THE “VERMONT TRANSPORTATION NEW DEAL"
Why not a "Vermont New Deal" to match the "Massachusetts New Deal" now on the plate there? James Roosevelt, Jr. (FDR’s grandson) compares the Bay State’s Governor Deval Patrick proposal funding needed and ongoing transportation, pre-school and innovation as the state level equivalent of the New Deal his grandfather accomplished nationally in the 1930s.
The January “Massachusetts New Deal” $1.9 revenue annual increase divorces transportation funding from the ever declining car tax revenue stream and boosts transportation by about $1 billion and human service needs by another $900 million. Virginia this year abolished the gas tax and switched transportation funding to a broad base sales tax. Instead of the regressive sales tax, Governor Deval Patrick’s Massachusetts legislation calls for progressive income tax increases.
The Boston Sunday Globe outlines in great detail in two articles and a half-page editorial the Patrick proposals—and today a major Globe editorial goes over the investment needs of Massachusetts transportation and Governor Patrick’s budgeted investments.
Using the rule of 10—Massachusetts being ten times the population of Vermont—a Vermont New Deal amounts to $190 million a year, $100 million for transportation and $90 million for human service needs ranging from Gov. Shumlin’s proposal for university pre-K education to funds for health care reform and environmental/energy conservation measures so critical for the Vermont economy and quality of life.
Just take half the Massachusetts equivalent, $50 million a year , for the Vermont Transportation New Deal and see what one gets for this annual investment. In just 24-months the Vermont Transportation New Deal completes the investments necessary for Amtrak extension from Rutland to Burlington’s Union Station plus commuter rail services along all three corridors from Burlington to Washington County (the State House), Franklin County (St. Albans) and Addison County (Middlebury). Still another $15 million remains to fund the first efforts to provide bicycle “cycle track” in Vermont town and city centers to begin to make them truly bikable—and also a roundabout or two to continue moving to the kind of walkability now in place in Manchester Center where the first corridor of roundabouts came into being last November.
Start year three of the Vermont Transportation New Deal with the rail passenger commuter services in operation plus Amtrak to Burlington, both with operating support. Then expand to those major towns without passenger service--intercity rail service to Bennington and Newport/Derby Line, Bellows Falls connected to Rutland, and a circuit train service—Burlingon-White River Junction-Bellows Falls-Rutland-Burlington—initiated. Meanwhile, investments increase in city and town centers for bikability and walkability.
Remarkably not a single dime of federal transportation funds is assumed in the forgoing description of the Vermont Transportation New Deal. Clearly considerable federal funding can be obtained for various elements of the Vermont Transportation New Deal thereby increasing the speed and reach of the program outlined above.
When one considers that going from $3.00 gas to $4.00 gas costs Vermont consumers over $300 million a year or that $50 million equals about a 15-cent gas tax—the Vermont Transportation New Deal seems like a no regrets investment with tremendous benefits to consumers, commuters and business.