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GOP State Rep Not On Board With Charlie Baker’s Carbon-Emissions Fee — And He Says Other Republicans Aren’t, Either

January 2, 2020

The ranking Republican on a legislative committee that studies transportation bills in Massachusetts says he doesn’t support a carbon-emissions fee proposed by the state’s Republican governor, Charlie Baker.

The Transportation Climate Initiative includes 12 states between Virginia and Maine considering whether to assess a fee to fuel providers as a means of raising revenue to improve mass transit and take other steps to try to reduce carbon emissions. Supporters of the program say reducing carbon emissions from gasoline-powered vehicles would reduce global warming, which they say is harmful.

A recent study suggests the measure could increase gas taxes in Massachusetts by between 5 cents and 17 cents a gallon, depending on how much of a fee the state assesses.

That’s a non-starter for State Representative Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk), the ranking minority member of the Joint Committee on Transportation in the Massachusetts Legislature. He said he doesn’t see much support for it among other Republicans, either.

“I can only speak for myself, and some of my other members that I’ve spoken to — that TCI doesn’t seem to be the right approach to it. So I don’t necessarily see many of my caucus supporting it. Increasing the gasoline tax just is not something that we would be in favor of,” Howitt told State House News Service on Thursday, January 2.

Baker administration officials have not only expressed support for the Transportation Climate Initiative but also have suggested that the governor already has the authority to implement it, without further approval by the state Legislature.

Democratic leaders in the Massachusetts Legislature are also considering a sizable increase in the state’s gasoline tax.

A reporter asked Howitt if he would support other measures being floated on Beacon Hill designed to decrease traffic jams, including so-called congestion pricing, which would increase existing tolls and possibly add new tolls during rush hour to try to influence people to drive at off-peak times. Another proposal would increase fees on ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. Supporters say the money could be used to improve roads and bridges and public transportation.

Howitt said such measures aren’t necessary, considering how much money Massachusetts state government is already taking in.

“As we always say, it’s not a revenue issue, it’s a spending issue. So, I mean, we have one of the largest budgets that we’ve ever had – what, 42 billion dollars. So, that being said, I think the money is in the budget for some of these infrastructure improvements. We just have to redirect where some of the money is going,” Howitt said during the interview with State House News Service, which published an audio recording of the interview.

See below for audio recording:

 

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