No on 6, But for Different Reasons
I would like to thank the majority of your editorial staff for recommending a “No” vote on Question 6 [“`No on Questions 5 and 6; Yes on 7 and 8,” Oct. 31]. However, there are some inaccuracies and assertions in both that editorial and the dissent [“Yes on Question 6”] that I would like to address.
The current MassPike toll structure is described as being both “regressive” and “geographically discriminatory.” All the members of The Tech’s editorial staff appear to desire a “progressive” transportation system: one in which those with greater incomes pay more than those with less money. The dissenters argue that under the current system, “the millionaire and the working stiff pay the same fee.”
Because Question 6 sets up a state income tax credit, its benefit may not accrue evenly. Suppose Bill Millionaire and Joe Workingstiff both spend $5 a day for Pike tolls. Over 200 work days in a year, this would be $1,000. Under Question 6, Bill’s taxes would be reduced by this amount. However, if Joe qualifies for no-tax status because of his low income level, he may never see his $1,000 rebate. The proposed Pike tax credit can’t result in a net negative tax liability. Joe may be able to roll over his credit for several years, but the Commonwealth will never refund him more than he’s paid in income taxes.
The above argument assume that Joe is able to afford a car. If Joe is one of the many Massachusetts workers who rely on public transportation, he just saw the base MBTA bus fares increase by 20 percent (from 60 to 75 cents).
The majority opinion incorrectly states that residents of western and central Massachusetts pay more than their share of MassPike tolls. The Pike has been free west of Springfield for a couple of years now. (Rather than incur the expense of relocating toll booths, drivers on that section of the Pike still pick up a ticket on entry, and return it -- with no money -- when they exit.) The MassPike’s web site, www.massturnpike.com, explains further plans to make the Pike free west of Route 128.
The east-west versus north-south corridor argument is too simplistic. While drivers on I-93 do not pay tolls, they do support highway maintenance through fuel taxes. Turnpike drivers have been eligible for a fuel tax rebate for years, although, sadly, this rebate has not been well-publicized until recently. The Department of Revenue web site, www.state.ma.us/dor, has a prominent link to these fuel tax refund forms.
The dissenters assert that MassPike tolls will be used to fund the Big Dig, which primarily benefits north-south commuters. The Central Artery/Tunnel project also includes a freeway segment to connect the Pike to the Ted Williams Tunnel. This will benefit residents of western suburbs going to Logan Airport or to new jobs at the developing South Boston Waterfront.
With the strong radial focus of the T’s rail transportation system, I would hope that the downtown portion of the Central Artery is not used primarily by downtown commuters coming from the northern or southern suburbs, but for regional movements (such as between Mattapan and Everett) and freight traffic.
I will be voting against Question 6, and I hope that many other readers will join me.
Scott Ramming G