Senate President Karen Spilka said Thursday conversations among senators are ongoing about possible ways to provide tax relief to residents in the face of rising gas prices and inflation, but she did not divulge any details a day after the House brushed back a push by Republicans to suspend the state’s gas tax.
“I’m talking with the members to find out where they’re at with relief alternatives and ideas,” Spilka told reporters after the Senate met Thursday to pass legislation to improve oversight of long-term care facilities for veterans.
Spilka said the rise in gas prices underscores the need to provide incentives for people to utilize public transit and purchase electric vehicles.
“You’ve heard me talk about doing a climate bill, probably in April, that we will be and have planned on taking a good hard look at providing some relief and options in that area,” Spilka said.
Asked about Speaker Ron Mariano’s characterization of a gas tax hiatus as a “political stunt,” Spilka was less blunt, but said she would like to see the federal government investigate whether it’s actually a supply shortage or price gouging that’s led to the spike in prices .
“I can understand people’s pain in their pocketbook when they go to get gas and feeling it much more intensely than they felt before,” Spilka said, adding, “I think that we need to at least look at ways and alternatives for helping residents, particularly low-income and middle-income residents.”
Mariano said he had talks with Revenue Committee Chairman Mark Cusack about packaging a reform of the state’s estate tax with “something else that would benefit renters” a month before Baker included similar ideas in his $700 million tax cut proposal.
“I wouldn’t say a broader bill yet, because that’s a big step. I mean, if we can get a couple of things that would be great, but we’re looking at some things,” Mariano said.
The Baker administration has taken these recent comments from Democratic leaders as encouraging signs.
“Hearing Speaker Mariano’s voice such strong support for similar tax relief measures is another hugely positive sign that the Governor’s tax cuts could become a reality for Massachusetts families,” said spokesman Terry MacCormack.