Massachusetts Elimination of Tolls Initiative (2010)

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Massachusetts Constitution
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Preamble
Part the First:
Articles I - XXX
Part the Second:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Articles of Amendment
The group Citizens Against Road Tolls (CART) is putting the question on the November 2010 ballot that, if successful, will eliminate all tolls in Massachusetts. They are using a process called "Petition 2.0" by allowing voters to download the petition from their website, CloseTheTolls.org.

The group Citizens Against Road Tolls had until the end of November 18, 2009 to gather the required 66,593 signatures needed to place the ballot question on the 2010 ballot. The group failed to do so, resulting in the initiative failing to make the ballot. According to group spokesman Michael Kelleher, the effort fell approximately 20,000 signatures short. Kelleher stated: "We are going to keep broadening our base and try again in two years. We're not going away, neither are the tolls."[1]

Ballot summary

The official ballot summary of the measure reads as follows:

This proposed law would set up a process for ending tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike, the Tobin bridge, and the Callahan, Sumner, and Ted Williams Tunnels; and prohibit tolls on any other public roads, bridges, or tunnels in the state.
The proposed law would direct the state Department of Transportation to set aside in trust by April 1, 2011, enough money to pay, with interest, on and after January 1, 2012, all outstanding notes and bonds relating to the Turnpike, the Tobin bridge, and the Callahan, Sumner, and Ted Williams Tunnels, for the payment of which toll revenues are pledged. The Department’s duty to set aside money for this purpose would be subject to appropriation by the state Legislature to the extent required by the state constitution.
On April 1, 2011, the Department would have to inform the Legislature of the total amount required for the payment and the amount the Department intended to set aside for it. If the Department found it unfeasible to set aside the total amount required, the Department would have to provide a detailed written explanation. Subject to appropriation by the Legislature, any additional amount needed for such payment would be transferred from the state to the Department to be set aside in trust for that purpose. Once a sufficient amount had been set aside in trust, then, on January 1, 2012, the Turnpike, the Tobin bridge, and the Callahan, Sumner, and Ted Williams Tunnels would be operated and maintained by the Department’s Division of Highways free of tolls.
If on January 1, 2011, the Turnpike, the Tobin bridge, or the Callahan, Sumner, or Ted Williams Tunnels were under the administration of a public agency or authority other than the Department, that agency or authority would be responsible for eliminating the need for revenues from the tolls levied on that roadway, bridge, or tunnel in the same manner as would otherwise be required of the Department.
The proposed law would also prohibit the state, cities and towns, political subdivisions, public corporations, the Department, and the Massachusetts Port Authority, from collecting tolls on any other road, highway, tunnel, or bridge open to the motoring public. This prohibition would take effect on January 1, 2011.
The proposed law states that if any of its parts were declared invalid, the other parts would stay in effect.

History

In 1951, Rep. Philip K. Kimball (Springfield) created the legislation to fund a road called the Massachusetts Turnpike. The Legislation was passed in 1952, and the road began to be constructed. In Section 17 of the Original Legislation, it says:
"When all bonds issued under the provisions of this act and the interest thereon shall have been paid...[the road] shall become part of the state highways system and shall thereafter be maintained and operated by said department free of tolls..."[2]
The road was constructed for $239 million dollars, and tolls were scheduled to be closed in 1994, according to Philip Kimball in the Friday, May 14, 1982 Evening edition of The Springfield Union News in an article written by Mary Ellen Lowney.
The tolls were not taken down; however, due to a series of bonds and swaptions to pay for the Big Dig swaptions.
These financial practices have resulted in the Massachusetts Turnpike being responsible for 2.4 Billion Dollars in debt.
In February of 2009, Massachusetts Legislators proposed a toll increase which would raise tolls across the state by up to 100%, (From $3.50 to $7.00 at the Ted Williams and Sumner Tunnels, and $1.25 to $2.00 at the Allston/Brighton and Weston exits), causing the group Stop The Pike Hike to protest the increase. The group was successful; however, Legislators explained that toll increases might still be needed.

Arguments

Arguments made in favor of eliminating tolls on roads in Massachusetts include:

  • The estimated $315 Million dollars a year that the tolls bring in, subtracting the salaries of toll workers, is less than 1/10 of 1% of Massachusetts' $27 Billion budget.
  • The MTA spends (Annually):
  • 21 Million on maintaining the road
  • 23 Million on "fringe benefits."
  • However, The MTA brings in at least 45 million a year through the Service Plaza leases and Air Space. Through this revenue alone, the road could be self sustaining.[3]
  • The toll collectors make as much $97,588.92/year.[4] Average teacher salary is $58,500/year.[5]

Path to the ballot


CART activist explains how petition process works
See also: Massachusetts signature requirements

CART began their signature drive on September 10, 2009. In a process which they called "Petition 2.0," they called for every commuter or toll user to collect at least 10 signatures by downloading the petition from their website, CloseTheTolls.org. The group needs 100,000 raw signatures to ensure that their question is put on the 2010 ballot. CART wants to set precedent by succeeding with getting their question on the ballot at a fraction of the average cost of a petition drive.

Endorsements

See also

External links


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