Massachusetts bills pursue local road, bridge funds
August 17, 2021
Multiple measures renewed at the Massachusetts statehouse could provide a shot in the arm for local road funding.
Massachusetts now collects a 24-cent-per-gallon excise tax on gas and diesel purchases.
While elected officials wait for approval of a transportation funding plan to aid road work throughout the state, multiple bills in the legislature focus on local revenue enhancements.
Local option fuel taxes
One bill would authorize a local option gas and diesel excise tax. Specifically, any city or town could choose to collect up to a 3-cent excise tax on fuel sales.
One-third of the revenue would be applied for road and bridge maintenance, repair, upkeep, construction or improvement of roads, bridges, sidewalks, bikeways, public parking or roadside drainage.
The same amount of money would be designated for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority or regional transportation authority serving the city or town. The rest would be used for other transportation purposes.
The measure, H3039, is in the Joint Committee on Revenue. In 2020, the committee voted to advance the bill to the House Ways and Means Committee, but it did not come up for consideration. The version called for up to a 5-cent excise tax on fuel sales.
The Revenue Committee recently heard testimony on a bill that singles out authorization for a local option tax in the town of Charlton. The locale along Interstate 90 in Worcester County would be allowed to collect up to an additional 3 cents in excise tax on gas and diesel.
The bill, S1872, remains in committee.
Transportation ballot questions
Another road funding option is being considered at the statehouse.
The first bill would provide local communities with an avenue to raise funds for regional transportation projects. Specifically, S1899 would permit local ballot measures to ask regional voters whether to raise revenue for transportation work.
A similar bill, H2978, would offer the same authority for regional transportation work.
One more bill, S2265, includes a provision to allow local and regional transportation ballot initiatives.
More than half of all states authorize regional voters to make decisions on transportation funding issues.
Local roads get boost
In the absence of any significant transportation funding deal, one year ago Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a bill to secure additional funds for local road and bridge projects.
As a result, the state is authorized to borrow $200 million for improvements to municipally owned roads and bridges. The funds are dispersed through Chapter 90 grants.
The grants are sent to towns and cities in Massachusetts to receive reimbursements on approved projects. It is a 100% reimbursable program.
Advocates say the funds are critical for every city and town across the commonwealth. LL