Massachusetts Motorists Could Be Charged by the Mile [OPINION]
Massachusetts residents will undoubtedly be hit with new taxes and fees in the new year as lawmakers scramble for ways to improve the Commonwealth's crumbling infrastructure. It's not that we haven't given them enough money already, it's simply that they have misspent and mismanaged their way into this crisis.
Every gallon of gas that is purchased in Massachusetts carries a 24 cent state tax. It appears likely that your state reps and senators will increase that tax by 15 cents per gallon – but that's not all. There are a host of other proposals out there to suck hard-earned dollars from your bank account. Among them, a proposal to add new tolls on highways that currently don't have them.
Another proposal being seriously considered is to charge motorists for every mile they drive on Massachusetts highways. This could be done by forcing you to purchase a transponder and/or by scanning license plates, as is currently done on major toll roads. This proposal could generate far more cash than a gas tax hike as newer vehicles use less gasoline resulting in fewer fillups.
The Massachusetts economy has been flush with cash. Each of the last two fiscal years has resulted in surpluses totaling more than a billion dollars, money that lawmakers can't even figure out how to spend. In addition, progressive policies have seen billions in taxpayer money squandered on wasteful social programs such as aid for illegal immigrants and fraud-ridden EBT giveaways. How about if we re-align our spending priorities before we start raiding the peasants again?
At the crux of this sudden rush to fix the infrastructure is a realization that Boston has been overdeveloped at the expense of other regions of the Commonwealth. The highway system can no longer support the crush of folks who head into the capital city each day. The solution is to remove as many vehicles as possible from the roadways by making it too expensive to drive into Boston. This would force more and more folks to pay the state more money to transport them via trains and such; thus, the sudden rush to complete South Coast Rail.
So our elected officials are in a pickle and want the folks in New Bedford, Fall River, Springfield, and the Berkshires to pay more to support a solution to another Boston problem.
It would make more sense for state officials to establish economic development zones in other parts of the state where public and private development could stimulate growth and reduce the demand on Boston bound highways. Massachusetts is a small state, yet most of the action occurs within a small radius inside the Route 128 belt. That is absurd for any number of reasons.
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.