Can We Talk About Real Revenue Reform Now?

pothole.jpgOn November 4, Massachusetts voted to defund road and bridge repair, by eliminating the 'indexing' on the gas tax, part of the flawed and inadequate "Transportation Funding Package" passed in Spring 2013. Jim Aloisi rightly points out in the Boston Globe that this is an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and get transportation funding right this time: 

ON ITS FACE, last Tuesday was a bleak day for anyone who rides a train or a bus around Boston. Massachusetts voters overturned a new law that would have ratcheted up the state’s gas tax at regular intervals, and they installed in the governor’s office Charlie Baker, who doesn’t want to backfill the hole the gas tax repeal will leave behind. This should be a recipe for more broken trains, fewer buses, shoddier transit service, and ever-worsening traffic in and around Boston.

But it’s also a blessing in disguise. The gas tax repeal took the stuffing out of a weak transportation finance package that the Legislature enacted last year.

Beacon Hill now has a chance to take a second run at the issue, and get it right this time. 

We agree -- and believe now is the time to revisit the fundamental questions of the 2012-2013 "Our Communities" campaign, not just for transportation infrastructure (which is fundamentally important) but for all the services and infrastructure that make our Commonwealth communities great places to live and work. 

Massive cuts across the budget (fig. 1) have severely affected all corners of Massachusetts. These budget cuts are a direct result of changes in the tax code (fig. 2), especially tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest. [read more on our blog here]

We are not adequately funding our communities. 

We have cut taxes and exacerbated an already regressive tax structure (fig. 3)

Let's address both: Raise the revenue we need to truly invest in Massachusetts (not just maintain crisis funding levels), and reduce the overall regressivity of our taxes -- shift the burden away from the poorest and insist that the most well-off pay their fair share. 

The answer would be, of course, a state graduated income tax, which is, unfortunately, prohibited by the Commonwealth's Constitution. We can change that, but it takes time. In the meantime, the Legislature can pass legislation similar to last session's "An Act to Invest in Our Communities". 

The need is obvious, and so are the mechanisms to address it. All we need is the political will. 


FIG. 1

 

 

FIG. 2

 

FIG. 3

UDPATES/FURTHER READING:

2015 Snowstorms and the #MBTApocalypse:

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