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Spilka Files Amendments to Transportation Finance Bill to Increase Transportation Equity

April 12, 2013

(BOSTON) – As the Senate gets ready to debate critical legislation to reform the state’s transportation finance system, Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) has filed a number of amendments that address the issue of transportation and taxpayer equity for the residents of MetroWest and the entire Commonwealth.

“Investing in our state’s transportation and infrastructure systems is crucial to ensure a high quality of life for residents and to promote economic vitality in our communities for generations to come,” said Spilka. “This comprehensive bill addresses our critical infrastructure and transportation needs without over burdening our working residents and families. The amendments I filed to this bill will increase transportation and regional equity to help adequately fund our state’s highway and transportation projects without unfairly burdening isolated portions of our population or requiring certain citizens to pay more because of where they live.”

The bill sets annual revenue benchmarks that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) must meet in order to pay for part of their operating budget. One of the amendments filed by Spilka would prevent DOT from using toll increases to pay for their operating expenses.

“For too long, the greater 495/MetroWest region has been disproportionately affected by the transportation decisions of the Commonwealth,” said Spilka. “This amendment will ensure that the DOT will not be able to look to the wallets of our region’s residents and commuters to fund their operating costs.”

Another amendment filed by Spilka would remove language from the bill to keep current protections intact that ensure that funds collected at Turnpike tolls are not used to support transportation projects and upgrades outside of the region.

“The largest contribution to the maintenance of the Central Artery, which runs north-south, comes from MetroWest commuters, who travel east-west, forcing Mass Pike commuters to pay every day for a roadway they don’t use, in a direction they don’t travel,” said Spilka. “Our roadways exist for the benefit of all our citizens, yet the responsibility for paying for them is not shared equally. This amendment would make sure that the money generated by these tolls goes to fund projects and improvements to the road being tolled – not roads in other parts of the state.”

In addition, Spilka has filed an amendment that would give Massachusetts the opportunity to do what many other states already do – toll the interstate highways at the state’s borders.

“If we are going to have tolls anywhere, then we should have them in locations where visitors enter our state. By placing tolls at our borders, out-of-state drivers can contribute to the maintenance of the roads on which they are traveling,” said Spilka.

Spilka is also a co-sponsor of an amendment that calls for the placement of tolls on other major roads in the state to further increase transportation and toll equity.

To help ease the financial burden for her constituents and the region’s commuters, Spilka filed an amendment which gives a 20 percent discount to electronic toll users who live in a city or town through which any tolled road passes.

Highlights of additional amendments filed by Spilka include:

  • Developing a tiered payment structure for paratransit fares, ensuring affordable access for all, especially our disabled and seniors, some of the most vulnerable transit-dependent residents;
  • Requiring the DOT to study the feasibility of establishing in-state vehicle repair maintenance facilities for the state’s mass transit vehicles, which are currently maintained out-of-state, to increase economic activity and job creation related to these repairs right here in Massachusetts;
  • Adding a disabled commuter representative and a community rider representative to the Regional Transit Authority Advisory Boards to increase participation, equity, and accountability by bringing more voices to the table;
  • Establishing a collaborative regional transit plan to implement performance measurements for the state’s Regional Transit Authorities, ensuring services are provided in an efficient, effective, accessible way, taking into account the needs of the region and commuters; and
  • Creating a Tax Fairness Commission to review and evaluate the federal, state, and local tax laws applicable to Massachusetts residents and identify recommendations and changes to achieve an equitable and adequate system of taxation.

The Senate’s transportation finance reform bill dedicates over $805 million in new funds for transportation projects and improvements by 2018. The funding is a combination of dedicated state tax revenues and non-tax revenues and savings. In addition, the bill generates between $96 million and $160 million annually in new tax revenue that can be used for other Senate priorities, including education and human services.

The Senate is set to debate the transportation reform bill tomorrow, Saturday, April 13 at 10:00 a.m.

 

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