Senate Passes Transportation Finance Bill
Legislation raises some new revenue while requiring reform from MassDOT and MBTA

BOSTON – The Transportation Finance Bill, which dedicates $805 million in new funds to transportation by Fiscal Year 2018, has passed the Massachusetts Senate. Senator Brian A. Joyce joined his colleagues in supporting the measure, calling it “an appropriate compromise.”

“What the Senate has passed is an appropriate compromise that seeks to place the Commonwealth’s transportation systems on sound financial footing without jeopardizing our economic recovery and endangering the state’s bond rating,” said Joyce. “Though there are some new revenues sought from the beneficiaries of the transportation improvements, there is an appropriate number of continuing and future reforms required of the MBTA and MassDOT to ensure that we do not run into these funding shortfalls year after year.”

The legislation requires the MBTA and MassDOT to continue contributing to their budget by generating revenue and implementing savings and reform measures to eliminate duplication and waste. Many of the reforms were supported by Joyce in 2009 and are just now being implemented by the department. These include examining public-private partnerships which allow private entities to invest in transportation, and implementing a singular integrated asset management system instead of employing the dozens currently used within the department. It also requires MassDOT to enter into leases and right of way agreements for telecommunication and utility companies by FY 2016 as a source for new departmental revenues.

Joyce co-sponsored several amendments promoting reform measures to boost the MBTA’s financial stability. One requires the MBTA to repair their infrastructure over the next five years to reach a “State of Good Repair” which will enable the MBTA to apply for more federal money and alleviate the financial burden on taxpayers. Another will allow naming rights and the privatization of advertising for the MBTA to generate additional revenue.

The bill eliminates a carve-out for utility companies and begins taxing them at the level of all other Massachusetts corporations. It also extends the sales tax to some computer services and changes the sales receipts sourcing rule. It raises the gas tax by three cents and, beginning in 2015, indexes the price to the rate of inflation, costing the average driver $12 - $30 per year. The bill also redirects the motor vehicle sales tax directly to the Commonwealth’s transportation fund instead of the General Fund. Finally, the bill increases the excise tax on tobacco products.

This mix of reform and revenues will enable the state to repair its current infrastructure while also funding some capital improvements including the green line extension, the south station expansion, and providing $300 million per year in Chapter 90 funding that goes directly to cities and towns to fund local infrastructure projects. The bill also generates $96 - $160 million annually for additional Senate priorities such as education and human services.