Tax to Travel: How Would You Pay for Mass' Transportation System?

Gov. Deval Patrick plans to ask lawmakers to raises taxes to make up for the shortfall in Massachusetts' transportation system. What options should they consider and what's off the table?

Would you be willing to pay more at the pump, have a tracking system on your car that taxes you by the mile, or see tolls on state highways? Those are just some of the possibilities looming as Massachusetts looks to erase the state's transportation system's deficit. 

The Boston Globe reported that Gov. Deval Patrick will ask lawmakers to raise taxes in order to pay for a transportation system—from the MBTA to roads and bridges—that continues to operate in the red. The administration will present a specific proposal by Jan. 7.

One option is raising the gas tax, a route Patrick sought in 2009 only to be rebuffed by the legislature. Patrick sought a 19 cent increase while business groups endorsed a 25 cent increase. Ultimately, the state Senate voted down two budget amendments, one which would've increase the tax by 19 cents as requested by Patrick and one that would have increased it by a more modest 12 cents.

Massachusetts' gas tax of 21 cents a gallon, unchanged since 1991 except for a 2.5 cent increase imposed to clean up underground contaminants according to the Globe, ranks 29th in the nation according non-partisan tax research group The Tax Foundation.

Another option according to the Globe is taxing miles driven, which could require tracking devices installed on all registered cars in the state.

WBZ pundit Jon Keller said that the state should "try to spread the pain around" by putting open-road (a.k.a. high-speed) tolling on interstate highways. In a live chat on Patch in September, Patrick asked a reader whether he'd support high-speed tolls in response to a question about toll fairness.

Keller also said the state could require license fees for bicyclists, whom he said have "been the beneficiaries of a lot of recent public spending."

Other options, according to the Globe, include using future casino revenue and transferring T debt to the state's books.

“At this point, everything remains on the table,” state Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey told the Globe.

Would you support a higher gas tax, high-speed tolls, a tax-by-mile program or licenses for bicyclists? Tell us in the comments which plans you'd consider to make up the transportation system's deficit and which options you consider off the table.

Edward November 25, 2012 at 07:26 PM
I like that DO NOT STOP sign in the picture above. Route 128 could use a lot of those...
john November 25, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Consider the impact on traffic if Mass put tolls on any of our major highways. Be careful what you wish for.
Stephen M. Roberts November 25, 2012 at 10:02 PM
There was a time when the old saying "there ain't no free lunch" used to be true. That notion came apart when the gas tax "fund" was raided to pay for public transit projects that wouldn't otherwise "pencil out"... or pay for themselves. Today it's a national problem. There are no self-supporting public transportation systems anywhere that I know of. I currently live in a place where bike paths, bike bridges, jogging trails and metropolitan transit systems are all flourishing and expanding thanks to politicians pilfering gas tax and "stimulous" money. What's worse, they are converting lanes on local streets to "buses only" use, reducing the auto and truck-carring capacity of the road system... financing it on the backs of the very folks who paid the gas taxes that built and maintained them. The gas tax "golden goose" is suddenly being pinched by the hybrid cars that generate frwer gas tax dollars... so they want to levy a special "road tax" on those less thirsty vehicles... just to make it "fair". You get what you vote for, folks. Like BHO said about 4 years ago... "Elections have consequences:.
Sean Ward November 26, 2012 at 02:09 PM
They are visiting NH to get away from Taxachusetts. If you build an inbound toll up there you also need to provide some reason to come here. Currently the only people flocking south are the people coming home with car loads of tax free purchases.
Jerome November 26, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Tax payers should be off the hook in this case. MA Transportation could easily be paid for through corporate marketing opportunities. Frankly, I don't mind a bit if I rode the "Starbucks" train, or the "McDonald's" bus or the "Coca-Cola" subway. Offer the Fortune 500's their own passenger cars to purchase and outfit as they like with all their logos as they see fit. Look as NASCAR sponsorship. It is a perfect profit model. Fares will cover some of the operating costs as they typically do but the real costs for general upgrades and maintenance could come through commonly practiced billboard marketing.


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