... MTF: budget accord supports continued spending of capital funds on MBTA employees ...... HPC's Altman: Beth Israel Lahey Health merger could boost health care spending by $138 million to $191 million annually ...... Elected rallying around gas workers as National Grid lockout continues ...... Baker sounds inclined to sign bill protecting reproductive rights by repealing antiquated laws ...... Gonzalez says Mass. House need to "act now" to pass Senate-approved wage theft legislation ...... Safe Communities would help students "come to school free of worry of being separated from their parents," MTA head Najimy says ...... NECTA: Senate net neutrality bill "will do little to protect consumers while hurting innovation and economic growth" ...... DeLeo: municipalities can adopt their own ICE policies while state mulls legislative options ...... Activists resist energy conference committee's decision to negotiate in private ...... Advocates look to House to seal deal on caretaker registry ...... Short-term rental regulation, taxation bill fails to emerge after DeLeo suggests vote imminent ...... Lelling statement throws cold water on supervised drug injection sites ...... Senate approves net neutrality bill ...... Opioid, economic development bills face uncertain negotiations that could leave GOP shut out ...... Lawmakers boost revenue estimate, jack up spending in $41.88 billion fiscal 2019 budget accord ...... Budget deal expands earned income tax credit from from 23 to 30 percent of federal credit ...... Branches send Baker bill raising tobacco purchase age to 21 ...... Codfather's fleet heading back to sea, NOAA says ...... State offers draft plan to spend $75 mil Volkswagen emissions settlement ...... U.S. Attorney: Dominican national wanted for murder in the DR arrested in Lynn ...... Tax, equity concerns swirl around advancing community benefit district legislation ...... Linsky, of Natick, taking over for Kaufman as House chair of METCO caucus ...... Sen. Feeney backing Galvin for re-election as secretary of state ...... State Police turn to O'Toole for management advice ...... Coyne nominated for Brockton District Court ...... Despite bump in revenue estimate, lawmakers leave accounts underfunded by $70 mil in compromise budget ...... Mass. Women's Political Caucus re-endorses female legislators seeking re-election ...
Latest Headlines:
ADJOURNED 'til Monday at 11 a.m. (informal)


By Michael P. Norton

JAN. 10, 2018.....The MBTA's share of sales tax revenues has fallen short of original projections and failed to deliver the stable funding source lawmakers envisioned when they overhauled the agency's finances in 2000, according to a new report.

Sales tax revenues represented 60 percent of total MBTA revenue in 2003, but declined to a 48 percent share in fiscal 2017, despite an increase in the sales tax rate from 5 percent to 6.25 percent in 2009, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center said in its report.

An advancing 2018 ballot question would roll that sales tax rate back to 5 percent, while a constitutional amendment marked for the ballot this year would impose a 4 percent surtax on households with income above $1 million, with the resulting revenues targeted for education and transportation.

MBTA service levels, expansion plans, fares, equipment, debt and management have been focuses of constant debate over the years, with Beacon Hill remaining under pressure to improve the transit system that regularly causes people to be late for or miss work or personal appointments and make it more reliable for casual users and commuters, including the labor force in and around Boston.

Before 2000, sales tax revenues had increased 5 percent a year on average but actual growth in the "penny on the sales tax" allocated to the MBTA has averaged 1.5 percent, the report said, noting the 2007 Transportation Finance Commission regarded a 3 percent growth rate as the worst-case scenario.

"The annual revenue generated by a penny on the sales tax is now $219.5 million less than was projected in the original finance plan for dedicated sales tax funding," the report said. "If the previous twenty years' growth rate had instead continued, the MBTA's penny would be worth almost $400 million more a year than it is today."

Consumer buying patterns and sales tax collection discrepancies, as well as the exclusion of the MBTA from sales taxes on meals, have contributed to the trend, the report said. Service purchases are exempt from the sales tax and sales taxes are not collected on all online purchases.

In 2000, when the MBTA funding reform law was adopted, Kevin Sullivan, who served as transportation secretary at the time, called it "an extraordinary step -- one that in the long term is a win for the T and a win for Massachusetts."

Concerns over MBTA service levels, finances and management grew so dire in 2015 that the Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker passed a special law that put the transit agency under the oversight of a control board and enabled the MBTA to forge ahead with outsourcing without being vetted by the auditor's office.

In September, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced that Baker would sign an executive order "in the coming weeks" to create a new commission that would review the state's transportation needs and how they could be funded. More than three months later, the administration still has not established its transportation review commission.


Serving the working press since 1894

State House News Service