MassDOT Secy. on Transportation: ‘People Want More’
At the hearing, State Transportation Secretary Richard Davey outlined some aspects of Gov. Deval Patrick’s 10-year transportation budget plan, and included the need for new revenues.
The state transportation secretary answered legislators' questions regarding the Green Line Extension, the South Coast Rail project, MBTA infrastructure, maintenance issues and how an ambitious 10-year budget plan will handle all of it.
Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary and CEO Richard Davey testified before the Joint Committee on Transportation Tuesday morning. He was there to formally present Gov. Deval Patrick’s 21st Century Transportation Plan which calls for a $13 billion investment over the next decade. The hearing focused on finding new revenue that could be put toward ailing infrastructure and sought after rail projects.
“People want more, not less, of our product,” Davey began, “but the current system we have is one we can’t afford."
Patrick called for $1.9 billion tax increase in January to be put toward education and transportation.
Davey said Patrick’s ambitious plan is designed to accomplish three things: it will right MassDOT’s finances, it will end the “absurd” practice of funding highway projects by borrowing money and it will provide revenues to fund the regional transit authorities.
Michael Widner, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Association, said transportation would need to raise $800 million in revenues per year to get MBTA debt relief and to fund needed transportation-based services by 2018.
He said it would be impossible to raise the type of funds necessary to meet the goals set forth by the plan by raising income taxes, but it could be done through a combination of increased gas taxes, car registration renewal fees and inspection fees.
“The public will accept this if they see improvements,” he told the committee.
Davey, seeking support from the committee, said improvements have begun, but it will take more than “band aids” such as MBTA fare hikes and more borrowing to sustainably finance transportation in Massachusetts.
“We’ll pay for this now or we’ll pay for this later,” he said. “There’s no choice about whether we will pay for it.”