DeLeo's sharpening his sales-tax plan, but that doesn't make it a good one. Let's look at this from several different angles.
The MBTA alone has an over-$200 million dollar hole to climb out of. It can't cut its way out of that, or force it on T users. It can't be blamed for that debt, either: the very-large bulk of it occurred because the state forced the T to pay for aspects surrounding the Big Dig, instead of paying up using the general fund or an increase to the gas tax. Governor Patrick's gas tax plan solved this problem & added money desperately needed for our transportation system, one of the oldest and most worn out in the entire country. DeLeo's plan doesn't even seek to solve the problems, it only seeks to throw just enough money at the problems so DeLeo can throw the towel in and wash his hands of it. It's neither honest nor good policy.
Not a good tax.
Simply put, the sales tax is one of the least progressive taxes out there. It is far more painful to the middle and working classes than the wealthy. Why? Middle and working class people still need to buy many of the same sort of things. This means they're paying the same taxes for those things as anyone else, even those who make magnitudes more.
On top of that, in this poor economy why add a tax that hits those who are unemployed just as heavily as it does the employed? If you're unemployed, at least you're not getting hit off the head with income taxes. Why force the unemployed to pay more? And how does this help people want to go out and buy things -- ultimately necessary to end the recession?
Other, better options.
For starters, this doesn't generate the revenue we need as a state. We need more funds for public transportation and infrastructure. If DeLeo wants to go beyond increasing the gas tax and try to raise revenue to help offset the general fund's deficit, then maybe this is a good way to do it. But this shouldn't be seen as a be-all fix for our state. Moreover, why not just increase income taxes by about .1% - which would generate about the same level of funds? At least that way, it's not quite such a regressive tax. It's not going to hit those who are un or underemployed the hardest. And it allows those who earn more to pay more, as is customary throughout the developed world.
Some sales taxes can make decent policy -- roads are costly and there's few better ways to fund it than through the gas tax, which is a type of sales tax. Gas taxes also help people use public transit and nudge people to drive less, both things needed to help reduce Global Warming emissions. Furthermore, discretionary spending, at a modest rate, should be fair game for tax policy, as people don't need to spend their money on those things.
But these aren't things DeLeo's trying to do. There are better options for the state to take than DeLeo's plan -- both in terms of increasing revenue and lessening the impact on this state's most vulnerable. If DeLeo's going to be a Speaker for the people of this state who need it the most, he needs to get off his aversion to the gas and income tax and start acting like an adult. We need real solutions, not lame-o conservative tax policy.