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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Transit cliff

Even if Congress and the White House resolves the fiscal cliff, Massachusetts residents face another showdown over taxes and services.

New MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott is warning those sardine-like vessels jammed with commuters may become even more crowded unless Deval Patrick and the Legislature spell out by March exactly how to reduce the system's $132 million budget shortfall -- a fiscal reality that takes into account the 23 percent fare hike last year.
"These first 60 days are going to be very, very critical,” Scott said. “The last thing I want to have to do is start off the year scaring people.”
Given the fact ridership has risen nearly 2 percent despite the last fare hike, she's not doing a great job averting fear.

Patrick is poised to proposal some solutions for the state's multi-billion dollar transportation problem that includes crumbling roads and bridges (and highway tunnels). The problem will be getting the Great and General Court engaged in what surely will be a discussion of new taxes.

The focus on the T's troubles are sure to set off a regional battle, with communities outside the transit system's reach balking at paying the freight for the capital city. Ditto for another dime toward anything associated with the city's commuter web, even the decades-old tunnels that have nothing to do with the Big Dig fiasco.

But it's hard to imagine the problems are limited to the Boston area -- if only because the rest of the state got the short end of the transportation stick during Big Dig construction.

Perhaps chastened by his first effort to raise the gasoline tax, Patrick intends to offer a plan, not a blueprint, showing what it would cost to handle transportation problems from Provincetown to Pittsfield.

The specifics will be in the budget that Patrick submits to lawmakers later in January and, as we all know, the governor proposes and the Legislature disposes. And House Speaker Robert DeLeo disposed of Patrick's rejection of adding another penny to the sales tax to pay for transportation.

Of course lawmakers didn't do that either.

House Transportation Committee Chairman William Straus of Mattapoisett isn't offering hope for MBTA commuters, but he's also keeping his cards close for now.
“In no sense should people think the T is out of the woods,” Straus said, underscoring that last June’s fix was a temporary solution.
It's long past time for lawmakers to come up with a comprehensive solution that fixes the T (which, let's not forget, is shackled with Big Dig debt) and the state's crumbling roads, bridges and tunnels.

But as the ongoing Washington melodrama shows, it's easier to kick the can down the road.

Until it falls into a sinkhole.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why don't we raise the state income taxes on those making more than a million dollars? Make the rate 20-30%. Since the state is run solely by Dems, it will serve as a beacon to the rest of the country on how to equitably solve problems.

December 27, 2012 8:50 AM  
Anonymous UserGoogol said...

Anonymous: Progressive taxation is banned by the state constitution. Of course, it wouldn't be too difficult to just amend the damned constitution, but that is the situation we're in. (The current state income tax does try to be relatively quasi-progressive through deductions and credits, but explicitly setting variable marginal rates of taxation would require heavier lifting.)

December 27, 2012 4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Dems are in such total control in this state it would be easy to change anything they want (including the state constitution). Since they are in such total control, why aren't we living in a virtual nirvana?

December 28, 2012 4:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few notes from outside 495. You wonder why the rest of the state has little sympathy for your problems, and we don't want to help YOUR transit problems. The little town of Westminster is being steamrolled by your MBTA. A rail spur was agreed to and the MBTA agreed to local control of conditions and are now trying to renege. For example noise limitations, state limits, were agreed to, now that things have started the MBTA wants to use less stringent federal standards for the project. And you wonder why we distrust you out here in the hinterlands. Westminster police had to serve a cease and desist and locals will stop the project if we can put our tractors across the access road.

December 29, 2012 10:22 AM  

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