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Investing in Transportation Infrastructure

By now, you've heard and/or read about the Governor's budget proposal for fiscal 2014. Among the highlights are an increase in the income tax from 5.25% to 6.25% with a corresponding decrease in the sales tax from 6.25% to 4.5%, along with other modifications in the tax code, indexing the gas tax to inflation and increases to tolls and registry fees. In all, the proposal aims to raise nearly $2 billion in new revenue to pay for education improvements at all levels with a particular focus on early childhood and a plan to fix the way we fund our transportation infrastructure.

It's difficult to argue with the necessity of funding both our education and our transportation systems in order to maintain our competitiveness as a Commonwealth. It's easy to argue about the best way to raise and allocate that funding. The Governor's proposal has at least kicked off that conversation. It will be up to the legislature to take the next step and determine what they think is best and what they have the political will to push forward. Unlike the Governor, most of our legislators need to think about re-election in two years.

This Chamber has long been a proponent of a permanent fix to the way we fund transportation infrastructure. I have had the opportunity over the past year to attend several meetings with business leaders, community groups, MassDOT officials, unions and others on this very topic. Virtually all agree that now is the time to act on transportation, or we run the risk of seeing our roads and bridges crumble, and with it our ability to compete globally. Locally, we are beginning to the see the benefits of the completion of the Route 128 Add-a-Lane project. We also hope to see the rebuilding of the Route 93/95 Interchange in Canton and the addition of the Dedham Street ramp off of Route 95. We know that these projects will improve safety and mobility through our region as well as open up economic development opportunities that will result in new jobs and tax revenue locally. The Governor's proposal supports these projects and others throughout the state that will provide similar benefits in their respective regions.

Certainly, there are other ways to fund these projects, i.e. gas tax, vehicle miles traveled tax, toll increases, etc., which can all be debated in the coming months. However, it is difficult to ignore the need for bringing our transportation system into the 21st Century. It will be important to make your voice heard on these issues. I encourage you to learn more about the MassDOT Transportation Plan and the Governor's Budget and then let the Chamber know what you think and more importantly, let your legislators know what you think. $2 billion is a lot to ask for in any economic environment. If we are going to pay for it, we need to understand what we are getting and how will we benefit in the long run.