Support for a regional gas tax among Northeastern governors has finally evaporated in the face of skyrocketing fuel costs.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday withdrew his support for the Transportation and Climate Initiative, which would have raised the price of a gallon of gas by up to 38 cents. Baker had long touted TCI as a way to reduce emissions from cars and trucks, but now says the agreement is “no longer the best solution for the Commonwealth’s transportation and environmental needs.”
Twelve states signed on to TCI when it was first proposed last December. But with Massachusetts’ exit from the compact, only Washington, D.C. and Gov. Dan McKee of Rhode Island remain interested, leaving the climate agreement dead in the water for the foreseeable future.
The demise of TCI is good news for drivers in New England, who have already been hammered with soaring energy costs and high inflation on essential goods and services.
The now-unsuccessful climate initiative would have imposed stringent requirements on fuel producers to purchase a dwindling number of allowances for carbon emissions, essentially forcing a 26% reduction in emissions by 2032. Taxpayers would have footed a 3 billion dollar bill for this radical energy wishlist.
In Massachusetts alone, the cost of a gallon of gasoline would have risen by anywhere from 17 to 38 cents per gallon, while simultaneously driving a massive fuel shortage. As a result, more than 80,000 vehicles would have been without fuel in 2025, just two years after the program was scheduled to begin – leaving low-income drivers with few alternatives.
“TCI is a regressive gas tax scheme that would have hurt the middle class and the working poor the most,” said Paul Craney, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “It’s such wonderful news to see that Massachusetts families will not be forced to endure the economic hardship TCI would have imposed upon them.”
Baker’s decision came just hours after Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut reversed his own course on TCI, saying he would not promote legislation to join the agreement during next year’s session. For nearly a year, Lamont had made little progress in convincing the legislature to sign up for the new gas tax, despite significant Democratic majorities in both chambers.
“Look, I couldn’t get [TCI] through when gas prices were at historic lows. So, I think the legislature has been pretty clear – it is a tough rock to push when gas prices are so high,” Lamont said on Tuesday.
Sen. Martin Looney – the influential Senate President who has railed against the climate agreement as a regressive tax on the poor – pointed out that the Connecticut legislature would never pass TCI without proactive support from Gov. Lamont.
“Without the governor advocating for this, pushing for it, it clearly can’t happen,” he said. “What the governor said yesterday was that we’re going to defer this to another time because of the fact that gas prices are currently so high that any further increase would be punitive, and I think that’s certainly right.”
Now that Massachusetts and Connecticut have thrown in the towel on the climate agreement, inflation-weary residents across New England will avoid state-imposed fuel shortages and even higher prices at the pump.