Rosenberg wants sales tax cut off 2018 ballot

  • Sen. Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst said Tuesday that he will seek re-election both to his western Mass. seat and as Senate president. SHNS photo

State House News Service
Tuesday, November 28, 2017

When Senate President Stanley Rosenberg votes in next year’s statewide election, he plans to fill in the bubble for the Democratic nominee for governor and see his own name on the ballot again.

There’s one thing Rosenberg hopes he won’t see on the 2018 ballot: a question that would lower the state’s sales tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent. And he might have a willing partner on a deal in the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.

“I’ve been around here long enough to know that a lot of things that are proposed for the ballot never make it to the ballot. I’d be happy to work with people to try to keep it off,” Rosenberg said at a media availability in his office.

Rosenberg on Tuesday offered a look ahead at the election that’s just under a year away, telling reporters he would seek a 15th term in the Senate and, if reelected, ask his colleagues to back him for a third term leading the chamber in 2019.

Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday discussed his own re-election bid from the Table Talk Pie plant in Worcester, and Rosenberg said that while he wishes the Swampscott Republican luck, he’ll support the Democratic nominee.

Three men – Jay Gonzalez of Needham, Setti Warren of Newton and Bob Massie of Somerville – have launched campaigns for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Rosenberg said he’s had “very engaging” phone conversations with each and does not have a favored candidate at this point.

Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat, declined to offer any specific critiques of Baker, but pointed to tax policy as an area where he and the governor disagree.

While Rosenberg and his Democratic colleagues in the House have not forced major tax choices upon Baker, he said he hoped a Democrat in the Corner Office could offer “a vision that would show us how we should change a tax system to get the resources we need for the public investments we need.”

“We’re not in the campaign right now,” Rosenberg said. “My job is to govern with the governor, and we’re doing a lot of good stuff and I want to make sure that we can continue to do a lot of good stuff.”

Baker and leaders of the Democrat-controlled Legislature often tout their bipartisan working relationship. “It’s too bad he’s not a Democrat,” Rosenberg quipped when asked about that dynamic.

The Senate has passed 13 major policy bills over the first 11 months of the two-year session – including rewrites to the marijuana legalization ballot law, a campus sexual violence prevention bill, and criminal justice and health care legislation – according to a report prepared by Rosenberg’s office. The report does not mention a headline-grabbing law passed at the outset of 2017 that awarded big pay raises to legislators, judges and other public officials.

Among the accomplishments listed in the report is the Legislature’s advancing of the so-called “Fair Share Amendment” – a proposal to alter the state’s constitution to impose a surtax on incomes over $1 million – to the 2018 ballot. Opponents of the measure are working in court to get it disqualified from the ballot.

Rosenberg backs the surtax, which supporters say could generate roughly $2 billion to be used on transportation and education.

The Legislature in 2009 raised the sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent to plug state budget gaps that developed during and after the Great Recession. The following year, voters shot down a ballot question to lower the sales tax to 3 percent, rejecting the proposal 57 to 43 percent.