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Enough talk: with roads and rails ailing, raise the state gas tax now

THERE SEEMS to be total agreement among our political leaders that we need an extra $1 billion a year to pay for roads, bridges, and mass transit, but none of them are saying how they’ll raise the money (“Patrick vows new funds for roads, rail,” Page A1, Jan. 5). They seem terrified of talking about increasing taxes.

But it’s hard to see how they will come up with the money without increasing the state’s base 19 cents per gallon gas tax. The buying power of this tax has eroded by 40 percent since 1991 due to inflation — in effect, a tax cut. It has dropped as a percentage of the cost of a gallon of gasoline from approximately 15 to 7 percent.

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In 2009, Governor Deval Patrick proposed doubling the base tax from 19 to 38 cents per gallon. His proposal dropped on Beacon Hill like the proverbial lead balloon, but it’s difficult to see how else we will properly fund our transportation system.

A common complaint about gas and other sales taxes is that they are regressive. But so is an inadequate mass transit system. All of the funds raised by an increased gas tax would be spent in the Commonwealth, giving a boost to the economy and creating good, blue-collar jobs. From that point of view, this is a progressive tax.

No one has proposed a viable alternative. We can’t wait any longer for this initiative.

Harry S. Margolis


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