In his State of the Commonwealth address, Governor Deval Patrick reiterated the need to invest in our infrastructure to keep Massachusetts competitive as a place to live and do business. He hit many of the right notes, calling for a transportation system that would allow people to get to and from work reliably and without a car.
But just two days after outlining a menu of funding options, the Patrick administration proposed only raising income taxes to pay for repairs and improvements around the state. No doubt, income taxes are a powerful financing source. And it’s a progressive tax which means those earning the most contribute the most.
In focusing on income taxes, though, Patrick fails to take advantage of incentives for non-auto travel. Charging people who drive more – through tolls, gasoline taxes, VMT taxes, and green taxes – transfers the costs to those who use the infrastructure. It also encourages drivers to consider other ways to get around. And the more people walking, biking, and riding transit, the less taxpayers have to pay to maintain our expensive highway system. Let alone the benefits to public health, transportation safety, and quality of life.
The ideas Patrick, Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, and Transportation Secretary Richard Davey floated on Monday appear to have been mere distractions in their desire to raise income taxes. Let’s take this opportunity to apply pressure for more sweeping reforms. They have the attention and support of Massachusetts residents who believe in the importance of transportation investment. This is our opportunity to move Massachusetts into the future.