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MA Voters Strongly Oppose Gas Tax Hike

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

 

Residents of Massachusetts want nothing to do with a gas tax hike. A recent poll found that 83% of Bay State residents would disapprove of the tax and 68% would “strongly disapprove.”

The poll, carried out by Tom Kiley of Campaign for Our Communities, sampled 600 Massachusetts voters from December 12th through the 15th. Of that pool, 83% reported they would disapprove of a proposal to increase the gas tax to 36 cents per gallon as a way to help pay for transportation needs.

“83% is pretty darn high,” said Paul Craney, Executive Director at the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “Some people say it’s a fair way to generate revenue, I’d say just look at the ways we’re irresponsibly spending on Beacon Hill.”

Craney says a gas tax hike would be particularly detrimental to the state because it would affect so many.

“We’ve got to do more with what we’ve got before asking people to start paying more,” said Craney.

Legitimate Concerns

Those in favor of a gas tax bump cite the need to generate state revenue and reduce harmful human impact on the environment.

“I do support the gas tax to raise revenue for transportation but also as a way to influence people in terms of global warming,” said Jamie Eldridge, State Senator from the Middlesex and Worcester District.

Eldridge believes raising the gas tax will encourage Massachusetts’ residents to walk or utilize public transportation rather than drive automobiles.

“It’s important to consider that the gas tax also has an impact on behaviors to reduce global warming,” said Eldridge.

However, Eldridge said he would rather pursue other ways to generate revenue first. Before implementing a gas tax hike, Eldridge would like to increase income tax in a progressive way and work towards closing corporate loopholes.

In It For The Long-Haul

While a spike in the gas tax would likely generate revenue for Massachusetts, some are questioning whether the increases represent legitimate long-term solutions. Worcester City Councilor Konstantina Lukes thinks legislators may need to look in other directions.

“For those advocating for a gas tax increase, it may be easier to vote for a band aid solution which preserves the fiscal status quo than to solve the real fiscal and budgetary issues facing the country and the Commonwealth,” said Lukes. “If the tax hike is not voted, are policy makers ready to make the hard decisions and reforms needed to pave the way for economic health and revival?”

Others, like fellow Worcester City Councilor Kathleen Toomey, aren't in favor of a gas tax hike regardless of whether its a short-term or long-term solution.

"A gas tax ends up hurting everyone, especially those who can least afford it," said Toomey.  "Starting from farmers who grow food, to the truckers who take it to the market, to the grocers who bring it to the stores, to the folks who purchase it.  Increasing the gas tax hurts everyone, everywhere."

An Obvious Correlation?

Officials at the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance are quick to compare the 17% of respondents who were in favor of a gas tax increase with the similarly depressed Congress approval rating. A December Gallup poll revealed that 18% of Americans approve of the job that Congress is doing.

Craney warns that politicians should steer away from supporting something that has proven to be unpopular.

“Massachusetts’ elected officials can do two things to instantly watch their approval ratings fall flat,” said Craney. “Vote for an increase to the gas tax or be elected to the United States Congress. Either option is equally as toxic in the eyes of voters.”

If nothing else, Craney argues, politicians should oppose the tax hike as a means of self-preservation.

“If you are an elected official, it probably doesn’t hurt to vote against an increase to the gas tax and be on the side of every four out of five voters,” said Craney. “If you are a member of Congress, even in the Massachusetts delegation, it would be wise to vote against any increase to the gas tax.”

 

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