Editorial, Opinion

EDIT: MBTA to levy taxes

Whether a private company, no matter how vital to the public, should be allowed to levy taxes on said public is debatable. The question is currently on the table as state senators question how to deal with Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority debt.

The MBTA has the highest debt burden of any U.S. transit agency, with an overall debt of $5.2 billion, which increases to $8.3 billion after interest payments, according to MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo.

To help allieviate this, Massachusetts politicians have proposed a regional tax imposed by the MBTA in the operating areas of transit service, in addition to transferring some of the MBTA’s debt back to the state.

Mass. Sen. William Brownsberger, who authored the MBTA tax proposal, held that “The state needs to solve the problem that the [MBTA] has,” and added that in the fall of 2014, voters will have the opportunity to consider whether they wish to provide the MBTA additional money via taxation, and whether that system would serve as the basis of T funding in the future.

Some Greater Boston residents, however, are wary about giving taxing authority to the MBTA, especially those individuals who do not use the T. But generally speaking, people pay taxes for a number of things they don’t actually use. Adding the T to that list, when it desperately needs financial assistance, might be a practical idea. Moreover, the organization will work with the government and with voting citizens to establish a fair system.

Otherwise the plan is in the beginning phases; no serious details have been released.

If, in fact, a private company levying taxes poses a problem, perhaps the MBTA should be made public. Inasmuch as the MBTA is a private institution, the T is very much a public utility. Paying taxes to keep it running and in as little debt is possible is, some might argue, one’s civic duty — the price of living in a city with a functioning mass transportation system. The T is vital to Boston in many ways: it connects us, it allows car-less individuals (like students and lower-income residents) to access the city, which enhances the city’s economy. It’s a needed commodity even for those few individuals who do not use it, and should therefore merit serious discussion — which might result in some taxation — about how to deal with its financial deficits.

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