Tech tax fiasco may do a number on pols

Sep 13, 2013 | Boston Herald, Council in the News

By Matt Stout
Boston Herald

The state’s controversial tech tax appears primed for repeal after legislative leaders reversed course yesterday, but the ill will it generated could continue to dog the Bay State into the next election cycle, warned one tech industry leader.

“There are a growing number of states that have really gotten this partnership (with businesses) down, and it’s not clear that we have,” said Chris Anderson of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, who helped lead the charge on a ballot initiative to repeal it. “I think this issue is going to be well-suited to be debated in the 2014 election cycle and amongst State House races. Does the commonwealth have a pro-growth business strategy?”

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray joined Gov. Deval Patrick yesterday in backing a reverse on the 6.25 percent sales tax on software services that had prompted howls of protest from the state’s tech industry, with critics saying it would drive businesses away.

The leadership’s about-face all but ensures a repeal, with Republicans and a growing number of Democrats echoing business concerns that the levy is too vague and threatens the state’s tech-friendly rep.

“Hopefully we can send a very strong message to every business here in Massachusetts and beyond our borders that Massachusetts still is the place to be,” DeLeo said. He and Murray also vowed no new taxes will take its place, saying they plan to replace the $161 million it was tabbed to generate in the budget with surplus revenues and one-time tax settlements that already mount to $70 million this fiscal year.

“Let’s see what they come up with,” Patrick said. “Whatever they do has to be fiscally responsible and has to be sustainable.”

DeLeo and Murray said they hope to vote on the repeal by the end of the month. A GOP-sponsored bill repealing the tax already awaits them, but Republicans aren’t crowing about the anti-tax victory.

“This isn’t about being right,” said state Rep. Viriato M. deMacedo (R-Plymouth). “This is about saving jobs.”

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