To the editor:
Hold onto your wallets, Beacon Hill is trying to draw support for yet more tax increases, this time by pretending we haven’t invested enough in transportation. But according to a recent study by Reason Magazine, Massachusetts has one of the highest road costs in the country at four times the national average.
Both the Democrat-controlled House and Senate approved a $500 million tax-raising plan for transportation infrastructure. Incredibly, Governor Patrick said, “Not enough,” and sent this spending bill back to the Legislature with an amendment requesting a whopping $800 million instead! This bill includes three tax increases: a tax increase of an additional 3 cents per gallon of gas, with future gas tax increases automatically tied to any increase in the CPI (consumer price index), an additional $1 per pack cigarette tax and a brand-new, business-dampening sales tax on computer and software services.
Maybe the legislators haven’t invested tax revenues appropriately, but a quick look at the facts show that taxpayers have spent plenty. Much of our transportation spending comes from basic taxes like federal income taxes, state income taxes, state sales taxes and local property taxes. We’ve also created special taxes specifically for roads and bridges like state and federal taxes on gas and diesel fuel. Mass. state gas taxes and fees, in addition to the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax, amounts to 42 cents for every gallon of gas purchased. If the Mass. lawmakers get their way, this will go up to 45 cents per gallon of gasoline. We pay a state excise tax for every vehicle we own, but there are also federal excise taxes on commercial trucks and trailers. These taxes ultimately are passed on to taxpayers in the form of increased costs for consumer goods.
Many trucks are also charged a slew of taxes and fees that are also supposed to fund road maintenance, including weight fees, apportioned plate fees, mileage taxes and fuel permits. Some trucks are also required to have reducible load permits and non-reducible road permits that are purchased for the Mass Pike and then again for other roads. Finally, there are tolls on certain roads, some of which (like the Mass Pike) were originally scheduled to have come down years ago.
We need a transportation system that works and that requires an investment in our infrastructure, but before Beacon Hill hits us with new taxes for transportation, someone should ask where all this existing money has been going. There is evidence of an abundance of fraud and waste in the Mass. welfare system and instead of placing effort on eliminating wasteful spending and creating an efficient and honest welfare system, our legislators ignore these problems, disregard savings, show little interest in reprioritizing and simply raise taxes.
The House Republican caucus consistently stands by a comprehensive transportation finance plan that is free from any statewide tax increases. Governor Patrick and Democratic leaders owe it to the hard-working taxpayers to choose a more responsible and fiscally sound path to financing the state’s transportation system.