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MA Ballot Initiative to Ban Fuel Tax Gets Pushback

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Friday, September 3, 2021   

BOSTON -- Advocates for clean transportation are fighting a proposed ballot initiative, which would prevent Massachusetts from taxing gas and other fuels.

The ballot initiative is in response to the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) supported by Gov. Charlie Baker, a multistate commitment to a "cap and invest" policy in which fossil-fuel-emitting power plants, gas and diesel suppliers pay for the emissions they generate.

Josh Ostroff, interim director of Transportation for Massachusetts, said dropping the gas tax would do more than reject the TCI program, and contended it would put a huge portion of the Commonwealth's transportation funding at risk.

"If this ballot question takes away that revenue source, then we're going to have to find another way to repair our roads and bridges, to fund public transportation, and to make the kinds of repairs and upgrades in the face of climate change," Ostroff pointed out.

Environmental groups have also criticized TCI for not going far enough, and not focusing on communities on the front lines of the climate crisis.

But Ostroff argued there are other ways to bypass TCI, without wiping out a billion dollars in transportation funding. Backers of the initiative are now gathering signatures, after the Attorney General cleared it as technically constitutional.

Ostroff added powerful interests are supporting the ballot initiative, including the petroleum industry, but he asserted it is important to limit fossil-fuel emissions, especially on the heels of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's recent report calling climate change a "Code Red for humanity."

"The 90-degree-plus days we've had across Massachusetts, or the amount of rainfall that we've had and the catastrophic storms that we've experienced, show that human-caused climate change is truly a crisis that threatens the well-being of every community and every person," Ostroff remarked.

He noted many areas have structurally deficient bridges, hundreds of miles of substandard roads and inadequate bus service, and warned losing the state's gas-tax revenue would only allow problems to worsen.


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