Beacon Hill takes another look at regional transportation funding
The Gateway Cities Journal
Gateway City leaders testified at a State House hearing this week in favor of legislation to give voters the option to raise funds for local transportation projects through dedicated taxes. The bill, which is sponsored by Gateway Cities caucus co-chair Senator Eric Lesser, mirrors legislation championed by former caucus co-chair Senator Ben Downing. Senator Downing’s bill passed the Senate last session, but did not emerge from the House.
Polls consistently show that a vast majority of voters in Massachusetts want the ability to decide which transportation project are important to their regions and raise local taxes to pay for them. The record in other states shows that when voters have a choice to support well-conceived projects, they opt for investment in their communities. As federal infrastructure funding has declined, all across the country, our competitors have kept their economies moving with regional transportation investments approved by voters through ballot initiative.
Gateway Cities have struggled to reinvent themselves for a new economy largely because their hands are tied by the state. Their ability to raise revenue to support long-term investments is extremely limited. Our capacity to even envision such projects has waned, as the prevailing culture has become one of “there’s no money.” Even with the state’s leading economists noting that deferred investment in transportation infrastructure is taking a heavy toll on regional economic growth in Massachusetts, beyond meeting core MBTA concerns, we are short on resolve to find the means to act.
At a State House forum with municipal leaders last year, Mayor Driscoll made the case plain and simple: “There’s just a whole lot of good that can come from having resources to meet our transportation needs, and this bill would unlock some of that, in places that want it.” Enough said.
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