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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.

paul December 14, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Two decades ago, gas was .99 cents per gallon. If the gas tax went up, the money raised would not end up on transit projects. Instead, it would end up funding pensions and state shortfalls. Politicians always want more tax money to spend, this would be like spitting into the ocean of wasted taxes we already donated.
Emcee of Seekonk December 14, 2012 at 05:42 PM
"...it would end up funding pensions and state shortfalls." Absolutely. Next year there will be a big windfall when Amazon starts collecting sales taxes for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Let the governor use that to fill the potholes. And speaking of sales taxes, within recent years the tax in MA went up to 6.25%. Where did that money go? No to new taxes.
Fiscal Conservative December 14, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Paul: I'm disappointed in your saying that "Politicians always want more tax money to spend". Since when? These fine men & women are the most honorable the State & Country has to offer. Can you name, even one person, who may be more honest or capable to responsibily be handling our hard earned money? These Representatives have been hand picked by their party and legally voted into office by the knowledgable voters of the State. Hence, we are in very good hands. I'm sure that over 90% of increased tax revenue will go to exactly where the politicians want it to...their pockets, their friends no show jobs, more money for EBT Card holders, etc. Don't fret, now that the subject has been brought into the open, there is no way a tax INCREASE will NOT happen, especially in these economic times.
Daniel F. Devine December 14, 2012 at 08:00 PM
I remember when it was 19 cents a gallon (1962).~ Two Dollars Worth Please & Check the Oil.
Ken B. December 14, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Absolutely not. Take the money from the existing gas tax, sales tax on cars, auto excise tax, existing tolls & RMV fees and dedicate all of it to roads & bridges. Give Bacon Hill more money, they'll simply blow it.
Daniel F. Devine December 14, 2012 at 10:36 PM
@Fiscal Conservative, you mentioned " MORE MONEY FOR E.B.T. CARD HOLDERS ", Have you seen the price of potato chips, soda & other junk food lately? Not to mention the increases in A.T.M. fees, Tattoo prices & Tips for dancers at strip clubs. The MILLIONS of E.B.T. CARD ABUSERS surely deserve an increase on their monthly E.B.T. allowance.
Maureen Venditti December 15, 2012 at 06:46 PM
There is a reason we are called Taxachusetts. There has been enough news reports about how our road or projects not being done or finished because the money promised to those towns was spent else where. Right on the 5:00 pm news. Doesn't mean it will be spent to fixes roads or bridges. As it said, it was spent The T instead.. We are already one of the highest, even the second highest states to live in. Pretty soon more and more people will be leaving this state. Enough people have lost jobs and homes. Many still struggle to make it through. Don't keep thinking of every possible way to tax the people of Ma.. Ma. and VA are the only two states that still have excise tax on cars. No other states do. Seems Ma. has enough ways to tax the people of this state. Enough is enough.
Still Broke December 19, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Maureen... RI also has an excise tax. I am taxed $26/thousand of book value with no decrease for mileage or condition. I pay almost $1,000/yr. in RI for excise tax for my car and my wife's car and one of them has over 120k on it!
lastmanstanding December 30, 2012 at 04:01 PM
The U.S. is in worse shape than Greece. ( Debt to G.D.P. ratio ) Massachusetts is the worst shape of any state. (tax revenue -$220 Billion in 2012) Raising taxes will do nothing, but slow the inevitable...... Collapse of the US dollar.... ( look at congress's own reports ! ) Prepare..... While you still can !
Fiscal Conservative December 30, 2012 at 04:45 PM
What about the poor resident's of NH? I was in Warner, NH the day after Christmas and paid $3.19 for gas, a whole 40 cents less than my town. No Sales Tax, no state Income Tax. I feel bad for those folks. What can they possibly do with extra income you & I don't have? I think that if they were true American Patriots they would come to MA and spend more of their income. Poor people, having cash in their wallets, unlike us. I only hope that the MA Legislature & Feds come up with more ways to take our $$$. Afterall, we work for it, but, they need it more than we do. They need to vote raises for themselves, both salary and per diems. We shouldn't think ourselves, we should be thinking of them first.
Daniel F. Devine December 30, 2012 at 04:53 PM
L O W E R ~ T A X E S ~ C U T ~ E X P E N S E S
Janet Sroczynski December 30, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Fiscal Cliff Tax Hikes Are Not the Only Scary Thing That Could Happen to You on January 2, 2013 article by HuffingtonPost Catherine New and posted on 12/27/2012; link found at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/27/fiscal-cliff-tax-hikes_n_2370579.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl4%7Csec1_Ink2%26pLid%3D

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