lavanchy. "But when you talk about some of the projects you have – the rail going to Springfield, the rail down to the south coast – (people) look at that like adding an addition to their house. It'll bring the value up in the long run, but I just can't afford it right now. Shouldn't the state operate the same way?"
"For 30 years, people have been saying to the people of the south coast, ‘I just can't afford it,'" said Patrick. "They are not an addition to a main building in the greater Boston area. The fourth and fifth largest cities in the Commonwealth are cut off right now from the economic hub of the Commonwealth."
Patrick says all the proposals are about growth and jobs.
"We can say right now that we will only invest at the level of the resources that we have right now," said Patrick. "That is a choice for slow growth."
"But we don't have those resources right now," said Lavanchy.
"That's why we have to ask for them," said Patrick. "If we want accelerated growth there is a way to get there. We don't have to sit around and hope for it, we can drive it."