BOSTON (WWLP) - Massachusetts is two votes away from a major tax hike on tobacco, gas and business services. The House and Senate are expected to override Governor Deval Patrick's veto this Wednesday on a transportation-tax bill that will raise $500 million dollars in new taxes. House Speaker Robert DeLeo is confident they have the necessary votes.
"Based upon the last vote we took, I fell optimistic about Wednesday," said DeLeo to reporters upon exiting his weekly Monday meeting with Patrick.
Revenue from the tax bill will fill the gap in funding needed to fix the state's roads, bridges and public transit system. Governor Patrick vetoed the bill Friday when the state Legislature rejected his amendment to raise the gas tax if the turnpike tolls come down in 2017. Patrick says the bill doesn't guarantee $800 million dollars in new revenue within five years as expected, legislative leaders say it's an issue they can address in the future.
"We gave the governor a good bill," said Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth). "If it has to be revisited again there's a Legislature and there'll be a governor here to do that."
Patrick's best bet to sustain his veto is the state Senate, which needs a two-thirds majority to override his veto. Last week the Senate rejected the governor's amendment with a 29 to 9 vote. But even with the Senate's support, state lawmakers say it's an uphill battle for the governor.
"The Speaker of the House has made it very, very clear that he's not going to give in on this point and so it would be foolish for me to suggest anything the Senate could do could change that because it really can't," said Sen. Gale Candaras (D-Wilbraham) shortly before last week's vote.
If the governor can sustain his veto, it would put into question money tied to the state budget and funding for transportation. It would put the tax bill back on the drawing board and there's no guarantee the state Legislature would take it up again.