Mass. tax increases kick in on gas, cigarettesBy STEVE LeBLANC , Associated Press
Jul. 31, 2013 3:57 PM ET
BOSTON (AP) — Higher taxes on gasoline and cigarettes kicked in Wednesday for consumers across Massachusetts.
The state's gasoline tax jumped 3 cents, from 21 cents per gallon to 24 cents. The excise tax on cigarettes is also increasing a dollar, to $3.51 per pack.
The state has alerted retailers to begin collecting the new taxes, which were part of a transportation finance bill approved by the Legislature over the veto of Gov. Deval Patrick.
The law also imposes a 6.25 percent sales tax on computer software services.
Massachusetts Republicans criticized the tax increases at a morning news conference with business owners at a gas station in the Dorchester section of Boston. They said the increases marked a return to the days when the state was known as "Taxachusetts."
Patrick rejected the label, saying Massachusetts' tax burden isn't excessive.
"No, we are very competitive. We have long since lost the reasons for that moniker on almost every measure now," Patrick told reporters at the Statehouse. "We're right in the middle of the pack nationally."
He also said higher taxes were needed because Republican governors chose to starve the state's transportation infrastructure to help pay for the Big Dig.
"It's time to pay those bills and it's time to reinvest in our infrastructure for the sake of our growth, the sake of our economy and for the sake of our quality of life," added Patrick, who had sought but failed to secure a further increase in the gas tax if tolls on the western portion of the Massachusetts Turnpike come down in 2017.
Senate Republican leader Bruce Tarr said that GOP lawmakers offered proposals that would have addressed the state's aging roads and bridges without resorting to new taxes — but that those proposals were ignored by Democrats.
"Unfortunately, we have lost sight of our obligation to the taxpayers, and now consumers and employers are left with a regressive gas tax increase that is running on auto-pilot," said Tarr, R-Gloucester.
Tarr was referring to the fact that under the law future increases in the gas tax would be indexed to inflation.
On the same day that the permanent tax hikes kicked in, House and Senate lawmakers approved a bill creating another sales tax-free weekend for Aug. 10 and 11.
The bill would apply to retail sales excluding any single item priced higher than $2,500. It also excludes vehicles, motor boats, tobacco, meals and utilities.
Patrick has said he expects to sign the bill, although he said the state will have to come up with a way to offset the lost revenue, which has averaged about $20 million in past years.
Lawmakers have typically approved the tax-free weekends to give store owners and consumers a boost during the typically sluggish dog days of summer.