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Repeal of Mass’ Gas Tax: The $100 Million Question

Friday, December 06, 2013


A gas tax repeal initiative appears to be heading to Bay State ballots next year, raising the question: does Massachusetts really need the money in the first place?

According to Ryan Fattman, a freshman state representative from the 18th Worcester district, the state has money to spare. He claims Gov. Deval Patrick is sitting on $100 million in transportation funds in hopes of keeping the automatic gas tax increases – currently pegged to the rate of inflation – in effect.

“Governor Patrick wanted a larger tax increase and he didn’t get it. There’s $100 million in chapter 90 funds that he’s choosing not to release. Those funds exist. There’s no money lost. This has never happened before, the money for infrastructure, for bridges and roads, being held hostage. It’s really insulting.”

He’s not alone in this belief. “The state already has the money,” says Chris Pinto, vice chairman of the Worcester Republican City Committee, in an e-mail. He, along with Fattman, has been a key figure in obtaining over 87,000 signatures enabling the initiative to be considered for the ’14 ballot.

“Over the past 16 months they have taken in $900 million above revenue projections! While the legislature did pass the gas tax they did not pass the bill for funding the projects. In other words they just took the revenue.

“The legislature admitted they could do without the tech tax,” a similar tax which was abolished earlier this year. “Maybe they should look at finding ways to do without automatic tax hikes.”

“Two Cups of Coffee”

“If there is $100 million lying around, MASSDOT would love to know about it.”

So says Andrew Bagley, the Director of Research for the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation.

“To say that the state has this money just locked away in a vault somewhere, and if only we could open the door…it’s a misleading focal point of this conversation. This is a political argument, not an economic one.”

This is because while the $100 million cited by Fattman is part of the state’s operating budget, the income raised by the gas tax is used as debt service to potential bond holders. To Bagley, they are two separate issues, and a potential missed opportunity for needed investment.

“We had to wait 15 years for Beacon Hill to raise the gas tax, and even then it was only three cents.” If the index were to be left in place, it “would generate $100 million in additional money by 2020. You can sell over $1 billion in bonds against this.”

“This tax provides money to fix roads and infrastructure. It’s a significant source of revenue for the state. For consumers, it’s the equivalent of two cups of coffee. Per year. “

That’s two cups too many for the 87,000 voters who signed the petition. Fattman, who personally gathered over 2,200 of them, clearly feels the issue has touched a nerve among spending-conscious voters, suspicious of legislative double standards.

“Officials receive a per diem to purchase gas. Thus, this tax doesn’t affect them. They buy their gas with public money.”

Pinto has also been a key figure in the initiative. “People are angry,” he replied. “Some felt [the gas tax index] had been repealed with the tech tax. They were even angrier when they find out it wasn't. They don't like that legislators don't have to pay the gas tax to commute.”

To The Booth

The initiative reached the state legislature earlier this week, and will soon decide whether it gets put on the ballot in ’14. Despite the fact that the index was passed earlier this year without a single Republican vote, that same legislature seems to be willing to let the issue go to the polls.

“I’d be shocked if it doesn’t pass on a voice vote,” says Fattman. “It would be a huge liability to Democrats otherwise. You’ll see this become a larger issue.”

“Democrats will have to defend (A) why they want taxation to go up automatically, and (B) why they don’t do their job and debate.”

Bagley, too, sees this issue going to the polls, and rues what he perceives to be a potentially misinformed electorate.

“No’s are a lot easier on the ballot than yeses. It’s easy to say, yes, vote it down. Meanwhile, there’s not going to be an aggressive campaign to keep the index.

“People believe gas tax is much higher than it is. We’re talking 3 cents on 3.50 / gallon gas. You see three cents of volatility in gas prices per week.”

“It’s just not a powerful vote.”


Related Slideshow: Worcester Municipal Elections 2013: The Winners

The results are in. Joseph Petty retained his seat as Councilor-At-Large, and will remain Mayor of New England's second largest city.  Let's take a look at the rest of the Worcester City Council following the completion of the Municipal Election.

Prev Next

Mayor & Councilor-At-Large

Joseph M. Petty

Votes Received: 8,854 Mayor, 8,451 Councilor-At Large
Mayor Joseph M. Petty was elected to his ninth two-year term as Councilor-At-Large and his second term as Mayor of the City of Worcester. He is a graduate of Holy Name Central Catholic High School in Worcester, studied at Nichols College in Dudley, and received a law degree from New England School of Law in Boston. 
Prev Next


Kate Toomey

Votes Received: 8,133 (13.80%)

Councilor Toomey was elected to her fifth term, earning the second most At-Large votes.  She has served as Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Works, which considers all matters pertaining to streets, water, sewers, sanitation, recycling, snow removal and the construction of public buildings.

Prev Next


Morris A. Bergman

Votes Received: 6,768 (11.49%)

The newly-elected Bergman is a practicing lawyer, a former prosecutor for the Office of the District Attorney-Middle District-Worcester and a past two term member of the City of Worcester Zoning Board of Appeals.

Prev Next


Konstantina B. Lukes

Votes Received: 6,520 (11.07%)

Councilor Lukes served as Mayor of Worcester from 2007-2009, and is serving her twelfth two-year term as a Councilor-At-Large.She also served four two-year terms as a member of the Worcester School Committee.

Prev Next


Rick C. Rushton

Votes Received: 5,720 (9.71%)

Councilor Rushton will return for a fourth term in the city council. He ha served as Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Economic Development, he which considers all matters pertaining to economic development, neighborhood development, housing development, marketing, workforce development, zoning, planning and regulatory services functions of the City and energy.

Prev Next


Michael T. Gaffney

Votes Received: 5,607 (9.52%)

Attorney Michael Gaffney was elected to his first term on the Worcester City Council.  He is one of two newcomers to the council 

Prev Next

District 1 Councilor

Tony J. Economou

Votes Received: 2,464 (59.64%)

Councilor Economou will return to his District 1 seat for a second term. He has served as Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Traffic & Parking,which considers all matters pertaining to traffic and parking ordinances and off street parking facilities.
Prev Next

District 2 Councilor

Philip P. Palmeiri

Votes Received: 1,119 (55.84%)

Councilor Palmeiri will return to his District 2 seat for a seventh term. He has served as Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Service & Transportation,which considers all matters pertaining to cable television and telecommunications, public transportation, street lighting, taxis and liveries.

Prev Next

District 3 Councilor

George J. Russell

Votes Received: 1,454 (100.00%)

Councilor Russell ran uncontested, allowing him to retain his District 3 seat for a second term.  He has served as Chairperson of the Standing Committe on Rules & Legislative Affairs, which initiates and reviews proposals for amendments to the rules of the City Council and any other matters affecting or determining the conduct of the City Council meetings.

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District 4 Councilor

Sarai Rivera

Votes Received: 1,100 (100.00%)

Councilor Rivera ran uncontested, and will be serving her second term as District 4 Councilor. She has served as Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Youth, Parks & Recreation, which considers all matters involving youth, parks, playgrounds, recreation activities and Hope Cemetery.

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District 5 Councilor

Gary Rosen

Votes Received: 2,289 (54.08%)

Gary Rosen returns to the City Council after defeating incumbent William Eddy. Rosen had previously served five terms on the School Committee and three terms in the City Council.

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Gaming Proposals on the Ballot

Municipal ballot initiatitives in other regions of the state may have implications local to Central Massachusetts.  Voters weighed in on proposals for casions in East Boston and Palmer on Tuesday. 

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Voters in the Western Massachusetts community of Palmer narrowly rejecting a bid by Mohegan Sun to build a resort casino in town. 

Prev Next

East Boston and Revere

Even though voters in Revere approved the construction of a casino at Suffolk Downs, East Boston voted against the proposal. Support from both communities was needed before the venue could formally apply for a license with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. 


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Anita Hugnkis

Would have been 109 Million if Deval did not have to re-decorate his office and buy the expensive velvet paintings...



Anita Hugnkis

Hey Deval, all of your fellow Harvard graduates passed the Mass Bar in 1 try!

How many times did it take you? 3 TRIES!!!

Yeah you are qualified for just about anything...

Iron Mike Farquhar

If our elected-for-life Democrats hadn't been so smugly arrogant, ~ maybe ~ they wouldn't have tried to get away with the non-disclosed automatic increase...

That is,...if they actually had any RESPECT for the brain-dead voters who keep re-electing them – voting every two years with their brains on screen saver...

But they were arrogant, smug, and insensitive. They don't want to wrestle afresh with the budget every year. They'd MUCH RATHER find NEW STUFF to spend your money on, - while they fill out their per diem sheets.

MEANWHILE, both our Legislature AND our mini-me gub'nor FAILED to OVERSEE any of the various state departments.

So we've had prison scandals, foster-care scandals, a long string of state police scandals, the drug crime lab scandal, the compounding lab [50+ dead] scandal, the HealthConnector website scandal, firing a Medal of Honor Veterans Affairs Secretary and replacing him with a political hack scandal,...the Probation Department scandal,...

A-N-D the State Attorney General who can't seem to find any corruption on Beacon Hill...

No secret, Duh-val wants the extra money to build his South Coast Railroad – put his name on it, and hire more MBTA employees [aka government-owned voter slaves].

NOW ASK YOURSELF: W-H-E-N has our state legislature ever CUT OUT a worthless department or ENDED a non-functioning program?

Christopher Pinto

Some editorializing has taken place in this article.
For the record, here is exactly what I was asked and answered. The writer has allowed Bagley a lot of leeway here. Mr. Bagely is using Deval line of a cup of coffee a week, except now it is two cups for the whole year. If you believe that line, I have a bridge to sell you...


How difficult was it to get this issue on the ballot? How long did it take?

It was hard. We did not use paid signature gatherers. It was an all volunteer effort. People gave up their weekends for nine straight weeks.

What sort of feedback were you getting from voters as you got signatures?

People are angry. Some felt it had been repealed with the tech tax. They were even angrier when they find out it wasn't. They don't like that legislators don't have to pay the gas tax to commute and that their pay is linked to inflation

Do you have any figures how much the current gas tax / inflation law in place is costing consumers?

We think an individual will have to pay an extra $120 per year for the first year, but it keeps going up

What is an alternate way you'd like to see the state government raise revenue to help maintain roads and bridges?

The state already has the money. Over the past 16 months they have taken in $900 million above revenue projections! While the legislature did pass the gas tax they did not pass the bill for funding the projects. In other words they just took the revenue.

The legislature admitted they could do without the tech tax. Maybe they should look at finding ways to do without automatic tax hikes.

There is roughly $1 billion of waste in the state budget. We need to stop the waste before ever raising taxes.

Finally, the state has $3.6 billion in uncollected taxes. If they implemented Rep. Geoff Diehl's tax amnesty program that could generate $540 million.

It appears this issue will be appearing on the ballot alongside a host of other initiatives (minimum wage increase, anti-casino measures, others). How do you think this will effect voting on the gas tax?

Our ballot initiative is about stopping taxation without representation. I think our all volunteer effort campaign stands out from the other ballot initiatives.

Tom Tribastone

I wish Beacon Hill would remember that gas runs trucks. Trucks carry just about everything we purchase, food, clothes, etc etc etc. Raising the gas tax raises the cost of everything (that then also gets taxed).It hurts the ones that can least afford it!!

Iron Mike Farquhar

Tom, the ONLY thing those smug elitists on Beacon Hill remember is (1) how to fill out their per diem sheets, and (2) who contributed $$ to their last campaign....

The rest of the their time is spent like a pack of dogs, - sniffing each others rear ends to see which ones are 'in season'. It's why they hold all their meetings in secret [unless they want to put on a show] and why there are almost no roll call votes recorded and published.

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