House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo today proposed an encouraging and well-considered framework for modernizing the state’s transportation system without massive increases to income and business taxes.
In a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, DeLeo said he is committed to finding new revenue to support transportation needs, but will call for a revenue package “of a significantly smaller size” than the proposal offered by Gov. Deval Patrick. He said that the House will develop a new source of transportation revenue “that is commensurate with job creation, job retention and economic growth.”
“I'm worried that the administration’s proposal places too heavy a burden on working families and businesses struggling to survive. We want to minimize the pressure on Massachusetts citizens as we find ways to meet our goals. If we are to pass a new revenue package, I believe it should be far more narrow in scope and of a significantly smaller size,” DeLeo said.
The speaker stressed that the transportation system must continue to cut costs and improve efficiency. He praised the reforms that have taken place as the result of merging several agencies into the current Department of Transportation in 2009, but noted that the department still borrows money to pay salaries and other operational expenses.
Associated Industries of Massachusetts views DeLeo’s approach as a formula for success. AIM will of course wait to review the House’s actual transportation proposal before making a final judgment, but the association believes the speaker has framed the issue in a manner that can generate widespread support.
DeLeo’s comments came two months after Governor Patrick proposed a complex $1.9 billion-per-year tax plan that would increase individual income tax rates from 5.25 to 6.25 percent, double the personal exemption, lower the sales tax rate from 6.25 to 4.5 percent, eliminate 44 personal income tax deductions and boost corporate taxes by $500 million. The governor’s plan, intended to increase funding for both transportation and education, has met with a lukewarm response among legislators.
AIM and its 5,000 members understand that the commonwealth must improve the condition of its roads, bridges and public transportation system to pave the way for future job growth. The best way to accomplish the goal is for the state to “finish the job” on uncompleted efficiency reforms and identify the revenue it needs to meet its current operational needs.
“Employers look forward to working with lawmakers to understand the current operational issues facing the transportation system, to institute meaningful reform and to identify appropriate sources of revenue to fund the system we have in place now,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.
“Only after we return the system to financial stability can we reasonably review some of the longer-term capital spending plans proposed by the administration.”
DeLeo also used his speech this morning to unveil a proposal to enhance the ability of community colleges to provide the science, technology, engineering and math skills increasingly demanded by employers. AIM commends the speaker for proposing the STEM STARTER ACADEMY and again looks forward to reviewing the details.