SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

January 16, 2013

More transportation money? Fool me once ...

(Continued)

How about the sales tax instead? In 2000, the Legislature agreed to earmark 20 percent of sales tax revenue for public transportation, increased the traditional rate from 5 percent to 6.25 percent in 2009. The transportation finance plan floats a 7.75 percent sales tax rate because the MBTA is, as noted above, deep in debt doo-doo again anyhow.

Other ideas are a 0.16 percent payroll tax (on top of the federal payroll tax increase we just found in our paychecks) and increased fees, including an $86 increase in license renewal fees!

And if Gov. Patrick doesn’t choose your preferred new revenue source, don’t feel rejected. As long as we enablers accept any taxes before reforms, they’ll be back for the others eventually. The transportation system still won’t be funded. The MBTA will still be in debt. Our state government will have tricked us once again.

Let me count just the lies I’ve been around to observe:

1. Voters were asked on the 1974 ballot to allow highway tax use for mass transit; they were told this would not impact necessary spending on highways. Voters, including me, bought that fantasy, said OK.

2. I was at a news conference in the late ’80s when the Dukakis administration was asked about the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s concern that the Big Dig would take money from other state and local highway projects. The answer was no, it would not.

3. We were told that the Big Dig would cost around $3 billion. Actual cost was $22 billion, including interest and not counting necessary repairs that have already begun.

4. In 1990, the Dukakis administration raised the gas tax 10 cents per gallon, allegedly to pay for highway maintenance and repair. Voters rejected a ballot question to repeal this and other Dukakis tax hikes. In 1991, it was discovered that the gas tax money was used to reduce the state deficit instead of for highways.

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