FINANCING VERMONT TRANSPORTATION NEEDS---PART 2 OF THE MASSACHUSETTES GOV. PATRICK PROPOSALS
--a reality-based approach so car travel, public transportation by bus and rail, walking and bicycling become equal in the new world of transportation
In Part 1 of this blog, Gov. Deval Patrick’s finance and budget proposals outlined earlier this week actually dealt with traditional transportation funding sources in addition to the landmark income tax increase with a substantial amount of that increase ongoing for bridges, highways, rail passengers service and the MBTA.
The Globe on Friday reported the $1.9 billion increased taxes from an income tax increase and sales tax decrease would “stabilize” the MBTA, invest in education, and other areas of transportation as well as provide for “new and expanded” rail passenger services including areas in the state not now served, roads and bridges.
Then a series of changes in traditional transportation revenue sources were also addressed with the following increases: (1) indexing the 21 cent State gas tax to inflation which means for 2014 a 1 cent increase; (2) MBTA/tunnel/bridge/turnpike fare increase automatically 5% every two years; and (3) registry fees increase automatically 10% every five years.
The Globe describes the overall initiative designed to “shore up and expand transportation systems and broad education program.”
The income tax side includes closing corporate tax reform by closing loopholes and increases the corporate tax rate.
To assure fairness to lower income groups who would be affected by regressive fare and registry increases, there is a doubling of the current $4,400 income exemption from the income tax to $8,800—this also benefits the incomes of the middle.
With practically all states—Vermont include—and the federal government all struggling how to deal with a transportation system where all modes except the car mode recording regular increases with lots of double digit increase yearly while car travel declines in all age groups (particularly the under 30 crowd), Gov. Patrick becomes the first to recognize that this trend demands a news financing approach which draws heavily from general funds, not just solely motor vehicle-centered taxation which becomes a slowly declining resource for some time has been inadequate to serve legitimate public demands for infrastructure and operating support.
For Vermont, for example, there clearly exists a need to expand rail services, particularly commuter rail between Burlington and neighboring counties, and intercity rail, particularly to those areas without any service at all, Newport to White River Junction, Bennington to Rutland, Rutland to Burlington, and Bellows Falls to Rutland.
Finally, note the bulk of the household budget goes for housing, food, transportation and health care. What the Gov. Patrick taxation measure recognizes for the first time is that—just as highway transportation has always been a public service to all—so too must be quality multi-modal public transportation services. No longer can public transit be a niche in highway finance or a social benefit through a human agency program—public transportation becomes an equal, perhaps more than an equal, in providing support for the economy and life of a community by enabling workers to go form home to work, all citizens accessing the services and products they need in every day life, and undertaking recreation and leisure time activities.