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I-Team: Transportation Repairs Could Cost Mass. $1 Billion

By Karen Anderson, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) – The seven member MassDOT Board is scheduled to release its Transportation Financing Report on Monday, January 7th. The Board will outline the massive transportation problems, estimate the price tag for a fix, and outline options to pay for it.

The administration estimates the transportation problem is close to $1 billion.

How does the governor propose to pay for it? Governor Deval Patrick is not ruling out an income tax. He says all options are still on the table and he says he will not offer an opinion on those options until the State of the Commonwealth or in his budget.

Governor Patrick said, “We have a transportation plan which is not just about plugging holes and patching what is broken, but really about investing in a transportation system that is worthy of a 21st century economy or Commonwealth.”

Sources tell WBZ that the governor has been considering raising the income tax rate.

Today we asked the Governor: “Do you think an income tax is the right way to go for this?”

His response: “There are a whole bunch of options on the table. None of them is perfect. One of the options has to be continued efficiency. The biggest concern has got to be how we invest and invest wisely to grow opportunity and to grow the economy and pay that way but there are whole host.”

During a follow up question about whether he will propose an income tax, Governor Patrick responded: “You have got to wait until I propose my budget. But right now all, there are all kinds of options on the table. I don’t know if that option will be on what the Board sends to us. The fact is that we as a Commonwealth are going to have to decide what it is we want to pay for the Commonwealth we want.”

How about a gas tax to solve this transportation problem? Governor Patrick said, “I tried a gas tax a couple of years ago, remember? And it fell with a great thud. And I am not certain a gas tax will do for us what needs to be done. But we will see what is proposed in the Transportation Finance report. There will be a number of options in that report and that will be one.”

Michael Widmer, with the Mass Taxpayers Foundation, says the business community supports a gas tax, because it is a targeted solution to the transportation problem.

The state estimates a three cent hike in the gas tax would bring in $100 million in new revenue.

The report is required as part of last year’s MBTA fix. The Board held more than 17 public hearings, and heard from 1000 people.

Transportation Secretary Richard Davey says the problem is huge. The system we have today we can’t afford… and the one we want we definitely can’t afford. Davey says more reforms will be part of the fix. He says his team is focused on delivering more reforms, and being transparent and open with taxpayers. He admits there are still reforms from the last bill that haven’t been fully implemented, and says they have plans for more ways to improve efficiency and service.

But he says the need for funding is real.

Do we have our own fiscal cliff here? Davey’s response, “Yes.”

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