Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Senate Republicans Putting Reforms in Motion

In our ongoing efforts to streamline state government functions and reduce unnecessary spending, the Senate Republican Caucus succeeded in championing a number of amendments to the Senate’s budget bill.

One such reform would strip away the use of transponders and passes that provide free access to Massachusetts toll roads. According to a report by the state’s Inspector General, Glenn Cunha, the Mass Department of Transportation forfeited over $900,000 in toll revenue between November 2009 and August 2015 by allowing holders to use non-revenue transponders. Hundreds of these devices have been given to people who do not have a legitimate public purpose for their use.

That’s just wrong; they have a cost and a burden that is unjustifiable. To illustrate the financial impact, the report found that contractors, vendors, retired state workers, active state workers in non-transportation related departments through the previous administration received nearly $1 million in free service.

These non-revenue generating transponders are activated yet they are not linked to an financial account which means the user of the transponder is not charged for their use of the roads, bridges and tunnels that all other drivers must pay to use.

While we agree that MassDot and MTA workers should have transponders available on their work vehicles or for personal vehicles used to carry out work, we feel strongly that absent a legitimate purpose no one should be given a free ride.

In the past, solutions were necessary when transponders failed to provide proper discounts for motorists when they were supposed to, and again when transponders failed to properly record the correct tolls by overcharging motorists. Now, we are working to require legitimate and specific public purposes for these types of devices. It’s time to bring this kind of waste to the end of the road.