Thursday, February 26, 2009

No Gas Tax Increase = Western Mass Loses

A lot of the opposition to the gas tax is coming from people outside the Greater Boston area, perhaps most vocally by folks in Western Mass. Beyond mentioning the fact that construction projects cost more in Western Mass and the population centers of Metro Boston contribute a great deal toward paying for those proportionately-higher expenses, let's pretend that Western Mass has a point. What happens if we don't raise the gas tax to increase revenue for construction projects?

Drivers pay well more than they would have for the gas tax.
But what about those who never pay a toll or transit fare? They, too, are better off financially with a higher gas tax. Due in no small measure to inadequate funding, the Massachusetts transportation system is so poorly maintained and badly congested that Massachusetts motorists spend an estimated $718 million each year on car repairs attributable to bad roads. This amounts to nearly $300 per household or roughly three times the proposed gas tax increase. One blown-out tire or bent wheel can cost a lot more to fix than several years of a higher gas tax.
Moreover, because so much of the construction projects we do pay for comes from 20-year bonds, we end up paying double the actual costs in the end. If we paid for more of our necessary projects with cash on hand - and had more cash on hand to spend - we'd save a great deal in the long run.
Perhaps most insidious is the cost of Massachusetts's longstanding reliance on debt to pay for basic road operations and maintenance. About half of the Massachusetts Highway Department's budget is currently funded by issuing 20-year bonds. That means Massachusetts taxpayers are not only paying interest for 20 years on the costs of construction, but often on the salaries and supplies needed to pick up litter and mow grass in medians. Twenty years of interest payments more than doubles those highway maintenance costs. Without more gas tax revenues, Massachusetts will continue to issue bonds to pay for maintenance on state highways and this will cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in added debt service costs - which will, of course, come from income or sales taxes or other fees.
Non-metro residents are beyond frustrating. They've become the party of no, for no good reason. Instead of trying to kill the gas tax, they should own the issue and try to advocate for their own interests. If they're not satisfied that there's enough money going their way, why not demand the gas tax become 5 cents bigger, with that 5 cents going directly toward their part of the state? Working with - instead of against - the NS and Metro West is a far more powerful position to bargain from. There's going to be a gas tax hike - the only question is how much of that will go to non Metro Boston. By being the party of no, non Metro legislators are making sure that as little as possible ends up going their way. If I were a constituent in Western Mass and was listening to my legislator knee-jerking against the gas tax, I'd go looking for a new state legislator.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

To make the argument that if we suddenly pay a higher tax all our potholes will disappear is a stretch. Western Mass is always getting screwed by Beacon Hill, don't raise the tax, I'll drive around the potholes. You say you subsidize our higher costs, we subsidize your MBTA. Do some pension reform, get rid of the Mass Pike apparatus, then we'll talk. Look how much we gave up to give you clean drinking water, google Quabbin Resevoir.

Bellicose Bumpkin said...

That gas tax is the best choice. If there is any credible(rather than incidental) proof that a gas tax disproportionately affects WM, then have a multi-level tax that differs from region to region.

Ryan said...

Like I said, anon, if the problem is not enough money going to western mass, then the western mass delegation should own this legislation and demand x cents a gallon purely going to their communities. That's how to get what you need, not saying "no, no, no."

You don't dodge the potholes. That's the problem. For a $100 a year for the average driver, this is an easy decision.

Anonymous said...

All of this mess brought to you by the party of Marzili, Wilkerson, DiMasi, Finneran, Flaherty, Rodgers, et al. If I lived in WM I'd be pissed as well. This placed is a f'in mess. By the way plenty of GOP folks like Cellucci, Romney are part of the problem. Maybe Deval can fix things. NOT!!

Ryan said...

Hmm... one of the wealthiest states, best public k-12 education in the country, lowest divorce rates in the country, relatively low crime rates...

those evil democrats!! How dare they!

Anonymous said...

Why are so many people leaving the state then, we're losing population all the time? Do you think it's fair we have to subsidize your MBTA so much? And the divorce rate Ryan, maybe they just don't get married in the first place?

Anonymous said...

My four-wheel drive pick-up handles the pot holes out here just fine. And don't harp on the inefficiences of driving a pick-up, need it to pull my boat.

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