BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick is asking Massachusetts residents to weigh the impact of proposed tax changes — including an increase in the state income tax — on their own family budgets, as he continues his push for the tax plan in the face of a skeptical Legislature.
The governor on Monday announced a new page on his official state website that allows individual taxpayers to determine how they would fare under his proposal to raise the income tax rate from the current 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent, while also lowering the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 4.25 percent.
The administration says the tax changes would generate $1.9 billion in new revenue that would be invested in transportation and education.
The push follows release last week of interactive maps the administration said demonstrated how the estimated $1.9 billion in new annual revenue generated by the tax changes would benefit transportation and education in each of the state's 160 House and 40 state Senate districts.
"We are proposing meaningful investments in education and transportation, and people want to know what that means for them," Patrick said in a statement.
The new tools would allow taxpayers can enter their income, filing status and other information to determine the impact of the tax changes on their individual or family finances, Patrick said.
The administration has contended that because the proposed income tax increase also includes a doubling of the personal exemption and the elimination of some itemized deductions, about half the state's taxpayers — including those who earn less than $60,000 annually — would pay the same or less in taxes under his proposals.
The governor's push to convince the public of the merits of the plan come amid growing signs that the Legislature may choose a different approach as it assembles a state budget for the July 1 fiscal year.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo has expressed reservations about raising the income tax at a time when many Massachusetts residents are still smarting from the effects of the economic downturn.
Saying he shared Patrick's emphasis on education and transportation, DeLeo said Monday that lawmakers were looking at "everything and anything" as far as alternative ways of raising revenue. But he added that one possible option, an increase in the gasoline tax dedicated to transportation improvements, may be less palatable to consumers because of the recent spike in gas prices.
"What once seemed like a feasible possibility now seems a little more difficult than it is because of the high cost of gasoline," DeLeo said after a regularly-scheduled leadership meeting on Monday with Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray.
Patrick reiterated before the meeting that he was open to alternatives.
"I've never been stuck on one way of accomplishing it," he told reporters before the meeting.
Patrick has cited broad public support for investing additional state funds in education and transportation, but understands the reservations about a tax increase.
"People wish they could have it without paying for it, but we have to pay for it and we're going to have to pay for it and find the best and fairest way to do so," he said.
Rep. Brad Jones, the House Republican leader, said Monday that Patrick's use of online maps and tax calculators were "technological tricks" designed to promote his budget to the public.
"Gov. Patrick's recent reliance on technology in order to sell his massive tax hike to residents is an insult to the taxpayers," Jones said in a statement. The minority leader suggested that the Patrick administration instead use the technology to root out waste, fraud and abuse.
Legislative hearings on the governor's proposed budget are scheduled to wrap up this week, with the House expected to unveil its own spending plan early next month.