BOSTON — After months of watching Congress try to navigate the politics of raising taxes, Beacon Hill leaders have returned for the start of a new session where the issue of raising new revenue for transportation and other priorities sits near the top of the agenda.
But Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, the Gloucester Republican who was re-elected last week to his leadership post, is cautioning his Senate colleagues that raising taxes should not be the first approach to fix the state’s transportation funding dilemma, water and sewer infrastructure needs, and a $540 million midyear budget gap.
Tarr, who retained his Senate seat covering Cape Ann and several other North Shore communities without opposition in November and is beginning his 10th two-year term, said that lawmakers need to exercise “fiscal discipline” before talking about taxes and to look at reducing spending in some areas.
“I think there is probably not an acceptable level of increased taxation, even beyond the minority party, that will address transportation and water infrastructure issues,” Tarr told the News Service. “We simply have to make Massachusetts’ economy more robust if we are to have any hope of being able to pay for some of those things.”
Both Senate President Therese Murray and Speaker Robert DeLeo identified fixing transportation funding as one of their priorities for the new legislative session. While neither mentioned new taxes, the idea has been floated by some lawmakers.
“I would rather have us not be sidetracked and look at a tax increase that is only a nominal part of the solution. I would rather have us focus on the real solution, which is making the economy healthier. With regard to some of those things, we are going to have to be creative,” Tarr said. “I think that part of an adult discussion includes discipline, and discipline not to resort to an increase in taxes when there are perhaps more challenging ways to solve the problem, but I think more effective ways to solve the problem.”