Letter: Road quality concerns

To the Editor,

I have been working to make increased funding for local roads a greater priority, at the state and local level for eight years.

The issue is not that Massachusetts drivers are not paying enough to maintain our roads, Massachusetts ranks amongst the top states in overall spending on roads, and pays three times the national average in cost per mile, yet ranks 46th (that would be near the bottom) in the quality of our roads. The issue is the state pays too much and spends too many transportation dollars on other things, and not enough on basic road and infrastructure maintenance. The state keeps proposing one plan after another to raise taxes, instead of addressing the underlying issues or spending funds on their intended purpose, usually with even less oversight and control.

In 2013, volunteers across the state collected over 90,000 signatures to put Repealing Automatic Gas Tax hikes on the ballot, because no tax should go up automatically, without a vote of our elected representatives.

In 2014, voters repealed automatic gas tax increases, which has saved over 2 billion dollars. The big lie in the 2014 campaign from AAA and the Chamber of Compromise was that our roads and bridges were going to fall apart if taxes did not go up automatically. This was exposed in 2015, when Governor Baker’s MBTA Review Board discovered that the 3-cent gas tax increase in 2013 was going to (…..wait for it…), the MBTA.

After Governor Deval Patrick cut 100 million dollars from road funding in 2013, (for petty political reasons,) I put a question on the ballot in 2014 to restore that funding. In January 2015, on his first day in office, Governor Baker restored the 100 million dollars. Westfield received $660,000. Unfortunately, not a dime went to fix our roads, but rather to fill in a gap in rail trail funding.
We face several problems when it comes to fixing our roads. We certainly pay enough in gas, diesel, meals and vehicle excise taxes. So, what is the problem?

  1. Not enough of the taxes that were created to fund road maintenance are spent on maintaining our roads. For example,

Governor Baker’s MBTA Review Board discovered that none of the 3-cent gas tax increase in 2013 was spent to fix roads, but instead was going to the MBTA.

Under the bill the state house passed last week, with little public debate, the tax on gasoline would increase by 5 cents and diesel by 9 cents, and is projected to raise between 522 to 612 million dollars, with a percentage going to subsidize (…..wait for it….) the MBTA.
The state tax on gasoline is 26.54 cents per gallon, and 18.4 cents per gallon on diesel.
The federal tax on gas is 18.4 cents and 24.4 cents on diesel. How is fair for drivers to subsidize the riders of the MBTA when most will seldom use the service, and electric vehicles pay little in fuel taxes?

  1. Regular road maintenance has not been a priority for local and state government.

Despite a 43 billion dollar state budget and billion dollars surpluses in 3 of the last 6 years, Boston politicians refuse to increase the 200 million dollars per year given to cities and towns for road maintenance.

Westfield collects over 5 million dollars per year in vehicle Excise Tax, and receives about 1.2 million dollars in Chapter 90 funds from the state. The increase in the Meals tax was supposed to go to roads. That figure is about 400,000 dollars. If you drive in Westfield, it should be obvious, the City is not spending the 7 million dollars a year that it needs to, in order to properly maintain our roads.

The Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI)

By joining the multi-state TCI compact, Massachusetts would be ceding its taxing sovereignty to an out-of-state, unelected, non-governmental agency, which would be granted the power to further increase the price of fuel in our state without any approval by our own duly elected officials, or subject to any voters, with up to half the funds going to non-road projects.

I served three years overseas in the US Army to defend this country, our way of life and for the freedoms we enjoy. I took an oath to defend the US Constitution. Handing control of taxes, our right to be self-governing or our economy over to any entity or agency, not subject to any voters or body politic is one of the most dangerous and stupid things we could ever do.

Dan Allie


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