Mass. Gov. Considers 27-cent Gas Tax Hike

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Mass. Gov. Considers 27-cent Gas Tax Hike

BOSTON -- Gov. Deval L. Patrick may seek a 27-cent per gallon increase in the state's gasoline tax as part of a comprehensive plan to overhaul transportation, according to a report in The Republican.

The proposal would boost the state's gas tax to 50.5 cents, the highest in the nation, according to the newspaper.

According to a Patrick administration policy draft obtained by The Associated Press, the added tax would be used to retire debt of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, finance regional transit authorities and take down some tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

If Patrick's proposal is approved, tolls would be removed west of Route 128 by the end of next year. An administration spokesman said the governor has made no final decisions about his transportation financing plan.

"We're finalizing our transportation reform plan," Joseph Landolfi told the AP. "It will be a comprehensive initiative but no final decisions have been made, especially on a gas tax."

Drivers, many of whom fear a return to the record prices of last summer, were not happy about the state contributing to already rising gas prices.

Increasing the tax "would make a big difference," Kathleen A. Morrison of Southampton told the newspaper. "I commute from Southampton to West Springfield, about 40 miles a day. When it was more than $4 a gallon, I wasn't working and was staying at home. But if [the gas price] is anything much more than it is now, I would probably stay home again," she said.

However, Zack Tsikhotskiy of Holyoke said he would likely absorb a gas tax increase without it changing his lifestyle. "I bought gas when it was $4.50, so the world is not going to stop [if the state tax is increased], but there would be nothing good about it," he told the newspaper.

New York currently has the nation's highest gas tax at 41.3 cents a gallon.

Patrick's plan is being sparked by a preliminary vote by the board of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority in November to dramatically increase some tolls inside Route 128 to pay for debt from the $14.9 billion new central artery in Boston, known as the Big Dig.

An increase in the gas tax would stave off any toll increase inside Route 128, the AP reported.

Rep. Peter V. Kocot, D-Northampton, said that if the gas tax is increased, 50 percent of the proceeds should go back to cities and towns for repairs to local road and bridges. Kocot said he would be opposed to any formula for increasing the gas tax unless it contained that provision to help communities.

"I don't think the people of Western Massachusetts should foot the bill to pay for the Big Dig and the MBTA," Kocot said.

Republican Rep. Donald F. Humason Jr., of Westfield, said he is "100 percent" opposed to raising the gas tax, arguing an increase in the gas tax would hurt the economic recovery and provide no benefits to his constituents.