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Mass. lawmakers, executives meet on software tax

A push to repeal the new sales tax on computer and software design services through a ballot initiative cleared its first hurdle Wednesday as a summit between Beacon Hill officials and technology industry leaders concluded with no agreement from lawmakers to readdress the tax.

Attorney General Martha Coakley certified a proposed ballot question that business executives have drawn up to repeal the tax in 2014.

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Meanwhile, Governor Deval Patrick, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Therese Murray met with seven tech executives to discuss the sales tax, which was included in the Legislature’s $500 million package to finance state transportation improvements.

Beacon Hill officials said little about the meeting, while business executives who attended said they were pleased to have the opportunity to lobby against the tax — even if they failed to win any concessions.

“We did want to figure out if the legislative leaders were hearing anything we’re saying about the difficulty complying with this tax, and I’m satisfied they did listen to us and they did understand the difficulty,” said Andy Singleton, chief executive of Assembla in Needham.

But, Singleton added, “there was only a sense that they’re willing to work on this issue within the parameters that the governor and the legislators previously set, which is that they would like to fund their transportation initiative.”

Before the meeting, Patrick said at an event in Watertown that he was prepared to listen to the business community’s case, and also promised that his administration has worked to make the new tax as “sensible and predictable as possible.”

“If there is to be consideration of repealing it,” he said, “then it needs to be replaced with something that enables us to invest in the transportation needs that these same people agree is important.”

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