Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli on Tuesday pitched his colleagues on a plan to let cities and towns generate their own revenue to fix roads and bridges by establishing a local option gas and diesel fuel excise tax. The western Massachusetts representative noted Gov. Charlie Baker's recently-filed road funding bill and the yearly requests from local officials for even more road and bridge funding as evidence that his bill would be well received. "The governor just released his Chapter 90 budget, which is about $200 million. But if you talk to the (Massachusetts Municipal Association) the real number should be probably closer to $600 million," Pignatelli, a Lenox Democrat, told the Joint Committee on Revenue. "My attitude is, if we can't develop the revenues for cities and towns to invest in their own roads or bridges, let's give them the tools to raise their own revenue." Pignatelli's bill (H 3775) would allow towns to impose a 3-cent per gallon surtax on gas or diesel, which would be collected by the gas station and remitted to the state. The state would then distribute the revenue from the surtax to the town to be used to make repairs to roads and bridges. "Considering he represents 20 communities and some may accept the local option and some may not, Rep. Pignatelli will create options for drivers that hurt some of his communities and benefit others," anti-tax group Citizens for Limited Taxation said in a statement released within minutes of Pignatelli's testimony.


In his testimony, Pignatelli acknowledged that the idea of increasing taxes is not often popular on Beacon Hill. "For years, and the last several years, taxes have been taboo in this building," he said. "But when you look at the track record of the Legislature providing municipalities with the tools for the road toolbox called local option taxes, I think they've been very successful."