Grab Your Pockets -- The Bandits
are Plundering Again!
The bulk of the bailout -- $1.349 billion -- will
be generated by using the annual $100 million the state collects in vehicle registration
and license fees to pay for 25-year or 30-year bonds, lawmakers said.
The Boston Herald
May 16, 2000
Big Dig bailout plan hits drivers in the wallet
"Those who are motorists should have some
responsibility in paying for the highway ... transportation system that we are trying to
House Speaker Thomas Finneran - (D) Mattapan
"It is the responsible thing to do. Grown-up
people do responsible things."
Senate Transportation Committee Chairman
Robert A. Havern - (D-Arlington)
"I'm not going to support a tax increase, and
that's what it is. We're going to use $54 million in registration fees and we could have
found the money somewhere else. You can't tell me that in a $21 billion budget we can't
find $54 million.
"The committee has been fiddling with it for
days anyway. They held on to it so that the governor won't have any choice but to sign it.
"We are leading residents of Massachusetts
down the path of another tax increase. This committee had a number of other funding
methods to look at first before they attacked the pockets of motorists and we wonder why
citizens distrust government?"
Rep. Ron Gauch - (R) Shrewsbury
The only member of the House-Senate
conference committee not to approve the plan
"This is nothing more than an increase in
taxes. This plan will do nothing more than increase the number of people who have to go to
the Registry of Motor Vehicles making the lines there longer than they are now. The
committee had an opportunity to utilize other funding methods as proposed by the
Republicans in the House or the Senate but they chose not to. Of the four suggested
financing plans offered, the Governor's plan, the House Republican plan and the Senate
plan contained no new fees or taxes. The majority party has taken the plan of least
resistance. They held the fatted calf and cut off a slice. Motor vehicle owners across
this state should be outraged at their actions. They call it a fee, but it's a tax. I
refuse to vote to impose a new tax on the people of Massachusetts which is not
House Minority Leader Fran Marini - (R) Hanson
"The Foundation is particularly pleased that
the plan restores vehicle registration fees in addition to driver's license fees. The two
Registry fees, which amount to six cents per driver per day, are reasonable user charges
that support transportation systems in every other state."
So-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation
News Release - May 15, 2000
CLT NEWS RELEASE
May 16, 2000
CLT Attacks Central Artery Finance Scheme
Citizens for Limited Taxation strongly opposes the
Central Artery capital finance scheme released by legislative leaders yesterday. The
compromise plan, which includes the worst elements of proposals by the House, Senate and
administration -- the House fees -- is based on false fundamental principles such as those
suggested by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.
MTF: Finance the Artery cost overruns by
creating new revenue streams, rather than using a combination of state surpluses, slush
funds and tobacco settlement revenues.
MTF: Build a prudent contingency for further
cost overruns, thereby inviting them. Why hold the state accountable for its bad planning
and a decade and a half of lies when you can just take more money from drivers and
MTF: Provide supplemental funding for other
capital projects that either should be a priority from the existing gas tax revenues (road
and bridge repair) or shouldn't be done at all (sports stadiums).
Their scheme will cover the $1.4 billion in Artery
cost overruns finally admitted to earlier this year while still encouraging potential
additional costs, which federal auditors have estimated could reach $500 million, because
-- what the heck -- why worry when you know you can always get the legislative majority
and the MTF to support higher taxes and fees?
The contingency should help to ensure that the Artery
is completed as designed, without having to sacrifice anything -- or anyone but drivers
The supplemental funding provided for other
transportation projects will allow the Commonwealth to continue as one of the
highest-taxed states in the nation while making it clear that lies, mismanagement, misuse
of existing highway funds and poor priority-setting will always pay off.
The scheme relies on MTF's concept of a
"judicious and fair mix of funding sources," ie., hit working people again.
MTF is particularly pleased that the plan restores
vehicle registration fees in addition to drivers license fees, stating that the two
Registry fees amount to only six cents per driver per day and are "reasonable user
CLT's position: Every tax and fee individually
can be considered a small amount per day, while adding up to the 6th highest per capita
tax burden in America. Fee revenue can be spent only to provide a specific regulatory
service, not as general revenue. These proposed fee increases are in fact taxes because
they do not reflect only the cost of running the Registry. Their legality will be
challenged in court by CLT.
The Boston Herald
Tuesday, May 16, 2000
Big Dig bailout plan hits drivers in the wallet
by Laura Brown
Bay State drivers will absorb most of the shock of a
$1.9 billion Big Dig shortfall, lawmakers said yesterday as the clock ticked down to a
Friday federal deadline to solve the $13.6 billion project's funding crisis.
House and Senate leaders announced a $2.427 billion
financing package that is expected to face a vote in both branches today that reinstates
$30 car registration fees, and wipes out plans to eliminate the $33.75 driver's license
"Motorists ... should have some role in the
highway we are trying to build," said House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran (D-Mattapan),
arguing that the other options for solving the crisis were even worse and that the fees
were reinstated "with some reluctance."
"Some people had suggested an increase in the gas
tax or putting staggering debt on our children and grandchildren," he added.
Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Robert A.
Havern III (D-Arlington) said that the conference committee crafted the fee solution
"without any joy" and would have rather used the money for other programs.
"It is the responsible thing to do," he
said. "Grown-up people do responsible things."
But House Republicans disagreed, issuing a statement
yesterday blasting the solution as "an unnecessary tax."
"I don't care how you dress it up -- it's a tax
increase," said Assistant Minority Leader Ronald Gauch, a Shrewsbury Republican.
"We're not only whacking our people with more
money, but continuing long lines at the Registry," said Gauch, who was the only
member of the conference committee who refused to approve the final language.
Clearly the most divisive issue of the Big Dig bailout
debate, the Registry fee reinstatement kept Senate President Thomas Birmingham (D-Chelsea)
and other top Senate leaders away from the press conference yesterday. Birmingham left the
Registry fees -- licenses that have to be paid every five years and car registration that
has to be paid every two years -- out of his own version of a Big Dig financing plan.
But the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation applauded
the plan as a "judicious and fair mix of funding sources."
"The Foundation is particularly pleased that the
plan restores vehicle registration fees in addition to driver's license fees," the
group noted in a statement. "The two Registry fees, which amount to six cents per
driver per day, are reasonable user charges that support transportation systems in every
Richard Dimino, president of the Artery Business
Committee, said his group was pleased the conference committee had "moved
swiftly" so federal officials would know the state was serious about meeting a rigid
May 19 deadline for solving the Big Dig's funding crisis.
"It should be clear to Congress and federal
officials that Massachusetts is committed to complete the Central Artery-Tunnel project
while at the same time balancing the needs of our statewide road and bridge program,"
In addition to funding for the Big Dig's $1.9 billion
shortfall, the bailout includes an extra $500 million over five years to fuel other state
road and bridge spending -- bringing the total of the package to $2.427 billion.
Federal officials have insisted that the state
maintain a "balanced" road and bridge program to prevent the Big Dig from
siphoning off too much money from other work around the state.
Even after the Legislature and governor sign off on a
Big Dig finance plan, state highway officials still face another deadline on June 16 to
hammer out language about road and bridge spending with 13 Metropolitan planning
organizations around the state.
The bulk of the bailout -- $1.349 billion -- will be
generated by using the annual $100 million the state collects in vehicle registration and
license fees to pay for 25-year or 30-year bonds, lawmakers said.
A complex plan to pay down $650 million of existing
high-interest state debt will create another $813 million in savings that will be paid
into a special transportation improvement fund to pay for Big Dig and state road and
The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority will contribute
another $200 million in cash, and the Massachusetts Port Authority will kick in $65
million in exchange for ownership rights to a new airport interchange roadway system.
The plan does not accelerate plans to hike tolls on
the Mass. Turnpike.
The total bailout package would give the state road
and bridge program $100 million per year in cash, to fuel a $400 million non-Big Dig
spending program that includes the 29 percent of federal highway funding flowing into
Massachusetts that is not funneled to the megaproject.
A final piece of the conference report could help
resolve an ongoing debate about how the 27 acres of land above the underground Artery is
controlled, developed and maintained.
In an effort to unite separate city and Turnpike
Authority planning initiatives for the surface corridor, the legislation creates a special
commission composed of three appointees of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, Gov. Paul Cellucci,
Birmingham and Finneran.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Joseph C.
Sullivan (D-Braintree) would serve as one of the group's co-chairmen with Havern.
James Rooney, Menino's chief of staff, said the Mayor
was pleased with the legislation. "Hopefully, this will help focus the
discussion of long-term governance and finance of the parcels of land left by the
Artery," he said.
Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation
May 15, 2000
MTF Applauds Central Artery Finance Plan
The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation strongly
endorses the Central Artery and capital finance plan released by legislative leaders
today. The compromise plan, which includes the best elements of proposals by the House,
Senate and administration, is based on the fundamental principles suggested by the
* Finance the Artery cost overruns in a fiscally
responsible way by creating new revenue streams rather than diverting existing funding
sources from other capital projects,
* Build a prudent contingency for further cost
* Provide supplemental funding for other important
capital projects that have been delayed by the state's capital shortfall.
The plan will cover the $1.4 billion in Artery cost
overruns announced earlier this year while still leaving sufficient funds for potential
additional costs, which federal auditors have estimated could reach $500 million. The
contingency should help to ensure that the Artery is completed as designed, without having
to sacrifice environmental and aesthetic commitments that are important benefits of the
project. The supplemental funding provided for other transportation projects will allow
the Commonwealth to make important investments across the state and meet the federal
requirement for a balanced statewide transportation program.
The plan relies on a judicious and fair mix of funding
sources. The Foundation is particularly pleased that the plan restores vehicle
registration fees in addition to drivers' license fees. The two Registry fees, which
amount to six cents per driver per day, are reasonable user charges that support
transportation systems in every other state. The plan also makes good use of the expected
fiscal 2000 budget surplus, continuing the sound practice of using one-time surplus funds
for one-time capital costs, and incorporates additional contributions from the Turnpike
Authority and Massport without jeopardizing the fiscal stability of the authorities.
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