LYNN — Choose your number on what it will take to fix the Bay State’s broken transportation infrastructure: $15 billion or $20 billion.
No matter the amount, one thing seems clear: Gov. Charlie Baker won’t raise taxes to pay for it.
While the Republican governor has not signed national anti-tax activist Grover Norquist’s no new taxes pledge, Baker, a Swampscott resident, is opposed to Mayor Thomas M. McGee’s proposals to link the gas tax to inflation and put tolls on Routes 2, 128, I-93 and I-95 as a way to pay for transit improvements.
In a speech to the Massachusetts GOP earlier this year, Baker said he supports reducing the sales tax. The Retailers Association of Massachusetts has proposed a ballot question that would lower the tax from 6.25 to 5 percent.
Analysts say the reduction would reduce the cash-strapped state’s annual revenues by $1 billion.
In addition, Baker has not said whether he would support the so-called “millionaire tax.” The constitutional amendment question scheduled for the November ballot would impose a 4 percent surtax on income in excess of $1 million. It would raise $2 billion for improvements in transportation and schools.
The measure is embroiled in a court fight and Baker won’t comment, he said, until it is settled.
In addition, Baker pivoted on taxing Airbnbs. First, the governor said he would support a proposal passed by the state Senate to increase the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, which benefits low- and middle-income working families, and partially pay for it by extending the state’s hotel room tax to short-term rentals. He later withdrew his support saying, “Historically, I have a tendency not to comment on things I haven’t read. I made a mistake and commented on something I hadn’t read.”
At A Better City forum on Wednesday at the Lynn Museum to advocate for improved transportation, rail line extensions, ferry service, and fixing our roads and bridges, Richard A. Dimino, the group’s president and CEO, was asked how the state can have a 21st century transportation system when the governor is opposed to raising the money to pay for it.
While careful not to criticize Baker, Dimino said the cash must be raised.
“When we have a $7.3 billion state of good repair tab, we have to find additional money,” Dimino said. “When you want water transportation to Lynn, you have to buy the boats and buying boats takes money. If you want to do urban rail, we need to invest in a rapid transit stock that needs money … If you point to a number of things where you need to make strategic investments, those dollars are needed … It’s an important conversation to have … Elected officials will listen to the community, business leaders and mayors.”