Friday, April 10, 2009

The MBTA's Problem is State-Forced Debt

Stomv kicks ass, as usual.
The question is: how do we get the MBTA's expenses under control? Answer:

Pay down the debt. The T is carrying huge debt loads, and it's not really because of MBTA managers mismanaging. The switch to forward funding meant that the lege made capital decisions for the T and then left them holding the bag. The Big Dig made commitments for the T in order to get better infrastructure for autos, and then left the T holding the bag. MBTA FY 2009 debt services total $368 million, $246 of which is interest payments.

That's right, the total deficit is about $100 million less than the T's interest payments, much of which is paid on loans that MBTA management didn't want to take on, but the legislature forced on them.

So, if we paid down half the debt that we forced on the T because of the Big Dig, the MBTA would suddenly not only not be in trouble, but could even expand service. Imagine a subway that didn't shut down at midnight on a Saturday! Well, citizens of Massachusetts, that's how to do it.

$150-200 million is a lot of money, but perhaps only .1-2% of all of our state's income taxes. If the state legislature had the courage to raise that amount to be applied directly to the MBTA's debt service, I think the people of this state would be more than willing to pay it to protect the T. We could make sure that some of that money goes toward solving some debt issues with other public transportation systems in other parts of the state, too, just to be fair. This seems like a no brainer.


massmarrier said...

The other side of that is the gigantic legislative blunder that produced this problem. I've been ranting about the error for years, like here.

The General Court mandated self-funding MBTA, promising on its part to keep or grow the sales-tax revenue it shared. Those taxes did not grow and the lawmakers have refused to correct their huge mistake.

Fix the damned funding, boys and girls!

Anonymous said...

And make the whole state pay for a service that Western Mass has no opportunity to use. Great. Of course the pensions after 20 years of service have nothing to do with their problems? Let's get funding for transportation apportioned on a per catita basis, you spend your money on subways, we'll fix our bridges.

Joel Patterson said...

Western Mass gets a lot of benefit from the gas tax because many more people by gas in and around Boston than in the Berkshires, and the city folks' money goes into the same state coffers that pay out road funding to Western Mass.

The way to improve the roads in the western counties is not to separate everything but to work together as a commonwealth.

Anonymous said...

Would love to see some per capita spending figures for roads inside vs outside 128. Communities served by the T should pay a special fee/tax for a service which is rendered only to them.

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