THE “TRANSPO” TAX : WHAT THE GOP’s “NO GAS TAX” REALLY MEANS

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^ State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr introduces “Republican Alternative” Transpo Bill

Our Republican legislators would have you believe that Massachusetts’s new “transpo” tax just enacted into law is an outrage upon our wallets. It isn’t.

As a friend of ours posted this on his Facebook page today : “I did some math after hearing all the chatter about the 3 cent per gallon increase in the gas tax. My daily commute is about 52 miles, round trip. Based on 20 gallons of gas per week, my personal tax increase is 60 cents a week or $31.20 per year. Hardly enough to even notice, let alone impact the economy. Besides, I’ll happily pay an extra $31 to avoid potholes and falling bridges.”

More even than our friend, we go everywhere by car. It’s what you do when you’re a journalist. Probably I’ll do about 400 miles a week. My gas receipts total about 150.00 a week — almost 50 gallons. The tax ? $ 1.50 a week = $ 78.00 a year. That’s less than I spend on ice cream or on the Lottery. And yes, my travel expenses are paid for : but as I am an owner of Here and Sphere, the money still comes from me.

Sure, we already pay a gasoline tax and other state taxes besides. But the new gas tax, which is earmarked for road and bridge repair and for repairs and improvements to our public transit rail system, benefits all of us. Roads and bridges are not free, and those who depend on public transit to get to their jobs — or just to get around — would cost the rest of us a lot more if they had no public transit and thus could not work. Thus the taxes that we have enacted will positively impact the economic life of our state — in a big, big way.

What is the Republican alternative ? Just this : 1. no new transpo tax at all. 2. pay for the needed transpo upgrades and repairs by repealing the “Pacheco Law.”

Sounds good — but it isn’t.

The Pacheco Law guarantees that construction workers will be paid the prevailing wage paid on construction projects receiving Federal funds. The prevailing wage is a union-bargained, contractually agreed wage that we in Massachusetts have imported into our own, state-funded construction projects. The Pacheco wage is a high one, much higher than a non-union contractor would likely pay, given that Massachusetts construction projects are subject to a public, low-bid process.

By seeking repeal of the Pacheco Law, the GOP means to reduce the income of construction workers.

I can’t think of a more damaging economic policy than to lower the pay of people who work and consume. Well paid construction workers don’t hide their pay checks in mattresses; they spend it — big time.

Many Massachusetts people are down on construction workers because of the huge cost overruns and occasionally poor workmanship during the “Big Dig” in Boston. As poorly managed as the “Big Dig” expressway project was, it put huge amounts of money, over many years, into the wallets of thousands of construction workers, whose spending boosted our economy in all sorts of ways : houses, boats, second homes, big new trucks, tool purchases, vacations, clothes, home remodelings, and more.

The GOP’s plan would set back the state’s economy. Taking money out of the hands of workers, it takes money out of the business these workers spend at. It is bad policy, and demagogue-ing the “forever” gas tax as they are doing — calling now for a repeal referendum — only adds ignorance to injury.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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