Raising the gas tax is the tip of the iceberg

Rep. David Linsky’s (D-Natick) proposal to raise the gas tax by 6 cents looked like a profile in courage right up until Yvonne Abraham demolished it in a spirited column in today’s Boston Globe. Abraham makes excellent points — including many of the same ones made last year by members of the Transportation Finance Commission when they issued their initial report (followed by 28 recommendations) on the dire state of the transportation infrastructure in Massachusetts.

In short, Abraham is right. Raising the gas tax less than a dime is a laugh riot, especially considering the infusion of revenue that the system actually needs and the continuing inequity of levying tolls only against certain groups of commuters. (Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation chief Michael Widmer tells Abraham that it would take a gas tax hike of 15.5 cents to avoid an increase in tolls.)

As far as transportation is concerned, it’s five minutes to midnight. Will state officials, who weren’t willing to go down that road before the economic downturn, now move raise the gas tax when they return in January? That’s the great unknown, but the unhealthy rush to repeal the toll increases by one group of state lawmakers is early evidence of political expediencies trumping transportation realities.

Gov. Deval Patrick promises a comprehensive transportation plan next year, but it’s hard to envision how that document would shed any new light on issues or solutions – most of which have been well- documented by both the TFC and the Romney administration in its impressive, but quickly forgotten 20-year transportation plan, first drafted in 2005.

Meet the Author

Gabrielle Gurley

Senior Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

UPDATE: According to the Boston Globe:

House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi today urged lawmakers to "seriously consider" a gas tax increase instead of the "excessive proposal" to hike tolls on tunnels and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.