BOSTON (AP)-- Hundreds of activists jammed a Statehouse auditorium on Tuesday for a rally supporting tax increases proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick to fund improvements in transportation and education.
"These aren't my ideas, they are your ideas," Patrick told the gathering, which included community groups, students, and members of other public employee unions.
The governor, who is asking the state Legislature to approve nearly $2 billion in new revenue, said the money would be used to upgrade the state's aging transportation infrastructure - including the MBTA - and ensure that every child in Massachusetts, regardless of family income, receives a quality education.
Patrick received a standing ovation when he entered the auditorium. But he's facing an uphill fight in convincing legislative leaders to accept his plan to raise the state income tax from 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent, while also doubling the personal exemption and eliminating certain itemized deductions. He has also called for lowering the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent.
Taxpayers who earn less than $62,000 a year would see their taxes stay the same or go down under the plan, the governor said, adding that he saw nothing wrong with asking those earning more to pay more in taxes.
While repeating his willingness to consider alternatives to his plan, he insisted that tax increases should be discussed, "not in a threatening way, not in a belligerent way, but as grown-ups in a fact-based way ... because taxes are the price of civilization," Patrick said.
House leaders appear likely to sign off on some, but not all of the new revenue the governor is seeking. Speaker Robert DeLeo told business leaders last week he could only support a "significantly smaller" tax hike, and one that might be dedicated to financing transportation needs.
MBTA officials have said they might have to raise fares by as much as 33 percent, or slash service, if the state does not provide more funding for the deficit-ridden Boston-area public transit system.
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