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City Councilors to make their voices heard in Boston

Date: 1/27/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM Members of the City Council have strong opinions about Gov. Deval Patrick's proposed gas tax increase and they want their voices heard in Boston.

At their next meeting on Feb. 2, the council will vote on a resolution sponsored by Councilor Donald Rheault, opposing the governor's gasoline tax increase because of its negative effect on people's finances. The resolution also states that they believe the more equitable way of raising state revenue is by increasing road tolls.

"People are struggling [financially] and the last thing they need is to [have state government] raise taxes," Rheault said. "My feeling is that if [the governor] does need tax increases, the fairer tax is [to increase] the tolls [so that] the user pays."

The gas tax increase, toll road increases and the restructuring of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority are all scenarios that Patrick is considering in order to generate revenue streams and save money.

City Councilor Jill Simpson said she is not in favor of a gas tax increase, especially if the revenues will be used for financing the "Big Dig" in Boston. She added that she believes Western Massachusetts residents should not be obligated to pay for amenities associated with living in Boston.

Councilors Cecilia Calabrese, Jill Messick, Rheault and Simpson agreed that this resolution will most likely not have an overwhelming effect on the governor's decision but it is important for their voices to be heard.

"All too often our voices don't get heard in Boston," Calabrese said. "I commend Councilor Rheault for having the foresight to get the resolution out there."

She added that she would like to see the town's state legislators vote against the proposed gas tax increase.

Members of the council told Reminder Publications they hope other municipalities will follow suit in order to ensure that the needs of Western Massachusetts residents are being as strongly considered as those in Boston.

The next City Council meeting will take place at Agawam Middle School on Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m.