Part of Charlie Baker’s Big Dig financing plan allowed Massachusetts to borrow $1.5 billion in an arragement that allowed the state to repay the principal with federal future highway grants. (The interest would be paid back by the taxpayers.)
As a result of this scheme, our federal highway funds will be encumbered until 2015.
While the Legislature approved the plan with little objection, others raised red flags. That was because borrowing against future federal transportation aid was nearly certain to delay other highway and bridge projects.
A blue-ribbon panel in 2007 concluded that the state was underfunding its transportation needs by nearly $1 billion a year.
This allocation of future highway funds has almost certainly caused many of the bridges and highways in the state to fall into major disrepair. Thanks, Charlie.
Ironically, the Globe article cited above also tells us:
Governor Deval Patrick, faced with limited revenue to rebuild deteriorating roads and bridges, has used a similar approach in borrowing $1.1 billion against future federal highways grants. Like Baker’s plan, this has drawn criticism from Widmer, who says it “puts a burden on future taxpayers because of a refusal to pay for our obligations now.”
Charlie Baker and Deval Patrick: United in their fiscal philosophy of “borrow now, pay later.”
When and where does the buck stop?
Thankfully, we have a true fiscal conservative in the race: Tim Cahill. Last week, Cahill made the following policy proposal:
-No new projects would be initiated without an identified source of funding.
-Waitlists would be grouped into roads, highways, bridges and rail.
-Waitlists would be rated and prioritized based on an analysis of need and urgency.
-Payments would be made as construction is completed and costs are incurred, not deferred to the future.
In contrast to Baker and Patrick, Cahill is vowing not to saddle future generations with our transportation debt. And by mandating an identified source of funding and prioritizing projects, Massachusetts will be in a better position to avoid future Big Dig-like debacles.
It’s refreshing to have a Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate advocate such a conservative position.