Transportation Finance Bill

April 13, 2013                                             

Boston – Senator Richard J. Ross (R-Wrentham) voted against passing a transportation finance reform bill that would raise revenue for existing transportation costs through excessive tax increases, as well as other means. The legislation passed in the Senate this evening.

“While I undoubtedly recognize the need for extensive reforms in the Commonwealth’s transportation system, it is essential for me that these reforms did not come at the expense of the taxpayer,” said Senator Ross. “I chose to vote against this legislation due to its overall lack of adequate reform, as well as the tax increases it heavily relied on. At a time when so many hardworking citizens and businesses are struggling financially, it is unacceptable to increase their financial burden when there are still viable means of reform and savings to capture.”

Instead, Senator Ross supported an amendment, filed by the Senate Republican Caucus, which offered an alternative plan. The amendment would have raised revenue for transportation, as well as education priorities, through reform and pre-existing sources, rather than through increases in taxes and fares. The plan also required the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to focus on existing transportation and financial needs prior to instituting any growth or development. In addition, the plan focuses on numerous mandates of the 2009 Transportation Reform Act that have gone underutilized, and even ignored. Implementing those reforms would produce a projected $6 billion in savings.

Senator Ross was disappointed to see various reforms he offered and supported fail in the Senate. An amendment to exempt municipalities from the gasoline tax would have provided cities and towns with highly needed financial flexibility. A second amendment of Senator Ross’ would have ensured that 70 cents of every one dollar of the gas tax would be spent on capital projects and improvements in the highway district where the tax was collected. This change would allow communities outside of the Metro-Boston area to benefit from revenue collected to provide anticipated and necessary improvements. Additionally, Senator Ross supported an amendment to remove a requirement that the gas tax be linked to inflation.

While Senator Ross was pleased to see two of his amendments included in the final legislation, he was forced to vote against the bill due to the tax increases it relied on. The successful amendments offered by Senator Ross included an amendment requiring all meeting records of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation be reported on the MassDOT website, as well as an amendment mandating that reports on MassDOT employees whose salaries are paid through capital expenditures include information on their job classification, department and salary. Senator Ross also supported an amendment that called for the Inspector General to study the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) fare collection policies and practices.

Please contact the office of Senator Ross with any questions or concerns at (617) 722-1555 or Richard.Ross@masenate.gov.

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