This is a couple of days old, but it’s still bugging me like a pebble in a shoe: In reaction to some legislators’ attempt to have the state take on some of the MBTA’s crushing debt,
State treasurer Tim Cahill is tossing cold water on a legislative proposal to alleviate the MBTA’s crushing debt burden through a state bail out.
Cahill penned a press release today saying the state has its own $18.5 billion tab to worry about and should not be forcing another burden on taxpayers, especially those who don’t even ride the T.
“We’re already asking people to pay twice for the T – once through the state sales tax, and once when they ride,” Cahill said. “We can’t ask them to pay a third time by turning this debt over to taxpayers statewide.”
The proposal by legislators is to transfer $2.9 billion of the T’s $8 billion debt burden – the largest of any transit agency in the country – to the state for repayment. T officials have offered support for the proposal, saying it would help avoid continual fare hikes and restructure its broken finances.
I think the “paying for it three times” argument is pretty thin gruel. All kinds of things have different revenue streams — e.g. Do we complain that we “pay three times” for schools because we pay property, state, and federal taxes? The question is: Do we need public transportation in the greater Boston area, the region’s economic engine? And do you want it to thrive, or continue its current death spiral?
Even more to the point: This strikes me as yet another example of territorial, defensive thinking in MA government. Look Tim, the T can’t increase fares 28% all the time — at least not without jazzing up the service immensely. That’s just a jackass way to run a business.
So come on, Tim, if you’re so smart, bring some solutions to the table. If the Barrios/Wolf/Sciortino bill isn’t the answer, what is? Be a part of the solution. Can the debt be restructured somehow? Are there temporary revenue sources that could be used for the specific purpose of paying down that debt? You’re the expert, right?
But please, don’t just tell us “You’ll get nothing and like it!”