House Republicans renew push for tax cuts | News
BOSTON — House Republicans are angling to include parts of Gov. Charlie Baker’s stalled tax relief package and a gas tax holiday into next year’s state budget.
GOP lawmakers have filed proposed amendments to fiscal year 2023 budget — debate on which gets underway next week — calling for lowering the capital gains tax to 5% from the current 14% and increase the threshold at which the state’s estate or “death” tax kicks in from $1 million to $2 million.
The proposals mirror a tax relief package filed by Baker as part of his preliminary budget plan, which Democratic House leaders stripped from their version of the spending package they unveiled last week.
Earlier this week, Baker joined a group of business leaders to push for approval of his tax relief package.
“I think in many respects, these tax breaks are talking about millions of people, when you put them all together, who would benefit,” the Republican said at a briefing.
Baker’s buffet of tax cuts call for adjusting state income tax laws and boosting rent deductions to provide relief for low-income residents, expanding tax credits for housing and child care, and for a major overhaul of the state’s estate or “death” tax.
House Speaker Ron Mariano, D-Quincy, rejected the governor’s tax cuts in the House version of the $49.6 billion budget, saying he wants to focus on expanding childcare options, implementing criminal justice reforms, and other key Democratic issues.
House Republicans are also making a renewed push to suspend the state’s 24-cent gas tax to provide relief for consumers at the pumps with several amendments to the budget plan.
One proposal, filed by Rep. Timothy Whelan, R-Brewster, would suspend the gas tax until the average price of filling up drops below $3.70 a gallon. Another proposed amendment would to drop the gas tax from July through the end of the year.
Gas prices in Massachusetts were averaging about $4.21 per gallon Thursday, according to the American Automobile Association of the Northeast’s weekly survey.
Massachusetts drivers pay a total of 44.9 cents per gallon in gasoline taxes, including state and federal taxes, according to the American Petroleum Institute.
But Democrats argue that a gas tax holiday would siphon away millions of dollars the state uses for collateral to pay off bonds, which would hurt its bonding rate. They also question whether it will provide much relief for the average driver.
The Democratic-led House and Senate rejected a proposed amendment suspending the gas tax that GOP lawmakers sought to tack onto its version of the supplemental budget, approved several weeks ago.
But Republicans argue that a gas tax holiday is doable — given that the state is flush with surplus revenue and federal pandemic relief money — and would provide much-needed relief for Bay Staters who are paying some of the highest gas prices on record.
Overall, House lawmakers had loaded up their version of the budget with more than 1,500 amendments as of Thursday, with debate on the spending package set to begin next week.
If previous budget cycles are a guide, most of the proposed amendments will either be withdrawn or rejected before they even come up for a vote.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.