Massachusetts Senate Overrides Swift's Veto

It's official. Taxes in Massachusetts are going up by more than $1 billion. 

The Massachusetts Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to override acting Gov. Jane Swift's veto of the $1.1 billion tax package. 

The vote was largely along party lines with Democrats supporting the package and Republicans opposed. 

The House overrode Swift's veto on Tuesday. 

Supporters say the taxes are needed to avoid deep cuts to services.  Without the higher taxes, the state would be forced to roll back spending even more on schools, transportation, housing, health care and other programs. 

Opponents say that makes Massachusetts less competitive. That could make it even harder for the state to pull out of its economic troubles, they said. 

Republican Senate Leader Brian Lees, R-East Longmeadow, called the override "embarrassing." 

"I have seen some stupid things happen in this Legislature ... but nothing in my mind at this time, could be stupider, dumber, than raising taxes higher than any other state in the country," Lees said. "It is mindboggling." 

Democratic Ways and Means Chairman Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, said most voters supported a mix of higher taxes, service cuts and dipping into rainy day funds as a way to solve the state's fiscal woes. 

"I would be more embarrassed to cut another billion dollars and go after the most vulnerable citizens of the commonwealth," Montigny said, "We must protect social services." 

The vote comes a day after a report found the personal income tax hikes included in the tax package are by far the highest increases adopted by any state this year. 

The $1.1 billion tax package would freeze the state income tax at 5.3 percent, reduce the personal exemption; postpone deductions for charitable donations; raise cigarettes taxes and tax capital gains income at 12 percent for the first year and 5.3 percent after that. 

House budget chief John Rogers, D-Norwood, has suggested that more tax hikes might be needed to balance next year's budget. 

Swift has criticized lawmakers for not considering alternative sources of revenues, such as tapping more money from the state Lottery by lowering prizes. 

Democratic leaders said those other options are fiscally irresponsible and would end up costing the state money. 

The $1.1 billion package includes about $755 million in higher personal income taxes, according to a National Conference of State Legislatures report issued Wednesday. 

That's well ahead of the other nine states which opted to increase personal taxes to help close budget deficits this year, according to the report.