House and Senate leaders have ruled out a suspension of the state's gas tax, but House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka both said Monday that their chambers are busy crafting relief packages that will aim to help residents feeling the pain of inflation and/or COVID-19.

Mariano said his team is working through some of the ideas in Gov. Charlie Baker's roughly $700 million tax relief plan and "a couple of others that I've got from members to sort of create a wide-ranging array of help."

Spilka said senators are "in discussions and deliberation" about a relief package and pledged it would emerge for a vote "as soon as we have something concrete" but before the end of July.

"We're looking at relief for low-income, the most vulnerable populations and working families that we have. We're looking at relief for seniors. We're looking at relief in various forms," Spilka said Monday.

She also again rejected the idea of a gas tax suspension and pointed to Connecticut, where the 25-cents-per-gallon excise on gas is not in effect but a gallon of gas still averages $4.89 compared to $4.96 in Massachusetts, as evidence that a suspension would not meaningfully benefit drivers.

"There is nothing that we can do to mandate that if we decrease or suspend the gas tax that it actually goes into the pockets of those at the pump because the oil companies can keep that gas tax and not pass it on to individuals purchasing gas," Spilka said. "So we are looking at other forms of assistance and tax relief for working families."
Though he was asked about tax relief Monday, Mariano never used the phrase himself and told reporters that residents would not see the benefit of most adjustments to the state's tax code until they file their taxes next year.

"This whole thing about tax cuts, well tax cuts aren't going to come 'til next year and I think we have to be mindful of that. We keep hearing these cries for immediate relief -- eliminate the gas tax and all that — and, you know, the gas tax has proven to be, as the Senate president alluded to in Connecticut, a myth," Mariano said. "So we want to make sure whatever we do gets into the hands of the folks who are most severely impacted by the COVID."