Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick last week proposed increasing the state's gas tax by 19 cents per gallon and reorganizing its transportation bureaucracy.
The gas tax would generate an estimated $500 million to $600 million annually, said spokeswoman Kim Haberlin.
Patrick's proposal would create a transportation fund and dedicate the tax increase to specific areas.
"A modern transportation network adequately funded and professionally managed is essential to our economic and social future," Patrick said. "Our roads rails and bridges serve as a platform for commerce and economic growth,"
He would also peg the dedicated tax to the consumer price index, arguing that had that been done when the tax was last raised in 1991, the state wouldn't have the funding problem is has now. Patrick said the tax would pay down debt but provided few details.
The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which Patrick seeks to eliminate as part of the reorganization of transportation agencies, carries roughly $2.2 billion of debt from the Big Dig project in Boston.
Using the lower estimate of $500 million of annual revenue from the new tax and a breakdown of how the 19 cents would be spent, the tax would generate approximately $155 million for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, $105 million for the Turnpike, $75 million for rail projects outside Boston, $50 million for staff salaries, $40 million for regional road projects, $40 million to fund regional transit authorities, and $25 million to create new ways to collect tolls and fees electronically. The tax would eliminate or delay the need for fare and toll increases on the transit system and Turnpike.
Patrick suggested that the state could lease assets in public-private partnerships to raise revenue but did not elaborate.
Questions about the transportation program were directed to the state executive office of transportation which did not return calls by press time.
The reorganization of the state's transportation bureaucracy would create an Executive Office of Transportation that would oversee four divisions dealing with highways, rail and transit, aviation and ports, and motor vehicle registration. The change would eliminate 300 jobs.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo reacted positively to the proposal.
"The plan contains many reforms I believe the House will ultimately endorse," DeLeo said in a statement.
Moody's Investors Service analyst Maria Matesanz said information about the proposal available on Friday lacked enough detail to comment on.