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Talking Points Newsletter

Tolls ahead, Google takes on haters, more

An electronic tolling gantry on the Mass. Pike.
An electronic tolling gantry on the Mass. Pike.(ARAM BOGHOSIAN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE)

Chesto means business

Sorry, Boston drivers. Your free ride through Connecticut could be ending.

Two top Connecticut lawmakers are saying new tolls are inevitable. And a legislative committee there just narrowly endorsed a bill that would bring all-electronic tolling  to the state, although the precise locations haven't been decided yet.

Connecticut’s not alone. Officials in various states are eyeing new tolls to address infrastructure and traffic problems. This calculus is already playing out in southern New England: Rhode Island received bids from six companies last month eager to install tolls for big trucks, to pay for bridge repairs.

And then there’s Massachusetts. The barrier to installing new tolls was once high, with the need for booths and toll-takers. But the recent switch to all-electronic tolls has made it much easier, although still politically challenging.

The coalition known as Transportation 4 Massachusetts coalition is saying a bill from Senator Thomas McGee that would impose more tolls within Route 128 deserves consideration – to curb congestion, raise revenue, and send more commuters to the T.

Meanwhile, Senator Karen Spilka filed legislation that would require state transportation officials to study imposing all-electronic tolls on highways other than the Mass. Pike. As a MetroWest lawmaker, Spilka hears about the inequity firsthand: Her constituents pay tolls every day, but commuters in most other parts of the state do not.

Federal officials have discouraged new tolls on federal highways but they’ve also made plenty of exceptions. With the Trump administration’s emphasis on shifting more financial responsibilities to the states, Spilka says, the time is right to give adding tolls a closer look.


Jon Chesto is a Globe reporter. Reach him at jon.chesto@globe.com and follow him on Twitter  @jonchesto.

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Executive summary

Happy days are here (again): Manufacturing remained strong in March, another signal of the economy’s health.

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The Institute for Supply Management reported its index of factory activity stood at 57.2 in March, down from 57.7 in February. Despite the dip, the institute was upbeat because this was seventh straight month of factory expansion.

The ISM also reported a rise in raw-material costs, signaling a rise in inflation. You’ll recall last week we reported the Fed is on the watch for signs of inflation -- which could lead the central bank to raise interest rates more than twice this year to cool the economy before it overheats.

Not all news about the economy was good. The major U.S. automakers GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler said March sales were down.

Emergency procedure: Our colleagues at STAT report that a program that allows employers in the state’s critical health care sector to quickly hire medical students has been suspended by the Trump administration, effective today.

As a result, about 3,814 non-citizens who won residencies at U.S. hospitals (including many in Massachusetts) don’t know if they’ll be able to start work on time in the summer.

The program that was suspended was the fast-track H-1B visa application. The Trump administration announced the suspension a month ago. Match Day, when new residents learn at which hospital they will be placed, was March 17. The timing left hospitals racing.

Claire Ayer of the Partners HealthCare Office for International Professionals and Students told Stat her staff had been working nights and weekends to figure out if they could get their residents the appropriate visa by April 3.

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Bank on it: The Federal Reserve building downtown has a new tenant -- Partners Capital.

Starting Monday, Partners, an investment firm that works with endowments and wealthy families -- will occupy offices on the 30th floor of the Fed’s Atlantic Avenue tower. Based in Boston and London, the firm is moving its Hub operations from Rowes Wharf.

Partners was founded 15 years ago and has $18 billion under management. It is an outsourced investment office for Milton Academy, and Oxford and Cambridge Colleges in England, among others.

Trending pick

Staying connected:  Airlines affected by the Trump administration's electronics ban are taking steps to keep their wired.

Line items

Electric shock:
Tesla surpasses Ford in market value -- WSJ

Peace, love & understanding:
Tech entrepreneurs look to break echo chamber -- WBUR

Foreign exchange:
Foreign tourists spending less since Trump -- Bloomberg

New money:
DraftKings among Mass. startups that raised $380 million in March -- BBJ

It slices, it dices: Iconic veg-o-matic maker files for IPO -- WSJ

ICYMI

Documenting taxes: We heard during the last presidential campaign thatundocumented immigrants do not pay taxes.
 
But as reported in today’s Globe, undocumented immigrants pay billions of dollars in taxes every year. In 2015, 4.4 million people paid $23.6 billion in taxes. Of that, $5.5 billion were payroll taxes, which include Social Security contributions.
 
Each year, they pay nearly $12 billion in state and local taxes. That works out to about $185 million in Massachusetts. Those taxes can include levies on property, income, sales, and excise assessments.
 
President Trump has vowed to crack down on hiring undocumented workers, though he’s not said how. Federal law already requires employers check the immigration status of prospective hires. Still, they're hired because employers in some sectors need them to fill jobs.
 
The law requires undocumented workers to pay taxes. However, they can’t receive Social Security unless they’re citizens. So, their payroll tax contributions pay for us.

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This Talking Points newsletter is compiled by Edward Mason. Follow him on Twitter at @EBMason If you liked what you've read, please tell your friends to sign up.