Gas tax increase? Somebody has to be kidding!
According to the Boston Sunday
Globe, the Transportation Finance Commission wants a 9-cent-a-gallon
increase in the state gas tax to pay for infrastructure projects.
Here are some things everyone
needs to know.
Item: The present
state gas tax is already above the national average. Over the years,
it has been adjusted to bring in maximum revenues. When it gets more
money by being charged as a percentage of the gas price, that’s how
the state charges it. When it gets more money by being a flat cost per
gallon, the state changes it to a flat tax.
The money is supposed to be used for highway
maintenance, but in reality is often diverted. The Dukakis 10 cent a
gallon increase in 1990 was used for reducing the state’s operating
deficit. Politicians deliberately defer maintenance, figuring that if
they get short of money for their own pet projects, they have "the
infrastructure excuse" to raise taxes.
Item: Massachusetts is one of the few
states in the nation that has an auto excise, which is supposed to be
used to maintain roads. How do other states have better roads than
ours when we have all these taxes?!
Item: When the Big Dig was beginning, and
the Dukakis administration was asked (by the Massachusetts Municipal
Association and others) if its cost would divert money from other
state infrastructure projects, the Dukakis administration said it
would not. We were told that since the federal government was paying
90% of the project, the state could easily handle the other 10%
without hurting other state roads and bridges. The concerns of those
of us who argued that the 90% wasn’t certain and against the rosy
scenario were cavalierly dismissed. And then the Big Dig sucked up the
local infrastructure money.
Item: The 13-member Transportation
Commission. We don’t know them all but we do know three of them.
Jim Aloisi: from the Turnpike Authority
that has been sucking up all that infrastructure money. However, we do
support another possible Commission recommendation to transfer the
Tobin Bridge to the Turnpike. The tolls can then be used for bridge
maintenance and other infrastructure projects, instead of sick leave
and MassPort agency vehicles; this will take some of the momentum out
of the recommendation for a gas tax increase.
Michael Widmer: from the so-called
Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, which has supported an
expansion of the sales tax and opposed Proposition 2˝ and the income
tax rollback, and now sets the stage for this gas tax hike with its
recent report on deteriorating roads. Should have to change its name
to the Massachusetts TaxHike Foundation.
And Harold Hestnes, cited as "a long-time
Republican civic leader" who is the "driving force behind the gas tax
hike proposal". H.H. was a top advisor to Bill Weld when he ran for
Governor in 1990. One week after Weld won, having taken the "no new
taxes" pledge, Harold Hestnes announced that he was recommending a tax
package that would increase the sales tax from 5% to 6% –
"temporarily" of course. To the best of my knowledge, he was never
heard from again as a Weld advisor on tax policy.
Instead, Weld used his pledge to prevent another
tax increase, forcing the Legislature to pass reforms and control
Governor Romney will do the same, as would Kerry
Healey. Deval Patrick refuses to take the pledge.
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