Our Opinion: Infrastructure blow-out leaves state on its own

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Gov. Baker came back from an Infrastructure Week trip to Washington, D.C. feeling optimistic about the chances of passage of a national infrastructure bill, but Thursday the exasperated governor said "Well, Now I don't know what to make of it." What is to be made of it is that a petulant president has once again put himself before the interests of the nation.

Earlier this week, the president cut short a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic minority leader Charles Schumer on an infrastructure bill. He then went before the cameras to explain that he would not work with Democrats on the bill because the party insists on investigating the disturbing actions of he and members of his campaign team and administration revealed by the Mueller Report. He was further offended that Ms. Pelosi accused him of obstructing those investigations. Infrastructure projects benefit red states and blue states, but the president is depriving the nation of an opportunity to formulate such a desperately needed bill because of personal reasons.

The Republican governor's initial optimism aside, the $2 trillion infrastructure bill was a long shot before the breakdown in talks between the president and Democratic leadership. While congressional Republicans profess to support infrastructure initiative they refused to sign on to a perfectly good one offered by President Obama to deprive the Democratic leader of a political victory. President Trump wants an infrastructure overhaul to be outsourced or privatized, but addressing the nation's severe highway, bridge, rail and airport problems should be a public expense because it is the public that will benefit from it. While this debate remains mired in politics, our economic rivals in Asia and Europe build high-speed railways, gleaming airports and efficient highways, and our nation's transportation infrastructure continues to decay into ruin.

Lawmakers on Beacon Hill are attempting to find funding for transportation infrastructure and education through a "millionaires tax" bill that they claim can survive constitutional muster, unlike the referendum question creating such a tax last fall that was pulled from the ballot after failing a legal challenge. Lawmakers should instead pursue a more broad-based tax based on the gasoline tax because, as is the case with a national infrastructure bill, the public should finance highway projects it will benefit from. The state's gas tax of 26.5 cents a gallon is 30th in the nation and roughly 17 and 19 cents a gallon less than the gasoline taxes of neighboring Connecticut and New York respectively. The federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents a gallon hasn't budged in 26 years and should be increased to fund highway initiatives, but it is difficult to imagine congressional Republicans signing off on an increase no matter who overdue and beneficial.

Whatever does or doesn't happen in Massachusetts on transportation it is clear that this state, and every other state in the union, is on its own. As long as a Republican president and Congress put selfish interests before those of the nation, the United States will continue to grind slowly to a halt.

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