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August 1, 2013

State consumers to get usual tax 'holiday'

BOSTON — The state’s 6.25 percent sales tax will be temporarily suspended the weekend of Aug. 10 and 11 under a bill that sailed through the Legislature Wednesday and only requires the governor’s signature to become law.

Gov. Deval Patrick had said Monday he expects to sign the tax suspension law as long as the more than $20 million in foregone revenue is made up with other funds – concerns the bill appears to address.

According to the Department of Revenue, the tax holiday will forgo $21.9 million to $26.7 million this year. While no lawmakers attempted to block the bill’s passage Wednesday, some have questioned the wisdom of letting so much potential tax revenue go uncollected.

“I understand why people like it, but it’s baffling to me because while I understand people feel they would like to save money on any tax, it’s important to understand there are so many things we’re trying to accomplish under a challenging state budget where we’re short in so many areas,” said Sen. Dan Wolf, a Harwich Democrat.

The perennial passage of a bill retailers see as an economic stimulus occurred while both House and Senate were in informal sessions, which precludes roll call votes. But the bill’s journey through the chambers afforded Republicans an opportunity to attempt to extend the holiday or make it permanent.

“Given the fact that what we did today was largely an expected measure and a non-controversial measure, I don’t think it comes as any surprise that we did it in an informal session,” said Gloucester Republican and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, whose three amendments were rejected.

“I do think we missed some opportunities to evolve the sales tax holiday and to establish it permanently so that we don’t have to come in in informal sessions to approve something that everyone expects and deserves,” Tarr added.

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