JP group, state rep. disagree on gas tax

A Jamaica Plain Republican Party group is backing an effort to put a question on the 2014 ballot to repeal the automatic gasoline tax increase. But a local Democratic state representative says the tax is needed to fund the state’s transportation system.

The state legislature passed a bill that raised the gas tax to 24 cents a gallon last summer. But the new law also states that the gas tax will increase with inflation starting in 2015.

The Ward 11 Republican Committee is part of the effort to repeal the automatic-increase portion of the law. Local state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez said he voted for the law because in the absence of another revenue source, the tax increase is needed to “keep up the investment in our transportation system.”

Edward Wagner, chair of the Ward 11 Republican Committee, said that the group collected signatures for the question during its meeting in November, which was part of broader effort by the state Republican Party.

“What the Republicans in Jamaica Plain most strenuously object to here is the anti-democratic nature of this provision,” said Wagner in an email to the Gazette. “When our elected representatives draw resources out of the private sector, they should not only have to take responsibility for doing so, but also give an account of what they are needed for.”

He said that tax money should not “drop into the laps of politicians like an unexpected inheritance that they can decide how to dispose of after it is safely in their pockets.”

But, Sánchez said, the added revenue is needed, pointing out that “every other year, there is an increase in fares and decrease in service” for the state’s public transportation system.

“The transportation issue is something that is really important for our region,” said Sánchez.

He said that during the signatures drives against the gas tax increase, he would go into Mike’s Donut Shop on Mission Hill and the people there would “mess around with him” to sign the petition.

Sánchez said the automatic gas tax increase is “the way to go” in the absence of an increase in the income tax, which he favors because it is progressive and “more equitable to everyone.” But, he said, an income tax increase is like a “four-letter word” at the State House.

Brian McNiff, spokesperson for the secretary of state, said that 77,383 certified signatures were collected for the question by November, allowing it to move on to the next phase. The state legislature has until May to act on measure, which it most likely won’t do. McNiff said if the state legislature does not act, another 11,485 signatures have to be collected to place the question on the ballot.

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