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Mass. Gas Tax Hike Bill Vetoed: Not Big Enough!

In an unusual move for governors loath to increase gas taxes, Mass. Governor Deval Patrick vetoed a bill not because it would raise and index gas taxes by three cents, but because the increase may not be big enough if Rt. 90 tolls are eliminated.
July 23, 2013, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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John Goreham writes about a showdown between the governor and the legislature over transportation funding, including "a bailout of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) subway system which currently runs a deficit of about $115 million" as well as providing need funds for road and bridge improvements around the state.

The bill would raise $500 million a year this fiscal year and about $800 million a year by 2018. The bill increases the gas tax by 3 cents to 26.5 cents a gallon, hikes the cigarette tax by $1 to $3.51 a pack...The new taxes will take effect seven days after the bill becomes law. The bill would also annually increase the gas tax for inflation starting Jan. 1, 2015. []

Gov. Patrick's objection is "that the tolls on Rt 90 in (western) Mass. are scheduled to close at some point in coming years. He wants a state gas tax guarantee in case that happens." Dan Ring writes in The Republican that the tolls west of Route 128 are scheduled to be eliminated "on Jan. 1, 2017 when the debt is paid off on that portion of the turnpike".  

Ring writes that the amendment that Patrick submitted to increase the gas tax by an additional 3-4 cents in the event that tolls are eliminated was rejected on Wednesday, 121-31 in the House and 29-9 in the Senate on Thursday

In the video accompanying the Examiner article, 22News reporter Christine Lee, apparently recorded prior to the first vote by the House on July 15 vote, further explains the governor's opposition to the bill, noting that the legislature's proposal is smaller than Patrick's $2 billion package that includes education funding. "But unlike the governor, most lawmakers intend to run for reelection" she states, "which Patrick says makes raising taxes a politically difficult legislative option..."

In addition to transit funding, Lee explains that the bill had no funds for repairing "the crumbling concrete on I-91" which Secretary of Transportation, Richard Davy, explains was "the largest, funded highway project in the Way Forward plan" (PDF). "It has to happen", he asserts.

The legislature can over-ride his vote with a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate. Lee stated that Patrick "is not confident that he has the votes to sustain the veto".

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Published on Friday, July 19, 2013 in Boston Examiner
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