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Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
House leaders yesterday unveiled two related transportation bills that would provide substantial investments in systems and infrastructure across the Commonwealth, including a boost for the Chapter 90 local road and bridge program.
Over the past several months, everyone with a stake in the state’s transportation future has been anticipating the release of a House package to raise new revenues for transportation and signal the fate of an $18 billion multiyear transportation bond bill filed by the governor last summer.
The House’s bond bill (H. 4506) would provide a 50% increase for Chapter 90, to $300 million for a one-year authorization. The bond bill filed by the governor, and versions released by the Joint Transportation Committee on Feb. 6 and the House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets on Feb. 25, would level-fund Chapter 90 at $200 million, where it has largely been since fiscal 2012.
“Obviously, the municipalities are our partners,” Rep. William Straus, House Chair of the Transportation Committee, said during the announcement event for the House legislation. “The public travels freely from local roads to state roads, and we have to be mindful of the municipal needs as well.”
House leaders said their transportation revenue package would raise $500 million to $600 million in new annual revenues to fund investments in the state’s struggling transit and transportation systems. The single largest revenue source in the bill is a 5-cent increase in the state’s gas tax, expected to raise between $150 million and $175 million. A 9-cent increase in the tax on diesel fuel would raise another $32 million.
The bill would also raise revenue through changes to the minimum corporate income tax, fee increases for ride-hailing services, and elimination of a sales tax exemption for car rental companies.
A new special commission would study and make recommendations on the development and deployment of possible congestion pricing and variable tolling in the Commonwealth.
The revenue bill earmarks not less than $160 million for the MBTA, $15 million for regional transit authorities, and $10 million for new rural transit assistance.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo said the transportation revenue and bond bills would go to the full House for a vote during the first week of March.
An increase in state aid for the maintenance of 30,000 miles of local roads and more than 2,500 local bridges has been a top priority of the MMA for many years. At the association’s Annual Business Meeting on Jan. 25, municipal leaders from across the state overwhelmingly approved a policy resolution that articulates MMA positions on transportation policy development, revenue generation and system improvement. The MMA resolution calls for bold transportation finance legislation, prioritizing the Chapter 90 local roads program, and making the transportation system more resilient and transitioning to clean energy technologies, among other priorities.
The House package aligns with the MMA resolution.
An MMA analysis shows that the purchasing power of Chapter 90 dollars has declined by one-third since fiscal 2012 because the authorized amount has not increased with inflation. Meanwhile, spending in the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Capital Investment Plan grew by 16.8% between fiscal 2017 and 2019 alone.
The MMA presented this analysis most recently at a Feb. 25 hearing on the transportation bond bill before the House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets. In oral testimony, the MMA applauded the millions of dollars in renewed funding in the bill for MassDOT municipal grant programs, including Complete Streets and Small Bridges, and the establishment of a new Municipal Pavement program to fund improvements to locally owned, state-numbered routes. The MMA also voiced support for the bill’s billions of dollars of investments in transportation infrastructure.
Also on Feb. 25, the MMA joined Transportation For Massachusetts’s Transportation Crisis Call to Action event, which featured a broad coalition of organizations and supporters calling for new funding, including more for Chapter 90, to make transportation accessible, affordable, reliable and safe.
At the MMA Annual Meeting on Jan. 24, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced that the administration was filing a one-year, $200 million Chapter 90 bond bill in order to expedite the release of road maintenance dollars. At a hearing before the House Bonding Committee on Feb. 6, the MMA urged legislators to approve a Chapter 90 bill as soon as possible, so municipalities can begin the spring construction season on time.
Legislators have identified additional investments in the state’s ailing transportation systems as a top priority for the current legislative session, which ends on July 31.