The Codcast: Baker’s curious VMT decision

Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision last week to veto a legislative provision directing the state to seek federal funds for an all-volunteer study of vehicle-miles-traveled, or VMT, turned some heads. The tax-averse governor said the proposal, which would test out the imposition of a fee on drivers for the miles they drive on state roads, raised all sorts of fairness questions. But two VMT supporters said such questions are exactly what the study was meant to answer.

The Codcast this week talks to Michael Widmer, the former head of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, and James Aloisi, the former secretary of transportation. They believe the state needs to transition away from the gasoline tax to a VMT fee and explain why they think the governor was wrong to veto the study.

For additional background, check out Aloisi’s article on VMT and Widmer’s take on Baker’s veto, You can also read a CommonWealth report on Baker’s philosophy on taxes and fees.

— BRUCE MOHL

 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Framingham’s Government Study Committee has recommended eliminating one-fourth of Town Meeting’s 216 seats in an effort to make the annual meeting more efficient and rectify an imbalance in those low-income districts that have vacancies. (MetroWest Daily News)

The Fall River City Council put on hold a request by Mayor Jasiel Correia to spend $30,000 for a branding and marketing campaign for the city after the administration declined to provide details or the vendor’s name. (Herald News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The State Department admitted that a $400 million payment to Iran in January was delayed to use as “leverage” to ensure the release of three American prisoners but continued to insist the two transactions were negotiated separately. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

Bill Clinton says if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, their foundation will no longer accept donations from foreign countries and corporations. (New York Times)

Donald Trump expressed regret over some of his comments that “may have caused personal pain” but offered no specifics for his apology. (Washington Post)

John Fresolo, who stepped down as a state rep from Worcester after indiscretion at the State House, is running for his old seat again as an independent. (Masslive)

The New Bedford City Council rejected an effort by two members to send a letter to Hillary Clinton asking her to apologize for remarks she made during her nomination acceptance speech about education access for the disabled in the Whaling City when she worked there in 1973. (Standard-Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung suggests developer Jon Cronin is angling for the mother of all sweetheart deals on the South Boston waterfront.

The state’s cranberry crop, already projected to be lower than previous years, will likely yield even less than estimated because of the severe drought. (Standard-Times)

The fight for Viacom appears to be over, and Sumner Redstone and his daughter appear to be the victors. (New York Times) 

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

New regulations and a decision on a cardiac catheterization facility reflect the Baker administration’s desire to introduce more competition into health care. (CommonWealth)

A Gloucester agency wins state approval for a hypodermic needle exchange program. (Gloucester Times)

A UMass study claims thousands of people awaiting life-saving organ transplants are denied and usable organs discarded because hospitals are concerned about maintaining a high percentage of positive outcomes to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. (Greater Boston)

TRANSPORTATION 

Keolis says it has improvement plans for the Framingham-Worcester commuter rail line. (MetroWest Daily News)

A federal judge in San Francisco shoots down a settlement between Uber and its drivers, saying the $100 million plan is not “fair, adequate, and reasonable.” (New York Times)

Yellow Cab of Quincy, the city’s oldest and largest taxi company, has been bought by Shore Taxi, the second-largest company, giving the new owner 83 of the city’s 90 medallions. (Patriot Ledger)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Gov. Charlie Baker urges Massachusetts residents to conserve water as the drought worsens. (Eagle-Tribune). A Boston Globe editorial decries the patchwork quilt of water regulations in municipalities across the state, a situation CommonWealth noted in a report earlier in the week.

A Boston Herald editorial laments the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision barring electricity ratepayers from paying for new natural gas pipeline capacity, an idea put forth by the Baker administration. “It’s back to the drawing board for the administration and the utilities — or we’ll all be sitting in the dark,” the editorial said.

A proposed power plant in Rhode Island that could run on natural gas or oil gets pushback from residents in nearby towns in Connecticut and Massachusetts. (Telegram & Gazette)

State officials have ordered Barnstable County to submit a mitigation plan for cleaning up contaminants at the Barnstable County Fire and Rescue Training Academy after highly elevated levels of chemicals were found in groundwater near town wells. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The US Attorney’s Office says it will investigate the dispute over an Islamic cemetery in Dudley. (Boston Globe)

The Justice Department will phase out the use of private prisons after audits found those facilities have higher incidents of inmate contraband, more assaults, and more uses of force than sites run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. (NPR)

Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz waited six months before taking action on a report that one of his top prosecutors groped a female employee at a conference. (Boston Globe)

A 16-year-old Framingham boy allegedly stabbed his mother and younger brother on a Florida vacation. (Boston Herald)

The owner of a now-defunct Falmouth mortgage company has been indicted on charges of defrauding the federal loan guarantor, Ginnie Mae, out of $3 million that he allegedly diverted to secret accounts. (Cape Cod Times)

MEDIA

The chairman of Brockton’s Conservation Commission ordered an Enterprise reporter to stop recording when the committee began discussion of the city’s controversial dismantling of a homeless encampment.

John Dennis is leaving the “Dennis & Callahan” sports talk show on WEEI. (Boston Herald)