To the Editor,
Every tax and source of government revenue was created for a specific purpose. The problem is that over time politicians ignore that purpose, and put all revenue in a general fund. Instead of putting tax dollars in specific budgets that the funds were intended for, like most of us do to pay for food, rent or the mortgage, government experiences shortfalls all over the budget. We are then told that all the services need more resources.
I am collecting signatures to put two questions on the Westfield ballot in November to highlight and address two important issues. One is to restore Local Aid, and the other to increase funding from the state to cities to maintain our roads.
Local Aid are funds from the State Lottery, which was created to provide money to cities and towns for police, fire and education. Our legislators in Boston began taking money out of the Lottery ten years ago, and have taken about a billion dollars out since. In three out of the last seven years, Massachusetts has had billion dollar surpluses, so there was no reason the funding formula could not have been restored. This affects every city and town in the state, and I do not understand why every mayor, state rep and senator was not fighting to restore the funding. The loss of revenue puts pressure on local budgets and property taxes.
The second question asks the state to increase funding to the cities for road maintenance to at least 300 million dollars.
The state passed an 18 billion dollar transportation bond bill. Most of the funds go for big projects, but the state only allocates 200 million dollars per year to cities for the entire state for road maintenance. That amount should be four to five hundred million per year.
With a 43 billion dollar state budget, not enough “transportation funding” goes to basic road maintenance. The Registry of Motor Vehicles takes in 600 million dollars per year for an operation that costs 60 million to run. Where does the other 540 million dollars go? We pay a lot of money in tolls, fees, and gas and fuel taxes. So why aren’t our roads being maintained?
I put the same questions on the ballot in 2014. In 2015, on his first day in office Governor Baker restored one hundred million dollars in road funding. Westfield received about six hundred seventy-five thousand dollars. Baker provided another thirty million in supplemental “pothole” money a few months later. Unfortunately, only the pothole money was spent to fix roads. Cities need to put revenue collected from vehicle excise tax and Chapter 90 funds into the “highway budget” and begin the process of rebuilding our roads.
When citizens put repealing automatic gas tax hikes on the ballot in 2014, the big lie was that if taxes did not go up automatically “roads and bridges would fall apart” First, no tax should go up automatically. Second, Governor Baker’s MBTA Review Board discovered that none of the 2013 three cent a gallon gas tax increase went to fix roads, but instead went to the MBTA.
The PVTA has an annual operating budget deficit of over 30 million dollars every year, but spent over 2 million dollars on a bus terminal that is hardly used.
People have had enough of the poor quality of roads in Westfield, high taxes, lack of priorities, excuses and the constant repairs to our vehicles. In November, voters will have an opportunity to make their voices heard, all the way to Boston.