The Legislature today unveiled their own transportation finance package, offering about half of what the Governor was hoping for to fund transportation. The announcement of the $500 million dollar package was made jointly by the Senate President and the Speaker, which makes legislative passage a formality. The Speaker and Senate President may pick up some legislative flack from those supportive of the Governor’s higher request, but you may now consider that opposition a mere formality.
So what is in the package? The Legislature will rely on a 3 penny increase in the gas tax (which will now be indexed to inflation) for $110 million, new tobacco taxes (including a $1 per pack increase for cigarettes)for $165 million, and will utilize at least a portion of the Governor’s recommendation to expand the sales tax to cover certain currently exempted computer services for $161 million, and add $83 million by changing the status of utilities, and some out of state business filers. The Legislative package envisions taking Department of Transportation workers off the capital budget by 2016, and forward funding the Regional T’s.
The Governor has not responded to this proposal, but I have pointed out from the start that the Governor, through his proposal, has forced the Legislature to make some hard choices. Some of those choices are now made. The Legislature has taken a pass on the so called “South Coast Rail Project”, the expansion of South Station, and other major projects slated for funding under Governor Patrick’s proposal. There will be some hearty debate about those choices in the weeks to come.