TELL US: Should the Gas Tax Be Raised to Fund Transit Projects?
It has not been increased in more than two decades. Some people say the time has come to raise it. Others say people pay enough taxes.
As time progresses, unfortunately so do prices. That cheap burger you bought many years ago is no longer so cheap. What once could be purchased with some loose change you found in your pocket now requires cash or a credit card.
But for the past 21 years and counting, the state gasoline tax has remained the same. Massachusetts residents pay 21 cents per gallon at the pump, with nearly all the money going to fund public and private transportation projects and programs (roads, bridges, public transit systems, etc.). Some people say this amount is no longer sufficient to improve and maintain what the state has to offer.
In its 2007 report, the state's independent Transportation Finance Commission recommended the tax be raised to 32 cents. The report states:
This year's 16-year-old first-time drivers were born in the same year that the gas tax was last raised. These kids have grown and the costs to operate and maintain our system have grown. Inflation has eroded those 21 cents such that its buying power is only 14 cents—meaning it has lost almost one-third of its value since 1991. The state gas tax once equaled 18 percent of the cost of a gallon of gas. Now, it represents about 7 percent.
In total, Massachusetts residents pay 41.9 cents in taxes per gallon of gas. This includes the aforementioned 21-cent state tax, a 2.5-cent tax that goes directly to the state's underground storage tank clean-up fund and an 18.4-cent federal tax. This total is the 29th highest in the nation. New York is ranked first. California and Connecticut are tied for second place.
For the past few months, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has held meetings in various communities to determine what private and public transportation projects people want to see accomplished. A report based on the meetings is expected to be released next month. Plenty of ideas have been provided during this series, titled "Your Vision, Our Future: A Transportation Conversation".
The big question is how will the state pay for these improvements people want. During the final meeting of the series in Attleboro, several people said the answer is to raise the gas tax. Other said we are taxed enough, and the state needs to come up with a better funding method or be less ambitious about what it wants to accomplish.
What do you think? Has the time come to increase the tax? Are Massachusetts residents not paying enough at the pump to keep our state's private and public transportation systems modern and efficient? Or do residents already pay enough in taxes as it is? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.