Editor’s note – The following excerpts are from a letter than AIM sent on Wednesday to House Speaker Robert DeLeo outlining the association’s views on transportation. Brooke Thomson is Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM, which represents 3,500 companies in all industries located throughout Massachusetts.
AIM supports policies and responsible new investment to reduce congestion, grow capacity to deliver capital projects, lower carbon emissions in the transportation sector and ensure accountability and transparency in transportation investment spending. Additionally, we urge that any solutions adopted be equitable to people of all income levels and all regions of the Commonwealth.
That said, we at AIM understand the complexity of the challenge you are facing. Not only is it difficult to predict how much and what type of investments need to be made, but also solving the transportation problem encompasses several state agencies and many policy initiatives will impact every segment of our population. These areas include the MBTA and Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs), MassDOT, Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) and our state’s compliance with the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act as well as the newly announced climate initiatives related to attaining zero net energy use by 2050.
We at AIM urge you to consider the following:
- AIM supports Governor Charlie Baker’s $18 billion transportation bond bill now pending in the state Legislature. AIM believes strongly that the first step in any reform must be to remove current structural impediments that prevent the Department of Transportation and the MBTA from spending the money that the taxpayers have already given them. Procurement and policy reform to the transportation system must occur before discussions about new revenue.
- To that end, AIM believes it is premature to discuss a possible gasoline tax at this time. MassDOT has reported they are still not able to spend approximately $600 million they currently have available. Throwing more money at the issue without the capacity to spend it will not make our transportation system better and will add further costs to our families and businesses in the communities they operate. Furthermore, a gasoline tax is regressive and will fall hardest on low-income individuals and those outside Greater Boston who have no other options but to drive.
- Likewise, we are concerned about proposals to increase TNC fees. Even if increased TNC revenues are dedicated to public transportation, such increases are punitive and really do not address the major issues surrounding transportation in the state. In some areas, rideshare trips are vital new innovations that support access to medical appointments, pharmacies, or trips to the grocery store, and much of the TNC usage is in communities throughout the Commonwealth outside the greater Boston area where at times when the MBTA or public transportation is simply not available or convenient.
Furthermore, since recent studies by MassDOT and independent consulting firm Fehr & Peers both show that ridesharing accounts for less than 5 percent of total vehicle miles traveled in Greater Boston. Therefore, increasing fees on TNC usage will not contribute to alleviating congestion in any way. Finally, as with an increase in the gasoline tax, increased TNC fees will disproportionately impact people in areas where congestion is simply not a problem, mainly outside of Boston.
- We are also concerned about various corporate tax proposals that would have negative impacts on our state’s economic competitiveness and are not directly tied to transportation. Rather, various corporate tax proposals seek to harm businesses directly rather than engaging in a meaningful and purposeful conversation that can have a direct impact on the serious transportation challenges we face.
AIM would argue that corporate tax proposals such as the accelerated sales tax, elimination of single sales factor, the 80 percent surtax on individuals and business owners are among a series of proposed corporate tax proposals that are not only negative to our Massachusetts economy but detrimental to the very goals of addressing our transportation and climate issues we all share.
- Additionally, AIM believes that any solution to our Commonwealth’s transportation challenges must reduce greenhouse gases in the transportation sector. This is necessary to not only to comply with state law passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in 2008, but also to address the urgent need to slow climate change. The transportation sector is currently the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Massachusetts and emissions are rising as other sectors decline.
Because of this connection between transportation revenues, investments and greenhouse gas reductions, AIM supports the state’s participation in the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). TCI is a regional collaboration of 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia that seeks to improve transportation, develop the clean-energy economy and reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. It will do this by establishing a multi-state cap on carbon emissions and auctioning allocations through a market-based mechanism.
Money raised through the auction process will be given to each state based on their contribution and used to fund programs that reduce greenhouse gases – mostly through investments in public transportation and a transition to electric and other alternative vehicles. It is important to note that TCI is preferable to an increase in the gasoline tax for several reasons. TCI is regional and will reduce greenhouse gases by raising revenue for statewide public transportation investments (helping congestion) and encourage the use of alternative vehicles by offering rebates or other incentives. It will also decrease over time, as Massachusetts and the region meet our goals on reducing carbon emissions from transportation.
- AIM would urge that like other critical programs and state services that are delivered through state agencies and tax dollars, that the Legislature strongly consider creating an umbrella trust fund where state and federal transportation related taxes, fees and revenues are annually collected. Using an umbrella trust fund will allow the Legislature and others to understand the effectiveness of our transportation dollars by accurately knowing revenue sources and amounts. Finally, it is worth noting that as the transportation debate continues, AIM will be reaching out to our members concerning their views on congestion pricing and fair tolling as additional means of addressing transportation challenges. Once we have that feedback collected, we will be happy to share results with you.
Improving the complex Massachusetts transportation system will require timing, coordination, patience, prudence, collaboration and compromise, in order to reach a solution that lays the foundation for long-term economic growth. We thank you for allowing us to submit these comments and look forward to working with you, your office and your members on this important issue.
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