Contact: Matthew Casale, 617-747-4314, [email protected]
(Boston, MA) On Monday, May 1, a state house committee passed a key regional transportation initiative, a major step in improving and expanding regional transportation options. The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Revenue reported favorably on the Regional Transportation Ballot Initiative bill (S.1551), introduced by Senator Eric Lesser (East Longmeadow).
If signed into law, the bill would enable a municipality or a group of municipalities to raise additional local money for transportation projects via ballot initiatives, giving voters a more direct role in the process and also showing a clearer correlation between funds being raised and the projects for which those funds are used.
“Across the Commonwealth, our transportation infrastructure is in desperate need of modernization and expansion,” said Matthew Casale, Staff Attorney at MASSPIRG. “Investments in transportation can connect us to jobs, education, and healthcare, reduce the time we spend stuck in traffic or waiting for a bus, grow our economy, and protect our environment. Massachusetts residents are tired of spending up to nearly 60 hours per year stuck in traffic. We should be doing everything we can to increase investment our transportation infrastructure, to reduce pollution, and to increase our options for getting around. MASSPIRG applauds the committee for recognizing this need and passing the bill out of committee.”
In recent US News and World Report rankings, Massachusetts ranked 45th in transportation infrastructure, despite receiving high grades in nearly every other category.
This legislation would provide a new mechanism to generate revenue for transportation infrastructure in Massachusetts. In particular, this legislation:
Enables a municipality to place a question on the ballot to raise revenue for local and regional transportation projects;
Enables two or more municipalities to form a regional district to coordinate the spending of revenue raised by a ballot question in each member municipality for regional transportation projects;
Creates procedures for the adoption and implementation of the new tax and enables communities to define the types of projects or specific projects eligible for funding with the revenues raised;
Authorizes communities to determine the type of tax to be raised (sales, property, payroll, vehicle excise, etc.), set the maximum amount the new tax can raise, and set the term of the tax.
Creates a lockbox to ensure that revenue raised for transportation is spent on transportation.
“While funding raised for regional projects through ballot initiatives would not by itself close our transportation infrastructure funding gap, this framework could be an important tool,” said Casale. “It would give municipalities both more control of and more of a stake in the projects in their region.”
MASSPIRG is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization that stand up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. U.S. PIRG is the federation of state Public Interest Research Group. wwwmasspirg.org