Massachusetts governor vetoes transportation funding bill

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 7/22/2013

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has vetoed a bill that called for a 3-cent fuel tax increase and other tax increases to support transportation. He says the bill that lawmakers sent to his desk did not go far enough to close the funding gap and failed to decide on a controversial issue of whether to extend or kill tolls on the western portion of the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Current law calls for tolls on the western part of the turnpike to be eliminated in 2017. The bill that lawmakers sent to Patrick calls for an extension.

“By current law those tolls come down in 2017, and the people who pay them have been assured they will come down,” Patrick said in a statement.

“Some legislators say that the tolls will never come down, despite what the law now requires. Others say that the tolls must come down when scheduled, as a matter of fairness. The Legislature has chosen to deal with it later. That uncertainty makes it difficult to plan a steady, disciplined reinvestment plan sufficient to get the Commonwealth to where it needs to be.”

The bill lawmakers sent to Patrick included the reinstatement of tolls between the New York border and Springfield, Mass., which were eliminated in 1996.

Earlier this year, Patrick offered a $1.9 billion proposal for transportation, but lawmakers rejected some of the tax increases and sent their own version back to him. Patrick vowed to veto the compromise bill if it did not go far enough to close the funding gap.

A proposed 3-cent increase to the state’s fuel tax and a $1 tax on cigarettes became casualties of the Patrick veto, but a veto does not mean the bill is completely dead. House and Senate lawmakers could overturn the veto with a two-thirds majority vote in each branch.

See related story:
Massachusetts transportation funding: Will it pass muster?

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