Dear Sen. Brownsberger:
Are you taking a leadership role in fighting these destructive and short-sighted T proposals?
The MBTA was deliberately left with a huge Big Dig debt and an inadequate funding stream, to support itself by exploiting helpless fare-payers. We need to remove the debt from the T, and create a proper state funding mechanism for mass transit, in order to accommodate not only maintenance of existing services but to expand excellent services as necessary to support a thriving metropolitan region. And low fares should be a goal and a point of pride, not an excuse to match the more expensive cities.
These proposals will disproportionately harm the poor, the elderly, students, and the disabled; and they will seriously hurt businesses and institutions, both employees and customers. How can this be good public policy?
We can implement a gas tax, which I would heartily support, but we don’t even need to do that. The corporate welfare doled out by this state annually would cover the MBTA’s needs multiple times over. Just getting rid of the subsidy to the mutual fund industry would give us $150 million a year, almost the whole shortfall occasioning these draconian proposals. We lose over two billion dollars a year in business tax expenditures. We have lost $150 million in useless film credits. We just gave $22.5 million in state money to Liberty Mutual Insurance Co to subsidize their new Back Bay tower; this legitimized a $24 million City tax break, totaling $46.5 million — given for no reason to one of the richest corporations in the world. The state gave Vertex Pharmaceuticals and the Fallon Development Company $60 million, which includes a $50 million bond that will cost double that amount by the time it’s paid off; this also legitimized a $12 million City tax break. These are just a few examples. You know better than I do how much the state wastes in corporate subsidies, which, it is well known, do nothing for “job creation.”
And even you don’t know what you need to know — because the bills requiring at least some disclosure and control of public subsidies are languishing in committee. If we had the transparency and accountability the government owes the people, everyone would know how much money is given away to corporations as public services are slashed to the bone. Have you been pushing to open what Auditor Suzanne Bump called the “black box” of corporate welfare? This disclosure would help the whole state; every legislator should be clamoring to get that information. Are you?
We are counting on you as a progressive and a representative of transit-dependent communities to take the lead in solving this problem. The money is available — if you have the political will to get it for us.
I await your response, preferably in a public announcement of your proposed remedies.
You are drawing a lot of issues together in this post. I agree with you generally, but I don’t think that the way forward is a grand process that addresses all of these issues at once. If you couple too many things in one process, it gets so complicated legislatively that it can’t move forward.
So, as a practical matter, I think we have to solve transportation problems in one push and the structure and transparency of our tax code in another.
I have been public that I support a gas tax increase to help unburden the T of debt and improve maintenance and as a part of a broader transportation funding solution. See comments on this post, and this post from 2008 which discusses the gas tax and the burden on persons of lower income.
I do favor radical simplification of our tax code and played a big role in improving disclosure provisions on corporate tax breaks — 2010 legislation. But I agree that we have much more to do on that and that will remain a priority.
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