Gas tax surcharge as a local option set for review

Printed from:

BOSTONA lawmaker from the Berkshires wants Massachusetts cities and towns to be able to decide for themselves whether to tack a surtax on to motor fuel sales to pay for improving the poor state of roads and bridges in their communities. On Tuesday, his proposal will take center stage at a public hearing on Beacon Hill.

Under the proposal from state Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, a Lenox Democrat, cities and towns would be able to impose as much as a 3-cents-a-gallon surtax on gasoline or diesel fuel. Refilling station operators would send the revenue to the state, which would distribute it back to local communities. According to the proposed measure, the money could only be used for road and bridge repairs.

The Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee will hear testimony Tuesday beginning at 1:30 p.m. on Pignatelli’s bill, along with more than 40 other proposals involving municipal finance issues.

But the measure could have a more significant revenue impact for some communities.

Near Pignatelli’s hometown, neighboring Lee is the focus of similar legislation proposed jointly by Pignatelli and state Sen. Benjamin Downing, a Pittsfield Democrat. Lee, whose residents have approved a local gas tax option for their town, would be able to lay claim to 3 cents on every gallon of gas sold at the Massachusetts Turnpike’s eastbound and westbound Lee service plazas, along with local stations.

For towns like Lee, with fueling stations on the toll road within their boundaries, the additional revenue can be significant. The twin service plazas on both sides of the Pike in Charlton, west of Worcester, sell more than 12 million gallons of gas annually, according to a Worcester Telegram report.

That could mean more than $360,000 a year for the town at 3 cents a gallon.