By Matt Murphy
State House News Service
BOSTON -- Republican lawmakers and activists who have been thwarted by Democratic legislative leaders in their attempts to prevent the gas tax from rising with inflation announced plans Tuesday to place a measure on the 2014 ballot repealing the new state law.
Rep. Geoff Diehl, a Whitman Republican, spoke for a group of his colleagues and conservative activists outside the Statehouse, linking the recently approved gas-tax law to the Colonial fight against the British crown over taxes on sugar and stamps that led to the American Revolution.
"It's taxation without representation," said Diehl, who was joined by Reps. Jim Lyons, R-Andover, Shaunna O'Connell, R-Taunton, Leah Cole, R-Peabody, and Daniel Winslow, R-Norfolk. Lyons' district includes part of Tewksbury.
The Legislature last month passed a law raising taxes by $500 million a year, on average, over the next five years, including a 3-cent increase to the state's 23.5 cent excise tax on a gallon of gas. The law tied future increases in the gas tax to the consumer-price index, assuring future gas-tax hikes without the need for lawmakers to act.
Ballot campaign organizers said locking in gas tax hikes without a vote means imposing a "forever tax" on residents of Massachusetts. Supporters argue that indexing the gas tax to inflation will prevent the erosion of the tax's purchasing power over time, and remove the debate from a polarized political climate.
"It's a vicious cycle that's going to hurt families getting their kids to and from school, getting to their jobs," Diehl said.
Republican State Committeeman Steve Aylward said the group behind the proposed ballot question came together, in large part, out of former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan's campaign team during his recent run for U.S. Senate. Sullivan helped write the language of the proposed ballot question, and Aylward said the group would not use paid signature gathers to reach the ballot, just as Sullivan refused to pay for signatures to get his name on the special election ballot this spring.
Several local Tea Party organizations, Citizens for Limited Taxation and the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance are among the groups backing the ballot push and who will offer organizing support to the effort.