Baker’s Tax, Borrow and Spend Plan [OPINION]
Republican Governor Charlie Baker will submit his budget for Fiscal 2021 today with total spending expected to top $44 billion.
Baker's plan includes an increase of $135 million in spending on the MBTA as part of his strategy to improve public transportation and reduce traffic congestion on clogged highways leading in and out of Boston. The proposal to increase MBTA spending by such an amount left even the Democrat leadership dazed and confused about exactly what Baker is proposing to do.
The plan is, as usual, Boston-centric and would likely face a challenge from communities outside of the hub.
In delivering his annual State of the Commonwealth Address to a joint session of the Massachusetts Legislature on Tuesday, Baker also called for borrowing another $18 billion to modernize the MBTA and fix roads and bridges and he recommitted to the Transportation Climate Initiative, or TCI, which would tie Massachusetts together with other states in a regional cap-and-trade compact that would result in a substantial increase in the state's gas tax to generate new revenues for transportation projects.
New Hampshire has already withdrawn from the TCI agreement and Vermont and Connecticut have indicated they may as well. The governors of those states have decided that the high cost to taxpayers might not justify the benefits of the additional revenues the TCI could generate.
The State House News Service said Baker also pledged during his speech to "commit the state to achieving the 'ambitious' goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, a more aggressive track than the current target that the state reduce its emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050."
Baker did not propose new taxes other than what would result from participation in the TCI but more importantly, he did not oppose new taxes, either. That is a signal to legislative leaders to proceed with plans to pursue new taxes and fees which are widely anticipated this fiscal year.
The Commonwealth has enjoyed relatively good fiscal health recently with surpluses in excess of $1 billion in each of the last two years. The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation is suggesting, however, that the good times may be over for now and is predicting a nearly $900 million budget gap due to slower tax revenue growth, public employee pensions, and the new public education funding law.
As usual, the way forward appears to be to tax, borrow and spend without a whole lot of discussion about savings or cost reductions for taxpayers. It's no wonder there is a steady stream of folks flocking towards the exits.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.