Massachusetts transportation officials have proposed new taxes and fees in an effort to raise about $1 billion per year to fund upgrades to the state’s public transit, highways, and bridges, the Associated Press reported.
In a report presented to Gov. Deval Patrick, state leaders cited a $684 million annual operating deficit in the state’s Department of Transportation that has forced the agency to borrow funds for everyday functions like mowing grass alongside roads, AP said. The report also noted that the state is in debt from Boston's Big Dig highway project and other past commitments.
Included among the fundraising options in the report were an increase in the state's gasoline tax from 21 cents-per-gallon – unchanged since 1991 – to 51 cents per gallon. The report said the increase could raise $1 billion a year, but would give Massachusetts the highest tax rate in the country, AP said.
Other options presented included raising the state’s sales tax to 7.7% from the current 6.25%; raising income tax rates to 5.66% from 5.25%; and adoption of a 2.4 cents per mile “vehicle miles traveled tax,” which would be collected annually during vehicle safety inspections or through use of an onboard device that records the vehicles’ miles.
Other options include imposition of a fee based on a vehicle’s carbon emissions, and frequent increases in public transit fates, tolls and user fees.
Patrick could choose one option or a combination of several, but he any new revenue stream be dedicated for transportation and not be siphoned off for other state programs, AP said.