Democratic Socialist State Rep Rips Gas Tax As Regressive

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Many Democratic politicians in Massachusetts want to raise the gas tax to reduce carbon emissions in Massachusetts.

Yet a new Democratic state legislator who identifies as a democratic socialist has come out against it.

State Representative Erika Uyterhoeven (D-Somerville) spoke about some legislation she favored in a video posted to the Boston Democratic Socialists of America’s Facebook page on Thursday, January 28. While she mentioned some tax increases she likes, the gas tax wasn’t among them. Instead, she criticized House Speaker Ron Mariano (D-Quincy) for supporting an increase in the gas tax.

Uyterhoeven addressed the gas tax during the course of describing an idea she has to forgive all coronavirus pandemic-related utility debt and to pay for it by taxing carbon emissions. (She has not yet filed a bill to try to accomplish that, according to the Massachusetts Legislature’s web site.)

“We’re basically working on a bill to forgive utility debt that is held by anyone in Massachusetts. It would create essentially a fund that would begin by paying off the COVID-related utility debt, and going forward this fund, once that debt is paid off, moving forward pay a portion of utility bills in the state,” Uyterhoeven said. “And that money is coming from a carbon tax on non-transportation sources. Right, so it’s not the kind of regressive carbon tax that the House Speaker is very much a fan of with the gas tax, but instead, taxing the polluters.”

As she noted, however, Mariano has in the past supported a tax on gas and diesel.

The current state tax on gasoline and diesel in Massachusetts is 24 cents per gallon.

Last year, the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted to approve a transportation tax bill (H.4530) that would have raised the cost of gas by 5 cents per gallon (to 29 cents a gallon) and diesel by 9 cents per gallon (to 33 cents per gallon).

The bill also would have increased the cost of ride-sharing services, with a $0.20 per-trip fee, a $1.20 fee for every non-shared ride, and $2.20 for every luxury ride.

The Massachusetts House passed the bill on March 4, 2020 by a vote of 113 to 40. All House Republicans voted against the bill, as did eight Democrats. (A roll call of the vote is available by clicking here.)

Mariano was one of the many Democrats in the House to vote in favor of the bill. He voiced support for it the week before it passed, citing the need for more state government spending in transportation.

“This is a tax increase in an election year, and everyone is looking to have an impact on their district,” Mariano said in February 2020, according to State House News Service. “So the approach to this was we will listen, we will evaluate your concerns and try to address them in this first step. And again, I want to stress this. This is just the beginning. This is nowhere near the identified needs.”

The coronavirus emergency hit later that month, and the Massachusetts Senate never acted on the gas tax bill during the 2019-2020 legislative session.

More recently, Mariano said new state taxes “are not on the table,” during an interview broadcast Sunday, February 14 by WCVB-TV Channel 5. But he did not address the gas tax specifically.

He also based the taxes comment assuming passage of a $1.9 trillion federal coronavirus stimulus bill under consideration by Congress, which would include money for state governments.

Mariano could not be reached for comment on Monday.