AASHTO Journal, 12 August 2016
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Aug. 10 vetoed a provision in a road and bridge funding bill that would have allowed the state to seek federal funds for a pilot program to test a tax on vehicle miles traveled, the MassLive.com news site reported.
The state Legislature included that provision for a voluntary pilot in late July when it finalized the broader legislation that authorizes state transportation programs. Baker signed the broader bill, which includes a new Municipal Small Bridge Program under which the state helps local governments pay for bridge projects that are not eligible for federal aid.
Some lawmakers had said testing a VMT revenue system was needed to help find a more stable way of funding projects in the future, while others complained that if it were to lead to an actual miles-traveled tax it would hurt western Massachusetts residents who must rely on cars instead of transit or commuter rail services that are available in big cities.
Last December, Congress in passing the five-year FAST Act surface transportation law authorized grants for states to demonstrate user fee-based revenue mechanisms as an alternative to the Highway Trust Fund’s mix of excise taxes on motor fuels and truck equipment.
Oregon and California have already launched voluntary VMT test programs, and officials in some other states have said they are considering some as well.
Baker told reporters Aug. 9 of his decision to strike the provision. “We’ve already said that we don’t support the vehicle-miles-traveled tax, and we’re going to veto that section of the bill,” Baker said, according to the State House News Service.
MassLive.com said that since the Legislature has ended its session, lawmakers cannot override his veto.
The story said that in a signing statement Baker gave several reasons for his veto, including that he would oppose any VMT tax that would impose it in addition to the state motor fuel tax and that he worried about the privacy rights of participants.