In an exclusive interview with The Bottom Line, Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer said the Senate is working every day in recent weeks to craft their version of the state’s next two-year budget and said it could be completed by the end of the week.
Thayer said the Senate doesn’t have the support or sentiment in their caucus right now to pass the “stand-alone tax increases” included in the House budget. The House budget increased the cigarette tax by 50 cents and added a tax on opioids which helped restore some education funding and other areas which the governor’s budget originally cut. When asked if they would be considering any other measures to come up with that funding in their version of the budget, he said it is too soon to tell.
Thayer said the Senate is currently going over the budget each night with a differences document containing the governor’s proposed budget and what has been sent passed by the House. He added he hopes to see them finish their version by the end of this week.
“Sometimes we are agreeing with the governor, sometimes we are agreeing with the House, sometimes we may come up with a whole proposal of our own. We are in step three of a five-step process for the budget,” Thayer said.
When asked if they would be considering any sort of tax reform to find additional revenue for government services as the state budget feels the squeeze of the pension crisis, Thayer said the Senate is not spending any time talking about tax reform as he does not feel the legislature has the bandwidth to achieve comprehensive tax reform on top of the other issues facing them this session.
Thayer added he would like to see comprehensive tax reform and said he is supportive of things like moving toward a consumption-based tax code and other initiatives to make the state more competitive.
“I think we will get to (tax reform) eventually, but prognosticating when is fool’s gold right now,” Thayer said.