OP-ED by Spokesman Paul D. Craney Appears in Lowell Sun: TCI = T-A-X

Transportation Climate Initiative is another tax on you

PUBLISHED: October 15, 2019 at 1:10 am | UPDATED: October 15, 2019 at 10:24 am

The Transportation Climate Initiative is the latest attempt by Beacon Hill politicians to rebrand an increase in the state gas tax. Remember, despite what Boston officials tell you, T-C-I is nothing more than political doublespeak for T-A-X. It’s a backdoor attempt to institute a carbon tax without a vote by our lawmakers.

Massachusetts is one of 12 states in the TCI collaboration, trying to replicate California and Quebec by putting a price on carbon in the transportation sector. The participating states are: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.

It was just revealed last week that they plan to carry out their policy design through a “cap-and trade” system for motor fuel carbon emissions, or as most working people will see it, a gas tax. The gas tax would apply to gas and diesel fuels but exempt jet and boat fuel. The exact amount of the increase has yet to be disclosed. The public should expect to hear more on that in December.

According to the TCI website, one of the primary health benefits they will project in their modeling will be the increase in “biking and walking associated” with the implementation of TCI for “residents of TCI jurisdictions.” If you read between the lines, their aim is clear. They want to make fuel so expensive that taxpayers will be forced to walk and bike to work. But don’t worry, it will benefit your health. Let’s hope we don’t have a cold winter!

The TCI website goes into more detail on what their end goals are. For instance, they talk about environmental justice, “addressing equality needs and concerns,” and they tell states that they “may choose to pursue complementary policies and programs to further enable green house gas emissions reductions from transportation.” That’s a direct and clear warning to any Massachusetts taxpayer, employer and resident.

Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides claims the difference between TCI and a gas tax is the point of regulation. She doesn’t believe it’s a tax and doesn’t think she needs legislative approval. This is irrelevant to consumers who will soon be paying more at the pump to support increased government spending. For normal people, this is a tax.

Luckily, some on Beacon Hill are more transparent regarding the scheme. State Rep. William Straus, the House chairman of the Transportation Committee, recently described TCI as a gas tax, saying “All states raise their gas tax the same amount at the same time and agree not to call it a gas tax, but I think the public is smarter than that.”

According to the Massachusetts state constitution, all state taxes must originate from the House. Gov. Charlie Baker does not have authority to unilaterally raise taxes. Even if the governor doesn’t want to describe the TCI as a tax, in order to justify bypassing legislative approval, the governor would be wise to take this before the State House and Senate. Legal authority or not, Baker has a moral obligation to seek legislative approval before asking every resident who drives a gas or diesel powered vehicle to spend much more at the pump. In our view, such an important piece of the legislation should require buy in by the elected representatives of our state government.

Make no mistake: this is a very slippery slope for Massachusetts. Although this is still in the early stages, lawmakers from other states in the TCI agreement are seeking legislative approval. The Baker administration, whether legally required or not, should also act in good faith and seek legislative approval. There must be an open and transparent legislative process on the details of the agreement.

Paul Diego Craney is the spokesman of Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.



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