Representative Concerned About Budget's Impact on Economy

But State Rep. Lori Ehrlich does appreciate Gov. Patrick's proposed investment in schools and transportation.


State Rep. Lori Ehrlich has questions and reservations about Gov. Deval Patrick's proposal to generate $1.9 billion in revenue through hikes and reductions to taxes, eliminating deductions and doubling exemptions.

But she does appreciate his desire to invest in education and transportation.

Ultimately, the devil is in the details.

And it will be the job of legislators "to figure out what is urgent, aspirational and inadvisable."

"There is time to sort this all out and quite a bit of process ahead," she said. "The governor's proposal will be closely scrutinized by the legislature and throughout that process I welcome feedback from constituents."

The governor's $34.8 billion budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014 would invest hundreds of millions of dollars more in public transportation and roads, and spend hundreds of millions more on schools and education from preschool to higher education.

It would pay for the improvements by boosting the income tax from 5.25 to 6.25 percent, lowering the sales tax from 6.25 to 4.5 percent and eliminating some tax breaks for personal income and corporations. It would also double the personal exemption.

People would pay more for cigarettes, soda, candy and, eventually, for gasoline.

Rep. Ehrlich thinks the governor's attempt to juggle tax increases and other items is a bit clumsy because it puts many taxes and deductions in flux. "What concerns me most is that so many dramatic changes are being coupled with such a large net increase," the representative said. "This makes it very difficult to quickly predetermine the impact both on individuals and on the state's economy."

She referred to a Boston Globe article that indicates that anyone who earns over $38,000 is going to pay more.

"That is quite a wide swath of families who in this fragile recovery will have to come up with more," she said.

But Ehrlich said investment in education and transportation goes a long way to stimulating job growth and improving life here. 

She said the governor's budget completely closed the gap on Chapter 70 foundation funding for schools. And that's great news for the children of Marblehead and Swampscott, she said, and something she will work to preserve in the budget. 

The state's transportation system is outdated and unsustainable, she said.

"After listening to passionate testimony in Salem and Lynn last year, it’s quite clear to me that investing in transportation is needed," Ehrlich said. "People are demanding better service and it’s very clear that a well functioning transportation system is necessary for economic development both locally and statewide."

But it remains to be seen if the legislature is willing to support higher taxes and the jumble of other changes to pay for the investment in education and transportation.


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