Massachusetts drivers and transit riders face a transportation crisis. The gas tax can help.
Gas Tax in the News
On transportation, it’s time for leadership to protect our health and well-being Springfield Republican, Greenfield Recorder, Hampshire Gazette
No free option to address transportation crisis Berkshire Eagle
All across Massachusetts, people are experiencing a transportation system in crisis. Whether by car, bus, commuter rail, subway, ferry, bicycle or on foot, commuting is a challenge. Our roads are the most congested in the country and public transportation statewide suffers from decades of underinvestment.
This must change. And the gas tax is an important tool to help make that change.
The Massachusetts gas tax is the 31st-highest in the country, below states like Alabama, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
Increasing the gas tax will allow Massachusetts to make long-overdue transportation investments, and to make progress on statewide challenges with maintenance of roads and bridges, with pollution and carbon emissions, with our congestion crisis, and with municipal capital needs.
Read more about the five policies in our legislative agenda.
Massachusetts lawmakers will soon debate new revenue for transportation. We believe the state gas tax must be part of a comprehensive solution to fix what is needed today, and plan for what we need tomorrow.
The gas tax is dedicated to transportation under Article 104 of our state constitution-- it can only be used for transportation projects.
Since 1991, the MA gas tax has been increased once, by just three cents in 2014. And since 1991, it has lost nearly half of its value, due to inflation.
The gas tax is a core way that we raise money to invest in our transportation system at the state and local levels, which are seriously underfunded.
The gas tax is straightforward to collect, and the funds are available immediately to meet transportation needs across the state. See the T4MA gas tax fact sheet.
The transportation status quo is regressive; raising the gas tax will help our system work better for those who need it most
It has been claimed that the gas tax is regressive, but it is important to remember that the entire transportation status quo is inequitable. Low-income communities and communities of color bear the brunt of our auto-centric transportation system through poor air quality and worsening public transit service.
To address concerns of regressivity, how the state invests gas tax revenue is extremely important. The state should invest gas tax revenues in progressive ways that improve conditions for underserved communities.
We have several recommendations to ensure that the gas tax, and our other policy proposals, are implemented in ways that support disadvantaged communities. These include an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit, improved transportation in rural communities that are both car- and transit-dependent, and an increase in state support for both Regional Transit Authorities and Chapter 90 funding to cities and towns.
Read more about our policies for progress.
Our transportation crisis is statewide. We hear valid concerns about regional equity all the time. This is evidence of our underfunded transportation network, just as much as any regional imbalance. So the legislature must ensure that transportation revenue (including gas tax receipts) supports all regions of the state, and benefits people in rural towns, suburbs and cities. This includes investments in Chapter 90 and other road and bridge programs, RTA funding, and transit investments.
The gas tax is supported as a source of revenue by the majority of members of a statewide business coalition, the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Transportation, and a group led by the Kendall Square Association and including many technology and life science leaders, which recently published A System for Growth.
What about TCI?
In the coming years, the Transportation and Climate Initiative also proposes to collect a fee from importers of motor vehicle fuels in participating states. These funds will be reinvested in clean and equitable transportation under policies that are now under development.
Yet in Massachusetts, we collect much less in the gas tax than in almost all other participating states. So any TCI fees would start from a much lower baseline. We shouldn’t have to choose between these two different concepts.
Is the gas tax viable in the long term?
In the long term, it is right to consider the viability of the gas tax at the state and federal levels. But today, our transportation needs are urgent, and drivers are burning more gasoline than ever, so the gas tax is one appropriate source of revenue.