Governor Patrick is displeased with our legislators. Instead of his 10 year, $13 billion transportation plan, supported by an increased income tax, the Legislature has put forward a more modest approach, making fewer promises for big projects and asking travelers to pay more of the costs of their transportation. However disappointing to Patrick, this more limited approach comes closer to how we ought to be raising money for transportation. Legislative leaders are dead right to expect commuters — not general taxpayers who would pay the income tax hike that Patrick proposed — to cover the costs of transportation infrastructure.
A key feature of the Legislature’s plan is a modest hike in the state gasoline tax. This approach, Patrick maintains, “taxes the middle class every time they pump a gallon of gas.” But drivers should pay for the costs of their roads. Taxpayers who rarely drive shouldn’t have to subsidize sprawl and long commutes. People will drive too much if they don’t pay for the social costs of driving, including the congestion, pollution, and highway deterioration.