A Holiday the MBTA Can’t Afford to Take

1216758618Lately it seems that the MBTA has become the redheaded stepchild of financially troubled quasi-public agencies. While the Turnpike Authority is offered bailouts, the public transit system’s pleas for help coping with increased ridership and soaring fuel prices have largely gone unheeded.

To add insult to injury, the state seems ready to allow the fifth-annual sales tax holiday on August 16-17, which will deprive the MBTA of some much-needed cash.

According to the Pioneer Institute, the MBTA gets 20 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue, which makes up nearly 60 percent of its budget. As MBTA Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Davis testified in March, the faltering economy is hurting the agency’s bottom line.

Sales tax revenue, our largest source of revenue, has grown less than expected and has not met even the most pessimistic minimums assumed at the start of forward funding.

It doesn’t seem like it’s a good time to take money away from the MBTA, especially when you take into account that last year’s sales tax holiday cost the state $15.9 million in taxes, which in turn cost the MBTA slightly more than $3 million. Even at $4 a gallon, that could buy a lot of gas for the buses.