Rep. Joseph Sullivan, D-Braintree, has done fellow legislators a favor by raising the
possibility of a hike in the gasoline tax to pay for Big Dig cost increases.
The gas tax may not be the best way to pay the bill, but it must be paid somehow. And since
legislative leaders have not come to terms on a budget for the current fiscal year -- now
six weeks old -- they need to factor in the prospect of more pressure on the spending side.
Is anyone up there on Beacon Hill listening?
Not one of the three budgets proposed -- the governor's, the House or the Senate versions
-- is based on a real-world assessment of the state's financial situation. And none of
these documents anticipated more Big Dig increases. The latest $100 million jump was the third in
several months, putting the total at $14.4 billion.
The gas tax has not been raised since 1991, and is now frozen by state law at 21 cents per
gallon. A one-penny increase would net just $30 million per year, so it's likely
that an increase would have to be 2 or 3 cents per gallon, at least.
Since the state's income tax was just reduced last year, and will continue to be phased down,
an increase at the pump might be read by consumers as, 'Gotcha!'
The other option is to pay for the Big Dig with general revenues by putting a halt to new
Tolls for Turnpike Authority roads and bridges already are scheduled to go up in January,
but toll road users should not be expected to shoulder even heftier increases because of Big
Here's the fiscal outlook: the budgets under consideration project spending increases of 6
percent, ahead of expected revenue collections. The state underfunds Medicaid and welfare
as it is, and there are legitimate requests -- increased state spending for hospitals, for
Considering that next year is a gubernatorial election year, with Senate President Tom
Birmingham a potential candidate, new spending is bound to be proposed.
Meanwhile, the economy softens.
So, we ask, is anyone on Beacon Hill watching?