Chip Ford's CLT Commentary
Today "Together We Can!"
Great news today!
Governor Patrick's programs are working; he is lowering property
taxes as promised!
He is also phasing out police special details, which are wasteful
and breaking the taxpayers' backs financially.
New Senate President Theresa Murray is taking both her niece and
daughter off the public payroll.
The governor and the Legislature have decided that democracy should
be respected and have dropped the state income tax to 5 percent,
following a 2000 initiative petition voters' mandate that was
squelched by former House Speaker and convicted felon Tom Finneran.
U.S. Representative Marty Meehan's arrogant and brazen
politically-connected hiring as chancellor of UMass. Lowell
($300,000 annual salary) has been rescinded in favor of one of the
other two experienced and highly qualified runners-up in the
State Representative Byron Rushing has realized that inviting every
illegal alien in the world to Massachusetts to use our taxpayer
subsidized education and healthcare system may not be in the best
interest of our state's survival after all or fair to already
That'll be the day -- April Fool's Day for sure!
Original submitted by Guy Kern, a CLT member
The state's long-running nonpartisan Transportation
Finance Commission has finally issued it's report, calling the state
transportation structure's financing "shocking!" And omigosh, it
has suggested the need for whopping increases in the state gas tax and
tolls, maybe even more tolls on more roads. But it's holding off
on the specifics of that final recommendation until the dire
consequences can be publicized, have a chance to sink into the
consciousness of the public and elected officials alike.
Then the tax and toll hikes will be pushed as the
"only alternative" to the sky falling. The usual cast of
tax-and-spend characters are behind this, with the Boston Globe
editorial elitists again taking the lead.
This was inevitable, even last year when the
commission's report was still in the planning stage -- at least its
public relations scheming was still on the drawing board when it was
In the CLT Update of Oct. 17, 2006 ("MTF
leads tax-and-spenders' push for gas tax hike"), I noted in my
commentary: "The $600 million the state now pulls in annually from
the gas tax still isn't enough . . ."
CLT's news release of Oct. 9, 2006 ("Gas
tax increase? Somebody has to be kidding!") stated:
Michael Widmer: from the so-called Massachusetts
Taxpayers Foundation, which has supported an expansion of the sales
tax and opposed Proposition 2½ 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 in Barbara's Salem News column of Oct. 12, 2006
increase in gas tax deserves a resounding 'No!' ") she wrote:
Thank you, Massachusetts Transportation Finance
Commission, for all the time you spent "studying" the state
infrastructure and for sharing your opinion. Here is my response:
Now go away, as other Boston business-backed commissions, with their
"connected" Boston business leaders that recommend tax hikes on
middle-class working people, have gone away. We middle-class working
people outnumber you, and have more votes to deliver to legislators.
Last year at this time, another Boston business group, known as the
Hamill Commission for its chairman, former Sovereign Bank CEO John
Hamill, recommended increasing the auto excise and the local meals
tax. We said, "No, go away." And it did. . . .
Go away again, Harold. And please, this time take the Massachusetts
Taxpayers Foundation -- which WRKO's Scott Allen Miller calls the
"Massachusetts Taxhike Foundation" -- with you. Its executive
director, Michael Widmer, was on the Hamill Commission and is
presently on the Transportation Finance Commission. MTF set up the
gas-tax recommendation by releasing a report last week about the
dire condition of the commonwealth's roads, bridges and transit
I wish I could say this too is an April Fool's Day
joke -- but there's nothing funny about it. The political climate
has changed just since pre-election early October, when the
Transportation Finance Commission report was first leaked, then denied.
Back then we had a governor who refused to raise taxes, before we became
the subjects of a total Democrat-controlled oligarchy. Today,
Together They Can, or at least believe they can.
So long as even a single buck remains in your pocket,
the Massachusetts Taxhike Foundation and its point man, Michael Widmer,
will be hatching plots to relieve you of it, scheming to transfer it
from your pocket into his Fat-Cat Big-Business membership's bottom line.
And count on the Boston Globe's tax-them-more editorial elitists to
faithfully lead any charge that promotes emptying your lint-filled
The Boston Globe
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Transit and roads face huge shortfall
Study calls for cuts, new revenue measures
By Mac Daniel
The Commonwealth's transportation systems are in deep financial crisis,
with a shortfall of nearly $20 billion over the next 20 years just for
necessary maintenance and repairs, even without a single new highway or
rail project, a state report warned yesterday.
Unless costs are cut and revenues increased through unpopular measures
-- such as increasing the state's gasoline tax, creating more toll
roads, or joining with private businesses to build projects -- the
problems could damage the state's economy, a bipartisan commission said
in a long-awaited study.
The situation is so bleak that 25 percent toll increases on the
Massachusetts Turnpike, scheduled for January, may have to be higher and
may have to begin this year, the report says. Even then, the amount of
money raised by the hike would cover only the Turnpike Authority's debt
payments, not operation, maintenance, or construction costs.
The Transportation Finance Commission, which wrote the report, also said
that the state's pledge to eliminate tolls on the turnpike by 2017
should be seriously reconsidered and that the state should change
funding of the MBTA so it does not have to rely on fare increases to
balance its budget.
The projected $15 billion to $19 billion shortfall over the next 20
years, up from prior estimates of $9.5 billion to $15.7 billion, is a
conservative calculation, commission members said.
The report said every state transportation agency is running a deficit
and resorting to short-term fixes, despite long-term financial problems.
Only the Tobin Bridge, run by the Massachusetts Port Authority, is
"We are really in a situation that I can call . . . shocking," said
Michael J. Widmer, head of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and a
member of the commission.
The Legislature called for the commission two years ago to provide a
comprehensive and apolitical evaluation of the state's transportation
needs over the next 20 years.
"We do have a crisis here," Widmer added. "We have to attend to this."
Governor Deval Patrick asked yesterday that his Cabinet secretaries,
commission members, and legislative, transportation, and business
leaders review the report and find solutions.
But a spokesman for Patrick and Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen
declined to say whether his administration would support toll or
gasoline tax increases. When two Turnpike Authority board members
suggested last year that the gasoline tax be raised to pay for ending
turnpike tolls west of Route 128, Patrick opposed the move, saying it
went against the state's transportation and energy goals.
The Turnpike Authority eventually killed the toll-elimination plan.
"Things will just go downhill if we don't figure out a way to make the
investments that need to be made," Cohen said in an interview. "It's
something that should matter to everyone in the state who takes a bus,
rides a train, or drives an automobile."
In May or June, commission members plan to issue specific
recommendations on how make up the shortfall. A legislative hearing is
planned for as early as next week, and a public hearing is scheduled for
Cutting costs and finding new revenue are ways to solve the crisis,
commission members said. Raising the gasoline tax, last increased to 21
cents per gallon in 1990, is one possibility, but commission members did
not want to discuss possible solutions before yesterday's report was
The Globe obtained a list of talking points for commission members that
advises them "to focus on needs, and not get into a debate about tax
"Please remember, even a discussion about the gas tax still gets us a
headline we don't want, so try to deflect the question entirely and just
focus on needs," the talking points say.
Widmer said cuts could include trimming MBTA employee benefits, which
include lifetime medical care for retirees. Union officials, who oppose
that change, are currently negotiating a contract with the T.
Daniel A. Grabauskas, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay
Transportation Authority, said cutting costs alone will not solve the
problem at the T.
Some members of the finance commission have said the Legislature should
relieve some of the T's $8.1 billion debt and increase how much the T
receives from the state sales tax.
"The solution has got to come from beyond the four walls of the MBTA
board room," Grabauskas said.
Mergers are another possible solution, including combining the Turnpike
Authority or the Department of Conservation and Recreation with the
Massachusetts Highway Department to reduce duplication and cut costs.
Highlights of the commission's 67-page report:
Neither the MBTA nor the state can afford any planned transit projects,
including those promised to offset pollution from the Big Dig and the
proposed extension of commuter rail to Fall River and New Bedford. The
Patrick administration plans to unveil its timetable for that next week.
$1.2 billion is still owed on the Big Dig. A quarter of all federal
money received by the state is being used to pay off that growing debt.
There is $2.2 billion in unfunded road and bridge projects across the
state, including $200 million for repairs on the Longfellow Bridge.
The Department of Conservation and Recreation does not have the money or
expertise to maintain and fix Storrow Drive, Soldiers Field Road,
Longfellow Bridge, and its other roads and bridges.
The Boston Herald
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Heavy toll for transport woes:
‘Shocking’ deficit to sock taxpayers
By Casey Ross
Facing a “shocking” deficit of up to $19 billion, state transportation
agencies will consider new tolls, reduced driver discounts and possibly
a sharp increase in the gas tax to rescue rail and highway systems
veering toward financial collapse.
Top state officials said all options are on the table after the release
of a report yesterday that revealed a “shocking” degree of financial
dysfunction at major transportation agencies.
The report found that agencies such as the MBTA and the Massachusetts
Turnpike Authority are drowning in debt and require large toll and fare
hikes to stay afloat.
“This is a very dire situation,” said Stephen Silveira, chairman of the
Massachusetts Transportation Finance Commission, which drafted the
report. “The problems are much more severe than I had ever thought they
The report, which has been three years in the making, concluded that the
state’s transportation agencies face a combined deficit of $15 billion
to $19 billion over the next 20 years just to maintain the state’s
It also found that bloated costs, sketchy financial practices and a
startling lack of resources are impeding efforts to maintain major
highways, bridges and rail systems that are deteriorating badly.
In a statement, Gov. Deval Patrick called for immediate “investment” in
the transportation infrastructure, citing the loss of business and jobs
that would result from continued inaction.
The financial problems at some agencies are acute. At the Massachusetts
Highway Department, cash flow is so limited that officials are issuing
bonds to borrow funds for payment of more than 80 percent of salaries, a
practice officials liken to paying everyday expenses with a credit card.
MassHighway officials are also bonding to pay for basic operating
procedures such as cutting grass and picking up garbage, leaving the
agency spending more than 40 percent of annual highway funds to pay down
debt. Most transportation agencies nationwide spend no more than 6
percent of their annual budgets on debt, the report found.
Officials with the Transportation Finance Commission were reluctant to
discuss solutions to the financial crisis yesterday, saying they want
the public to focus on the severity of the problem before announcing
plans to pay for it.
However, commission members already have floated proposals for a 9-cent
hike in the gas tax to help reduce the looming deficit.
“If opinion leaders understand how dire the situation is, there might be
somewhat greater receptivity to the difficult choices,” said commission
member Michael Widmer, adding that the financial woes are “shocking” in
Turnpike Authority Board member Mary Connaughton said, “The best
solution is (to) toll all major roads going into Boston,” adding that
such a proposal has little political support.
She said any plan to increase Turnpike tolls should remove inequities
that force Metro West drivers to pay Big Dig debt.
The Boston Globe
Thursday, March 29, 2007
A Boston Globe editorial
Fix it before it breaks
This state's political leaders have an undeserved reputation for seeking
to hike taxes, especially when it comes to financing transportation.
Even when they decide to generate more money, they do it in indirect,
limited ways. The result, detailed in a report released yesterday, is a
system chronically underfunded and destined for serious trouble unless
the state taps new revenue sources.
Resistance to revenue increases is so strong that the special commission
that wrote the report declined to identify them yesterday. The panel
plans to do so in 60 or 90 days in the hope that, once Governor Patrick
and legislators have absorbed the findings of the report, they will be
Don't count on it. The governor is working on a plan to extend commuter
rail service to Fall River and New Bedford, even though, based on the
dire conditions described in the report, this project is unaffordable.
And legislators from the western suburbs of Boston thunder against fare
increases on the Massachusetts Turnpike without proposing broad-based
revenue increases to stabilize turnpike finances. The Turnpike Authority
itself, with the support of the Patrick administration, has decided to
extend the Fast Lane discount program even though it could use every
dollar lost there to deal with a maintenance backlog.
The MBTA has addressed its chronic financing problems with three fare
increases since 2000. But this has barely allowed the T to cope with its
own maintenance needs, and higher fares are bound to eat into ridership,
encouraging more people to drive on overcrowded, underfunded highways.
The Legislature limited the T subsidy in 1999, but did not address its
enormous long-term debt or the generous compensation of its employees. A
23-year-and-out retirement plan is not affordable today.
It's easy to blame the Big Dig for the fiscal mess, but downtown Boston
and the approaches to Logan Airport would be gridlocked today without
this expansion of highway capacity. In the early 1990s the Weld
administration, by disguising the cost, exacerbated what could have been
a manageable problem. Instead, the Legislature put the burden on the
Turnpike Authority, a decision that is hobbling a once well-managed
We on this page have favored an increase in the 21-cent-a-gallon
gasoline tax, which hasn't been raised since 1991. There's a knee-jerk
revulsion to it in the Legislature, but all the highways in the state
can't be tolled like the turnpike, and T fares are not supposed to rise
so high that they push riders away. The Legislature and governor need to
realize that the price of mobility for the people of Massachusetts has
to be met.
The Boston Herald
Friday, March 30, 2007
A Boston Herald editorial
What will it take for real reform?
There’s cause for celebration among the tax-anything-that-moves crowd
For the usual suspects, a report that the state will fall up to $20
billion short in meeting its transportation obligations over the next 20
years is one big headline-grabbing justification for raising the
gasoline tax, raising highway tolls, even slapping up a few new
tollbooths along I-93 or 495.
“The best solution is (to) toll all major roads going into Boston,” said
Mary Connaughton, a member of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority
Board, in response to the report by the Transportation Finance
Really? That’s the best solution?!
The rest of us -- those who have an issue with being taxed more so that
an MBTA worker can retire to Florida before age 50- - might be more
inclined to demand spending reforms before we start reversing hard-won
Big Dig traffic improvements by bogging down our highways with more
Yes, the legacy of the Big Dig, along with decades of neglected
maintenance, can be found on rutted highways and crumbling bridges
across the commonwealth. And the problems the commission tackles --
legitimate, serious problems -- may well go beyond simple
But instead of an immediate mandate for tax hikes or new tolls, the
report should instead serve as a reminder of exactly how much we spend
in this state to finance inefficiency.
As long as tolltakers earn more than schoolteachers; as long as MBTA
workers can retire after 23 years; as long as separate bureaucracies run
our roads; and as long as taxpayers and drivers are forced to pay for it
all, there is no cause for celebration.
The Boston Herald
Friday, March 30, 2007
Hacks lie in wait for highway robbery
By Howie Carr
Remember the public debate last year over whether the state should raise
the gasoline tax or tolls to pay for the rotten roads around here?
Well, the debate’s over. There’s been a compromise.
We’re going to raise both the tolls and the gasoline tax.
Or so says the Mass. Transportation Finance Commission. They haven’t
officially come out and said they want higher gas taxes and tolls. First
they’re going to have the traditional “public hearings.”
Of course it’s all a complete bag job. Just look at the tell-tale
phrases in the news stories about the “shocking” conditions of the
state’s transportation system, including the MBTA: “blue-ribbon,”
“long-awaited” and “Michael Widmer.”
All of which are synonyms for two other words: tax increase.
Widmer is from the Mass. Taxpayers Foundation. He’s an advocate for
taxpayers the same way hunters are advocates for deer.
Widmer believes in harvesting taxpayers and protecting his masters in
Big Business. A tax on Raytheon is an abomination, a tax on you is an
investment in the future.
Then there’s the phrase “long-awaited.” Not quite -- your income-tax
refund, that’s long-awaited. Or a vacation, maybe. Tax increases --
long-dreaded certainly, but not long-awaited.
As for “blue-ribbon,” the only way anyone would believe this is a
legitimate study is if they’d been drinking cases of Pabst.
Odd, too, that the same day the report ends up in the papers, editorials
appear lecturing the hoi polloi about the need to “tap new revenue
That would be your wallet.
This report is pushing nothing less than a massive transfer of money
from people who work hard to those who hardly work.
This crowd has blown billions on the Big Dig, and now they want you to
pay the tab -- again. The sky is falling, the sky is falling. Stop me if
you’ve heard this one before.
In 1988, the Mass Pike chairman congratulated his alleged work force on
the “superb condition” of Interstate 90. Then they realized the Pike had
almost paid off its bonds, after which it would have to go out of
business, unless, of course, I-90 wasn’t in such superb condition.
Soon Chicken Little stories began appearing in the same papers now
clucking about “underfunded” transit agencies. The Turnpike was going to
have to, gulp, issue some more bonds to raise money to fix the Pike and
They’re robbing motorists, while telling you it’s all on the level.
Remember Rep. Tony Petrucelli, the dim-bulb state rep from Eastie whose
father made $288,000 as an electrician at the Pike a few years back?
Now Petrucelli is running for Bobby Trav’s Senate seat, and he had a
time at Joe Tecce’s Wednesday night. And guess who showed up -- none
other than former Sen. Fat Matt Amorello, the ex-Pike chairman who
signed all the checks for old man Petrucelli.
They pay $65,000 to thieving toll-takers who could be replaced by
$7.50-an-hour supermarket cashiers. They pick up 100 percent of health
care costs for T retirees. They let MBTA bus drivers retire after 23
All that stuff is OK, apparently. But you know what really frosts’em at
the State House, and in the editorial boardrooms? How dare daily
commuters on the Turnpike extension who use Fast Lane beg for a
So what if they -- or their parents, or grandparents -- finished paying
off the original bonds back in the 1980s. The hackerama needs more, and
so the drivers will pay more, “significantly more,” the report says, and
by the way, they may have to start paying this year, instead of 2008,
and they’ll like it.
And then when they have to fill up their cars, they’ll pay again.
And again, and again, and again.
They don’t call it Mass Spike for nothing, you know.
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