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Report: Higher Taxes Or Fee Hikes Needed To Maintain, Improve Transportation

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BOSTON (CBS/AP) – State transportation officials are proposing a range of options to raise about $1 billion per year to maintain and modernize public transit, highways, bridges and the rest of the state’s transportation network.

Read: Entire Transportation Plan (.pdf)

The options in a report presented to Gov. Deval Patrick on Monday include raising the state’s 21-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax, hiking the state’s income or sales taxes, or a new state payroll tax. Another suggestion is taxing people for the number of miles they drive each year.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Bernice Corpuz reports

The goal is to bridge a $1.02 billion budget gap each year for the next decade to, as Governor Deval Patrick put it, “properly operate the system we have today and to make the modest strategic expansions we should have to accelerate economic growth.”

“If we do nothing, the public will have to pay more and get less,” he told reporters at the announcement at UMass-Boston.

Without new revenue options, the Department of Transportation said it would need to raise vehicle registration fees,  inspection fees, the cost of getting a driver’s licence, tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike and MBTA fares.

Patrick said he would submit his “preferred means” of raising the money in his State of the Commonwealth address on Wednesday.

In the MassDOT proposal, what you pay to register your car would go up $53.  Currently, a standard passenger vehicle registration is $50.  That means it would now cost $103.

Yearly vehicle inspections will go up $19.  Today, the fee for an annual inspection is $29. Under the DOT plan the average driver would now pay $48 a year.

For a class D driver’s license, the new price would be $136. Currently, the price is $50 and Monday’s proposal increases that by $86.

Mass Pike tolls and MBTA fares would each increase 5-percent under the plan.

The proposal would also enact a $40,000 service cut to the MBTA.

These increases are intended to raise new revenue for the Department of Transportation and address budget deficits, according to Transportation Secretary Richard Davey.

“The current system we have today we cannot afford and the one that we heard and continue to hear from our customers, from you, we absolutely cannot afford,” Davey said Monday.

He claims MassDOT is facing a $684 million operating deficit next year because of three reasons.

“One, is for the last two decades, the highway department has been paying for operations off the capital bond program. What does that mean? It means mowing the lawn on I-93, we are paying for off the state credit card and that has been going on since sometime in the mid-1990’s. We must end that,” he told reporters.

Davey said the MBTA needs an average of $300 million per year to simply pay existing debt and operate the current system.

And the 15 regional transit authorities need $100 million annually in order to stay afloat.

“The presentation we just saw is stark, clear-eyed, non-partisan, and above all, fact-based,” Patrick said.

“The results confirm two things – that there is not sufficient funding to support the system we have today and second, that there is not sufficient funding for the system the public wants and the Commonwealth needs.”

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Bernice Corpuz contributed to this report.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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