STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, APRIL 25, 2016….The Massachusetts House on Monday shot down proposals to increase the gas tax and put a cap on the state’s film tax credit program as they began to dispense with more than 1,300 amendments to the annual state budget bill.
The House swiftly took care of more than 30 revenue-related amendments to the $39.48 billion budget, rejecting four and voting to study two others. The rest were withdrawn by their sponsors after behind the scenes talks.
The gas tax and film tax credit amendments, both filed by Rep. Angelo Scaccia, were rejected on voice votes.
Calling it the “biggest boondoggle” he has seen in his long legislative career, Scaccia argued for Massachusetts to cap its film tax credit at $40 million. Gov. Charlie Baker has also targeted the credit, which supporters say has enabled the state to grow its film industry sector.
“We have to get rid of this boondoggle,” said Scaccia
House leadership has traditionally provided strong support for the tax credit. House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano opposed Scaccia’s amendment, noting a Braintree company employs 14 accountants who work in the sector and “wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have a film tax credit.”
Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante described the credit as a benefit for parts of the state that miss out on programs geared toward urban areas or specific industries. She pointed to several movies filmed in her North Shore district, including The Proposal, The Perfect Storm and Joy.
“I don’t begrudge gateway cities and larger cities for the amount of money they get, I do not begrudge Boston from having a whole MBTA travel system,” Ferrante said. “However, it is upsetting to me when I hear folks from larger cities complain about a program that directly results in a benefit for my district and to other districts that simply do not qualify for the benefits that larger cities get. I also am concerned and upset when I see tax credits go mainly to the businesses of white collar workers, because once again those aren’t the tax credits that benefit my district.”
Scaccia had also sought to increase the state’s tax on gasoline from 24 cents per gallon to 27 cents per gallon, saying during debate on the amendment that he was “not here to raise taxes per se” but wanted to address the way the state pays for transportation. The gas tax increase could help the MBTA move away from using capital funds to pay for operating expenses, which “does not make financial sense” Scaccia said.
Rep. Geoff Diehl, a chief proponent of the 2014 ballot campaign that repealed automatic gas tax increases, countered that the MBTA has sufficient revenue to cover its personnel expenses and road construction but must manage its money better. He said Massachusetts spends over four times the national average to repair roads, and 49 percent of the gas tax revenues go to the T.
During his arguments for an amendment to study reducing the state sales tax to 5 percent, Scaccia noted the MBTA was one of the few areas targeted for major investments in the budget, with $93 million more.
[Michael Norton contributed reporting]