GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 12, 2013

Tarr at center of State House budget talks

Michael Norton and Matt Murphy, State House News Service
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — BOSTON — After ramming a $500 million tax bill through on Monday, the House breezed through a light session Thursday and adjourned until next Tuesday.

But getting the tax hike bill through the Senate is already turning into a longer and more unpredictable endeavor.

Senate Democrats as recently as Tuesday morning were planning to advance the tax bill this week, but the legislation is idling and Democrats were again huddled in a private caucus in Senate President Therese Murray’s office Thursday afternoon discussing plans for the tax bill.

And as Democrats filtered in and out of Murray’s office Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr told the News Service that senators were discussing both policy and procedural matters.

Tarr, the Gloucester Republican, expressed concern that senators won’t have adequate time to review amendments filed late Friday afternoon in order to have a meaningful debate on those amendments on Saturday morning.

“My caucus is obviously concerned about it,” said Tarr, who has already indicated he’s ready to right a governor’s proposal to cut out a rooms tax exemption for bed-and-breakfast establishments if that ever makes it to the table. That proposal is not, at this point, in a legislative budget proposal.

Noting the Senate plan dedicates a bit more revenue to transportation than the House plan, hitting $600 million by 2018 by siphoning gas tax revenues from the underground storage tank removal fund and imposing a new fee on utilities, Murray expressed her hope for talking the House into “getting where we are” — though that was far from clear on Thursday afternoon.

“This is a remarkably fluid situation,” said Tarr.

With Senate Democrats outnumbering Republicans 35-4, Murray said Thursday she is looking past the Senate deliberations on the bill.

“Hopefully we’ll have a conference committee that will be short,” she said, “and when it goes to the governor he won’t veto it.”