Boston's Central Artery project threatens to draw money away from other projects, possibly
even a plan to lower state income taxes.
The Legislature should not use the "Big Dig" to renege on its promise to lower
the tax rate from 5.95 percent to 5 percent.
Massachusetts taxpayers may see any hope they have for a state income tax cut this year
tossed down the gaping hole that is Boston's "Big Dig" highway project.
A report from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a nonprofit group that
studies how the state raises and spends money, said the burying of the Central Artery
beneath Boston is drawing funds away from other projects across the state.
The state's massive borrowing for the $12 billion Central Artery, the largest
public works project in the nation, will rob funds for new buildings, schools, roads, land
and equipment in other communities.
The report also seemed intended to toss cold water on Gov. A. Paul Cellucci's
proposal to lower the state's income tax rate from 5.95 percent to 5 percent.
The "Big Dig," as the artery project is known, is forcing the state to
borrow billions of dollars, payments on which will come due in the next 10 years or so.
Some lawmakers, among them State Sen. James P. Jajuga, D-Methuen, and State Rep.
Harriett L. Stanley, D-West Newbury, argue that the state's borrowing is a fiscal crisis
waiting to happen. They say the debt problem must be addressed before cutting the income
That is not true.
While both issues involved how public funds are used, they are entirely separate
Long-term borrowing to pay for the Central Artery project is a concern. It will
take careful planning to structure the debt so that it does not prompt a fiscal crisis in
When legislators first raised the income tax to 5.95 percent, they promised
taxpayers that the move was a "temporary" measure to deal with a past fiscal
crisis. Instead, the higher rate has been in place for most of the last 20 years.
Gov. Cellucci is pressing the Legislature to keep that promise. But legislators
now say they must keep our money because of the threat of a fiscal crisis down the road.
It seems the time will never be right for the Legislature to keep its promise to
The shell game has gone on long enough. The Legislature should lower the tax rate
to its "permanent" level of 5 percent now.