Since passing the Senate’s version of the transportation finance bill last month, Senator Anthony Petruccelli has been attending neighborhood community group meetings in East Boston to brief residents on the bill and the reasons why he supports it. The bill is now heading to a joint conference committee where it will be further tweaked.
“I am working hard to help develop a plan that will address the state’s transportation budget needs,” said Petruccelli. “I know, that to promote job security and economic growth and stability, we need to make appropriate investments in the state’s programs, infrastructure and transportation system.”
At the last community meeting, Petruccelli said he did not support Governor Deval Patrick’s plan to raise the income tax from 5.25 to 6.25. The hike would help pay for the $1.9 billion expansion of the state’s transportation system proposed by Patrick.
Petruccelli argues that the hike would cost families making over $100,000 an additional $3,200 in taxes per year.
“While on the campaign trail with President Obama, the Governor’s rhetoric was about making people in high income brackets pay a little more,” said Petruccelli. “I can tell you that a family of four living on $100,000 in this day and age is not very much. Over 60 percent of Massachusetts residents are living check to check and many fall into the income bracket.”
Petruccelli and the Senate have been trying to find other ways to fund transportation expansion through other revenue sources.
The bill passed in the senate dedicates more than $800 million in new revenues for transportation and provides approximately $100 million or more annually in new tax revenue over the next five years that can be used for other critical investments such as education, housing, or other human service programs. The legislation also guarantees funding benchmarks will continue to be met in the years to follow.
The plan, Petruccelli argued the senate’s plan would improve transportation without overburdening the middle class.
“I am confident that the new cost savings reforms and new revenue in this legislation will put our state’s transportation system on a better financial foundation to make the investments necessary to move our transportation infrastructure into the twenty-first century,” said Petruccelli. “And it does so without further burdening the middle class.”
The revenue source approved by the senate would generates $165 million through a $1 per pack increase on the cigarette excise tax and $161 million by modernizing the tax code on computer system design services and standardized software. Making changes to the tax status of utility companies and joining twenty-one other states in updating market-based sourcing rules across all industries also achieve additional revenue. These changes will generate approximately $600 million in new tax revenue over the next five years to replace revenues dedicated to transportation and fund additional investments in the Commonwealth.
The plan said Petruccelli also requires MassDOT to enter into leases and right-of-way agreements with telecommunications and utility companies, generating an additional $40 million, and by redirecting an additional $80 million from an existing surcharge on gas from the General Fund to transportation. Language in the bill would allow the MBTA to raise revenues for capital expansion projects through selling or leasing naming rights to stations throughout the transit system.
“I am working with the Governor’s office as well as Senate and House leaders to develop an equitable revenue plan that allows us to invest in sweeping transportation reform,” said Petruccelli. “Many challenges remain so we must remain disciplined in Fiscal year 2014.”