Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Toll hike round-up

Coverage of the latest phase of Governor Patrick's grand scheme to stick it to the Commonwealth's drivers varied in tone, predictably, based on the source.

The Globe is sanguine, noting in the very first sentence of its coverage that the toll hike approved by the Turnpike board yesterday "could be eliminated if the Legislature increases the state gas tax." I immediately checked the classifieds to see if they are also offering a bridge for sale.

On the other end of the spectrum, Howie Carr is apoplectic and - as usual - dead-on in his assessment:

I have considered all the options, Deval said Friday, in mock sadness. I have considered the commuters from the North Shore, East Boston and Metro West who are facing stiff imminent increases in tolls. He considered us. And then his appointees voted to rob us, yet again, at the tollbooths that were supposed to come down in 1987. Deval now holds us hostage to get himself the highest gas tax in America, and then he promises to rescind the tolls. I predict we end up like most hostages - dead.

The Herald also has an article suggesting that Patrick's blackmail move might backfire in the legislature, with even Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick), who last week cheered the Gov's gas tax proposal as a "win" for MetroWest, souring on the prospect (maybe he discovered one of his new chandeliers doesn't work?). Out in MetroWest, where the toll issue runs hot and hotter, the MetroWest Daily News quotes some (but not all) of the area delegation in sharp opposition to the move. (That Rep. Linsky sure is tortured on this issue, isn't he?)

And the Herald's editorial board points out a loophole in the Governor's assertion that a gas tax hike will mean the toll hike approved yesterday will not go into effect:

The measure reads, in part: “The Board shall take appropriate and prompt action prior to these effective dates to revise or rescind all or a portion of the toll increases upon the Commonwealth enacting legislation which provides dedicated alternative sources of revenue to the Authority.” In other words, if lawmakers approve a gas tax hike that is less than the 19 cents Patrick has demanded (but that still covers the Pike’s debt problems) the board may repeal only “a portion” of the toll hike. And in this case we can only imagine what “revise” means.

I'd go further than the Herald and note that there's nothing in this language that requires rescinding the entire toll hike even if the entire 19 cent gas tax increase the Governor is seeking is in fact passed. Absolutely nothing prevents him from, for instance, claiming new insight into the downturn, or citing steadily decreasing Turnpike traffic (which will continue to decrease with the hike), to justify leaving the toll increase in place. His steady evolution on the issue of tax and toll increases gives much cause for concern and none at all for confidence in his promises.

Thanks are in order to new GOP state chair Jenn Nassour and the two dozen or so folks who got up early and braved the cold to stand in front of the State House this morning, exhorting drivers to show their displeasure with the Governor. We'll know the issue has really taken hold then voters who aren't card-carrying Republican activists start to exhibit similar levels of displeasure. I for one have a feeling that Patrick may have overestimated the strength of his political teflon coating on this one. Either that, or...

UPDATE: And here you go! From the State House News Service:
Senate President Therese Murray said Beacon Hill’s focus on higher revenues had prompted impromptu lobbying from constituents. “I got backed into the corner of my grocery store Saturday, and couldn’t move, by people yelling at me,” she told the News Service.

No comments:

Post a Comment

No spamming, flaming, cursing, or other such nonsense tolerated. Thanks for engaging on those terms - Greg