An infusion of revenues generated by the Fair Share Amendment can be used to address chronic safety and performance problems at the MBTA, according to a new report by the Public Transit Public Good coalition
BOSTON — Frightening accidents, service cuts, deferred maintenance, budget shortfalls, and now weeks-long shutdowns on the Orange and Green Lines underscore the ongoing crisis at the MBTA. Investments by the state are urgent to revive our public transit system and address the MBTA’s safety, operational, and affordability crisis.
An initiative on this November’s ballot could secure funding needed to address the MBTA’s safety challenges, as well as fund other transportation projects statewide. Question 1, known as the Fair Share Amendment, could pay for much-needed infrastructure investments and provide a stable funding source, making the MBTA safer and fairer for decades to come, according to a new report by Public Transit Public Good, a coalition of MBTA workers, riders, and community advocates.
Among the report’s key findings:
- Fair Share would create new revenues from a small tax increase on the very rich, that could be used to fund ongoing safety needs at the MBTA.
- One key reason for the safety crisis at the MBTA is there is not enough funding for the maintenance and repair of the existing assets. Question 1 could provide a dedicated source of funds for maintenance and repair, keeping workers and riders secure while reducing pressure for the MBTA to cut service or raise fares in order to fund safety initiatives.
- Currently, the two largest sources of MBTA funding are fares and sales taxes. Both of these cost more – as a percentage of household budget – for people with lower incomes.
- Regressive taxes and fares deepen economic divides and worsen racial inequity.
- Unlike fares and sales tax, the Fair Share Amendment is a progressive tax. With a progressive tax, individuals with higher incomes pay a higher proportion of that income in taxes.
“So many of the MBTA’s problems today are due to years of underfunding – we just don’t have enough people or resources to keep up with the maintenance demand. The Fair Share Amendment could make sure mechanics, inspectors, and tradespeople who work at the MBTA have the resources we need to do our jobs. With those resources, we can keep our riders safe,” said Mike Vartabedian, Assistant Directing Business Representative of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), District 15.
If approved by voters, the Fair Share Amendment would generate funds to be used for two purposes: public education and the maintenance and repair of our Commonwealth’s transportation system. It’s expected to generate $2 billion in new revenue, and represents a critical opportunity to finally stop playing catch-up when it comes to funding the MBTA and to finally get it back on track through long-term funding.
“Just a portion of the funds from this Amendment can provide the much-needed support to ensure the MBTA can pay for the preventative maintenance, repair, and inspections necessary to keep it running smoothly,” said Collique Williams, Senior Organizer, Community Labor United, and Member, Public Transit Public Good coalition. “By passing this initiative, we can fund the MBTA more fairly, and create the safe and well-maintained transit system the region needs.”
“Question 1 is a win for everyone who travels by train, bus, or commuter rail, and for all of us who depend on the MBTA to power Greater Boston’s economy,” said Jeron Mariani, Campaign Manager for Fair Share for Massachusetts. “Passing Question 1 will mean $2 billion a year that’s constitutionally dedicated to transportation and public education, so it can only be spent on those priorities, including the MBTA and regional transit authorities across the state. And 99 percent of Massachusetts taxpayers won’t pay a penny more. Billionaires who don’t care about the MBTA because they never ride it are trying to scare voters about Question 1, but we can be confident that passing Question 1 will mean a safer, fairer MBTA for all of us.”
For decades, the MBTA has been underfunded and has deferred necessary maintenance projects.
“Since 2016, the MBTA operating budget has grown, but has not kept up with inflation. An infusion of federal support during the first years of the COVID pandemic prevented cuts to the budget in FY21 and 22. But as federal money is spent, the MBTA is predicting budget shortfalls of more than $400 million as soon as FY 2025,” the report notes.
The Fair Share Amendment would create a 4% tax on the portion of a person’s annual income above $1 million, allowing the richest one percent to help fund the state’s transit system instead of putting the burden on working people, seniors and young people. To ensure that the amendment continues to apply only to the highest income taxpayers, who have the ability to pay more, the $1 million threshold would be adjusted each year to reflect cost-of-living increases. This ensures that folks like Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Massachusetts’ second-richest billionaire, who stands to profit handsomely from expanded MBTA service bringing football fans, commuters and shoppers to “Patriot Place” in Foxborough, do their part to support the system.
But as noted in the report, “As of September 9, 2022, Kraft has given $1 million to oppose the Fair Share Amendment, through a Connecticut company he owns, Rand-Whitney Containerboard. This ranks him among the top five contributors to the No on 1 effort.”
“As a student and commuter who uses public transit, it is important to me that we improve our transportation. We need reliable and efficient transportation for students, workers, and everyone,” said Jazmany Reyes, GreenRoots.
On November 8, 2022, voters will have the opportunity to reimagine what is possible — a fairer tax system that funds public education and transportation, and a transit system
that is safe and sustainably funded. The Fair Share Amendment holds the potential to make the MBTA safer and fairer in the decades to come.
“I rely on public transportation on a daily basis, to go to work, grocery shop, and to doctor appointments. Every week I use public transportation to go to church and see friends. Public transit is a lifeline for me and so many others in my community, we need to invest in it,” said Mitikei Chengerei, Member, GreenRoots.
About Public Transit Public Good Coalition:
Public Transit Public Good is a partnership of transit workers and riders throughout Massachusetts fighting for the future of public transit. Community Labor United convenes PTPG. Visit publictransitpublicgood.org to learn more.
Background on Question 1: the Fair Share Amendment:
The Fair Share Amendment – Question 1 on the November ballot – will allow Massachusetts to improve our transportation and public education systems by making the very rich pay their fair share. Thousands of educators, workers, small business owners, parents, faith leaders, municipal officials, drivers and transit riders, and more than 350 organizations across the state are working together to pass Question 1. Our campaign has been endorsed by 80 labor unions, 63 community organizing groups, 15 faith-based groups, more than 75 businesses, and more than 100 other social service and not-for-profit organizations focused on housing, education, transportation, public health, and the environment. Learn more and get involved at FairShareMA.com.