When Gov. Deval Patrick announced his $34.8 billion budget proposal last week, Sudbury Rep. Tom Conroy (D-Wayland) said he felt a certain amount of surprise over some of the elements, but was glad to see several of the governor's recommendations.
In particular, he said he was generally pleased to see Patrick's emphasis on transportation and education, but still needed some time to "digest" the details, particularly the suggested changes in the tax structure and what exactly would be funded under the proposed transportation and education elements.
Patrick's proposal asks for an increase in the state income tax from 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent coupled with a reduction in the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent. It also doubles personal exemptions.
The budget calls for a total investment of $6.79 billion in education next year, with $131 million going toward early education, $226 million in Chapter 70 local aid, and $152 million toward making college more affordable and accessible.
"I'm a huge fan of public education, so the fact that the governor places emphasis on this is something I agree with," said Conroy.
In particular, Conroy said he was glad to see early education mentioned as part of the governor's proposal since, he said, studies have repeatedly shown early education plays an important role in breaking a cycle of poverty.
In transportation funding, Patrick is asking for a $13 billion capital investment over 10 years, including money to repair roads and create a public transportation system that is modern and reliable.
Conroy agreed that the governor's transportation proposals were necessary and overdue.
"We've been talking about the need to fix our transportation system for years," Conroy said. "The governor has put forth a bold plan to address those needs."
When it comes to the tax changes, the Sudbury representative said the income tax change wasn't entirely surprising, but the amount and its coupling with the sales tax change were.
Conroy said he was "certainly surprised" by the sales tax cut.
"I think it's intriguing," Conroy said. He explained that during his office hours Jan. 25 in Sudbury, Marlborough and Wayland, he heard from several residents about the tax changes and how their lives would be impacted.
"Some people mentioned being willing to pay more in general because they understand the needs are out there," Conroy said. He added that a small business owner, however, told him that the increased income tax rate would make it difficult to hire new employees.
The $34.8 billion budget reflects a 6.9 percent increase from last year and would create $828 million in new revenue.