We’re not anti-labor. There will be people downsized when we merge the Turnpike and the Highway Department, and we want to offer people workforce retraining and other initiatives, because we care about people. But at the same time, the practice at the MBTA of 23-and-out in terms of pension, or the practice of not having the same health care plan as everyone else in state government, those things have to come to an end. And we’re going to make sure that in this bill, we’re not going to be unfriendly to people, but we’re going to be clear that the perks and the special deals of the past are over.
Aloisi said that they have looked at legal and collective bargaining issues regarding the benefits at the T, and that they see no legal obstacles to the changes. Collective bargaining agreements currently in effect would be honored until they expire.
In response to Charley’s follow-up on the T issues, Aloisi said that the new rule will be
Fifty-five…. We’re not going to disturb 23, but you won’t be able to retire until you’re 55 years old. And new employees, we’re going to move to the chapter 32 system like everybody else. So we’re going to try to phase out the T’s current approach…. With new employees, and with employees at the Pike as well, everyone will be under the state pension chapter 32 system.
“Vehicle miles traveled” system
Of interest to many on this site, Aloisi confirmed that the Governor will propose a pilot program to adopt a “vehicle miles traveled” system, along the lines of what is currently underway in Oregon. According to Aloisi, a pilot program could be started as soon as a bill is passed that would begin testing the plan, including strategies like peak pricing. He believes that “you can do this is a way that is completely clean with respect to people’s concerns about privacy.” He also explained that a system like this is necessary because as cars become more fuel efficient, the value of the gas tax will plummet.
If we don’t act now to anticipate a very soon-to-come greener vehicular fuel efficiency environment, we’re dead. There’s no alternative. The best solution is to say to people, you pay for what you use. It’s transparent, it’s fair, and it’s fungible, and I’m really excited about it….
Aloisi confirmed that there will be a credit for vehicle-miles-traveled against the gas tax, so that drivers will not be double-taxed.
Hummer tax and people with disabilities
I asked Aloisi about billxi’s concern that the “Hummer tax” would adversely affect the disability community. He responded:
Maybe we need to think about that. It’s a point I haven’t thought about until this minute, but I think the answer is we’ve got to be open to understanding how normative approaches to things often do discriminate against various categories of people. I’ll think about it, and we’ll see what we can do…. I’m sensitive to it, and you can always figure out, I think, how to create appropriate exceptions to rules.
We also understand that the RMV would be authorized to create regulations with respect to the “Hummer tax,” so RMV should have the ability to carve out exceptions for situations like billxi’s.
A new website
Finally (for now), part of the reform is to increase interactivity with the public. And to that end, they’ve set up a new website that is designed to improve transparency and to enhance the ability to interact directly with the state transportation agencies. I haven’t had a chance to explore it yet — if you do, let us know what you think.