Massachusetts’ Anticipated Transpo Funding Plan Is a Big Ol’ Let Down

Yesterday, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was supposed to unveil a visionary new statewide transportation plan. And while the spending component includes a commuter rail expansion and a pedestrian and bike program, the funding component bears some resemblance to what we recently held up as a worst-case scenario.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's anticipated transportation plan is less than visionary. Photo: Boston Streets

Patrick’s proposal doesn’t contain a vehicle miles traveled fee, which was endorsed by a state-appointed panel. Nor does it contain the tax on parking facilities that intrigued Governing Magazine. Instead, like Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s recent transportation funding proposal, the package doesn’t ask motorists to contribute anything. While he won’t be taking the extreme step of eliminating the state’s gas tax, as McDonnell wants to do, Patrick is going to pay for the state’s transportation needs by adding a new tax on productive work instead of driving.

Boston Streets has this report:

But just two days after outlining a menu of funding options, the Patrick administration proposed only raising income taxes to pay for repairs and improvements around the state. No doubt, income taxes are a powerful financing source. And it’s a progressive tax which means those earning the most contribute the most.

In focusing on income taxes, though, Patrick fails to take advantage of incentives for non-auto travel. Charging people who drive more – through tolls, gasoline taxes, VMT taxes, and green taxes – transfers the costs to those who use the infrastructure. It also encourages drivers to consider other ways to get around. And the more people walking, biking, and riding transit, the less taxpayers have to pay to maintain our expensive highway system. Let alone the benefits to public health, transportation safety, and quality of life.

If Massachusetts can’t put together a smart transportation funding proposal, it’s hard to be optimistic other states will.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Los Alamos Bikes shares the news that the city of Santa Fe has started a “war against jaywalking pedestrians,” despite the sparsity of crosswalks in the city. New Jersey Future says that as the state gets ready to realign development incentives, it needs to prioritize transit-accessible locations. And, in light of the New York City school bus driver strike, Second Avenue Sagas discusses the merits of using the public transit system as transportation for students.