Massachusetts transportation funding: Will it pass muster?

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 7/1/2013

A deal struck at the Massachusetts statehouse to pay for transportation work during the next five years may get slapped down by the governor. The deal includes a fuel tax increase and tolls.

House and Senate negotiators worked together in a conference committee to pass a transportation funding package that would raise $500 million in taxes and other new revenues in 2015. It would grow to $800 million in 2018.

Gov. Deval Patrick said the deal brokered by lawmakers doesn’t do enough to meet the state’s needs for road, bridge and transit work. Specifically, he cited revenue from tolls on the western end of the Massachusetts Turnpike that are included in the funding plan but that are scheduled to end in 2017.

“I expect to return this bill with an amendment and look forward to working with the Legislature to enact it,” Patrick said in a news release.

Patrick announced early this year a $1.9 billion proposal to boost funding for transportation and education. His plan relied on increasing the state income tax by 1 percent while cutting the sales tax by 1.75 percent.

The package approved by lawmakers includes provisions to increase the state’s fuel tax rate by 3 cents and to add $1 to the tax on cigarettes.

Massachusetts’ fuel tax rate would increase from 21 cents to 24 cents per gallon. A 2.5-cent portion of the tax now applied to underground storage tank cleanups would also be rerouted to transportation.

Another part of the plan would require the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to work out the details with the federal government to reinstate tolls between the New York border and Springfield. The agency would have 90 days to implement the fee structure and start charging truckers and other drivers.

Transportation officials would also be responsible for coming up with a plan to place tolls on interstates near the borders.

In a joint statement, Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo called the compromise “a responsible and efficient use of revenues” that they say would close the transportation funding gap.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Massachusetts, click here.

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