NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

April 11, 2013

Ahead of debate, Senate GOP offers transportation finance plan

BOSTON — Senate Republicans unveiled their transportation financing plan yesterday, saying new revenue can be found in yet-to-be legalized Internet gambling and by instituting convenience tolls on high-occupancy vehicle lanes for single drivers willing to pay.

The four Senate Republicans said tax increases are not necessary to fund investments in transportation and education, and estimated the state could pull in $150 million annually if Internet gambling were legalized and $10 million a year from voluntary HOV lane tolls. Republicans also want to allow MBTA station naming rights they believe will generate $10 million a year.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, during a press conference announcing the plan, said Republicans would not support “massive tax increases and massive spending proposals” currently moving through the Legislature over the opposition of the small Republican minority.

The Senate GOP anticipates its entire plan will generate more than $2 billion for transportation and education over five years.

Tarr agrees with state Treasurer Steven Grossman, who has repeatedly said the state should be ready to explore online gambling revenues. Recent court decisions and federal action on the issue allow states to move forward, Tarr said, with both New Jersey and Delaware moving toward legalization.

“We would suggest this is an opportunity for Massachusetts to move from being behind the curve to being ahead of the curve and join some of our cohort states and develop some revenue,” Tarr said.

Online licenses would not outnumber gaming licenses awarded in the state. If four gaming licenses are eventually awarded, then only four online licenses would be given out, with priority going to existing license holders, Tarr said.

“We don’t want to be in the business of competing with ourselves. So we want to say if you bid on a Massachusetts license, you can pay more and get a little bit extra by way of Internet gaming,” Tarr said.

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