By Bob Katzen


 House 158-0, Senate 38-1, approved a $750 million package for transportation projects across the state. The package includes $700 million for highway improvements and $50 million for a new grant program to fund the repair of cities’ and towns’ bridges that are 20 or less feet in length.

   Supporters of the package say it will fund critical improvements to highways across the state. They note the $50 million for bridge repairs goes directly to cities and towns in need of funds to repair bridges that are crumbling.

   The lone opponent opposed a provision that exempts from the state’s debt ceiling large amounts of borrowing authorized in a 2014 transportation bond bill. He said this action is fiscally irresponsible.

   Another section of the proposed new law, later vetoed by the governor, would have created a pilot program that would charge drivers a fee based on how many miles they drive. The program would include 500 drivers who volunteer for the program.

   Supporters of the pilot program say the current per-gallon gas tax has reached a point of diminishing returns because Bay Staters drive less and there are now many electric and fuel efficient vehicles on the road. They argued that the money is desperately needed to maintain and repair the state’s roads and bridges

   Opponents of the pilot program say this is just another unnecessary tax and note that it is unclear whether this tax would replace the state’s current 24 cents-per-gallon gas tax or if it would be in addition to it. They argue this program would interfere with privacy rights because some mileage meters can track and record all a vehicle’s moves. Some say the tax is unfair and note that under this program, drivers who use the most gas-efficient vehicles could pay just as much as those owning gas-guzzlers.

   (A “Yes” vote is for $700 million for highway improvements and $50 million the repair of cities’ and towns’ bridges. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

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