Sunday, March 30, 2008

What Kind Of Mileage Does That DTS Get, Anyway?

The Cadillac of Governors is at it again.

Gov. Deval Patrick, fresh from his announcement that "I've never been hostile to taxes" is now reminding all concerned that "I have never opposed raising the gas tax. What I have said is that it is not my first choice."

According to the Boston Globe-Democrat, Gov. Patrick's ready to move on to door number two. Last summer, Beacon Hill was buzzing with the idea of a "temporary gas tax." Not anymore. Now they've dropped the word "temporary."

I assume it has something to do with truth-in-advertising laws.

Why do we need higher gas taxes, anyway? What--$3.50 a gallon isn't high enough for the car-hating loonies in the legislature? Apparently not.

Sadly, many readers of the Globe-Democrat agree with the idea that selfish, mean-spirited taxpayers of Massachusetts aren't willing to pay their fair share for needed roads and repairs.

But if you track down the actual facts--like a study published by the Reason Foundation comparing our spending to other states, you know that this is bunk.

I spoke to one of the key researchers on that study, Dr. David Hartgen, and wrote about our conversation in the Boston Herald last year:

“Massachusetts has one of the very highest road budgets per mile of any state in the country,” Hartgen told me yesterday. “You also have one of the smallest state-controlled systems -- only about 3,300 miles. There are 48 other states that would die for your budget.”

When you add up all the tolls, taxes, bonds and federal bucks that go to Massachusetts roads, it works out to $753,892 per mile. That’s higher than every state except New Jersey, and its numbers are skewed by the fact that it’s the only state entirely covered in concrete.

To put Massachusetts in perspective, Rhode Island -- also in the top 10 in road revenue collection -- gets just $365,624 per mile, and New Hampshire collects a modest $103,000 per.

The spending side is even worse. Massachusetts is also ranked second in per-mile spending on state-controlled roads at $893,236 a mile. New Hampshire spends just $88,191 per mile. For every dollar New Hampshire spends on a mile of road, we spend 10. None of this includes the approximately $710 million in automobile excise taxes we pay each year, which (theoretically) fund local road projects.

Please take a moment to re-read those numbers. We are spending more than $890,000 per mile of road per year--and Gov. Patrick and Beacon Hill's big spenders say you're not paying enough.

The Boston Globe-Democrat, to my knowledge, has never published these numbers. They have never asked a politician to explain why being #2 in spending isn't high enough. They've never questioned the idea of higher taxes--not even while you're spending close to $3.50 a gallon for gas.