Kimberley L. Driscoll
Mayor of Salem
I trust the voters in Salem, throughout the North Shore, and all across Massachusetts to make wise decisions about their transportation priorities and I hope the Legislature will, too. I support Senate Bill 1474, which would enable communities to vote on funding local transportation projects.
We have a long backlog of transportation needs across our Commonwealth. Failing to address these needs negatively impacts commuting times, limits job growth, and adds to both the cost and wear and tear on roads, bridges, and vehicles.
If the reconstruction of an important roadway corridor like Highland Avenue or Boston Street was a school project, the [Salem] City Council would have the option to bring it to the voters. But since it’s a transportation project, it gets put on a long list of statewide transportation needs and can wait years, sometimes decades, to be addressed. At present, the Commonwealth does not have the money necessary to fix our aging infrastructure needs, let alone make the investments we need to sustain our economy. Unfortunately, we can’t depend on Washington, either.
Massachusetts cities and towns have a long tradition of home rule. But without a law such as Senate 1474, voters have little say in whether to build a new bridge, fix a road, improve a rail station, or create a new bike path. Those decisions are typically made in Boston.
Voters will be and should be skeptical of any proposal to raise taxes. But that’s part of what’s good about this bill. It fits right into our long-held local traditions. Local spending means local debate and local control. We don’t have to wait on a list and we get to decide what makes the most sense for our communities.
The legislation includes options to allow voters flexibility in determining how much revenue they want to raise, for how long, and from what source. If voters approve, the funding would be used to pay for specific local and regional transportation priorities for a defined period of time.
This system works in many other states. I think the Legislature and the governor should give you the power to decide how we build a stronger transportation system for our families, communities, and economy.
Stoneham selectwoman, Republican State Committee member
In 2013 and 2014, I worked tirelessly on the successful effort to repeal the state law providing the gas tax to rise automatically each year with inflation. Despite being outspent 31 to 1, our campaign won with 53 percent of the vote. The people clearly did not want taxation without representation.
Right now, there is new legislation being pushed at the State House allowing cities and towns to create new local taxes for transportation spending through ballot votes. We should strongly oppose this proposal. We are taxed enough.
During the administration of former governor Deval Patrick, taxpayers were hit with higher gas taxes, new taxes on utilities, a 25 percent increase in the sales tax, and a 20 percent increase in registry fees. Where is the relief for the taxpayer? How much more is going to be taken out of people’s wallets?
I am a supporter of allowing people their say via ballot questions. However, we have seen the Proposition 2½ process abused in order to get higher local property taxes. Is it fair that people should have their property taxes increased with less than a 20 percent voter turnout for override votes?
The best way to help generate more revenue is to create an environment more friendly to small business. By encouraging business development, we would have more people employed and more people paying taxes. A stimulated economy would also generate more tax revenue from those small businesses.
Raising the tax burden actually discourages business development. In 2013, when the Legislature passed the technology tax, numerous companies said they would have to move out of state to avoid being put at a competitive disadvantage. The Legislature was forced to repeal the tax six weeks after adopting it in order to avoid the mass exit.
I don’t want to see our area be put at a tax disadvantage. As a selectwoman in Stoneham, I have been advocating for our board to encourage small businesses to grow and develop in our region. This is in the best interest of the community and the taxpayers. It is time to lower the tax burden, not raise it.
Globe correspondent John Laidler solicited opinions for this exchange. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.