Politics

Baker criticizes Coakley over gas tax pop quiz mistake

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Baker today offered a rare criticism of Attorney General Martha Coakley for incorrectly answering how much the state’s gasoline tax is during a pop quiz on a TV show that aired Sunday.

“If you want to be governor, and you support an automatic increase in the gas tax, you should know what the current tax rate is,” Baker said in a statement. “That the attorney general, who had to certify a ballot question on this topic, would think the state gas tax is 10 cents is a little scary.”

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As part of a transportation funding package passed into law last year, the state’s gas tax was hiked by 3 cents to 24 cents per gallon. The tax is set to be indexed to inflation beginning next year. But activists are seeking to repeal the indexing by voter referendum in November. Coakley, the Democratic attorney general, certified the ballot language. As a political issue, she has said she opposes repeal.

In an interview on the WCVB-TV (Channel 5) program “On the Record,” which regularly quizzes political guests, Coakley was asked: “what is the current Massachusetts gas tax?’

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“Ten cents,” she guessed.

Baker used the flub to criticize Coakley, who battled the perception that she was disconnected from ordinary voters during her unsuccessful 2010 US Senate campaign.

“Voters should certainly be asking how a candidate for Governor can be so out of touch, and so uniformed [sic], about such an important topic,” Baker added in the statement.

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This is the most confrontational Baker has been in his criticism of Coakley, a senior adviser to Baker said.

Bonnie McGilpin, a spokeswoman for Coakley, responded to Baker’s attack in a statement.

“Very few people get 100 percent of the pop quiz questions on OTR correct — and Martha made a mistake on this question,” she said. “Martha knows that the gas tax is a critical funding source to make the transportation infrastructure investments that are necessary to move Massachusetts forward.”

Coakley and Baker are among the candidates hoping to succeed Governor Deval Patrick, who is not running for a third term.

Jim O’Sullivan of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.
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