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YCQM: April 28, 2013 - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

YCQM: April 28, 2013

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

>>> GOOD MORNING, EVERYONE. THANKS FOR JOINING US. I'M KRISTEN CARLSON. TODAY WE'RE TALKING ABOUT TRANSPORTATION ISSUES. WE'RE JOINED BY THE VERMONT TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY BRIAN SEARLES AND ALSO SENATOR DICK MAZZA WHO CHAIRS THE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE AND THANK YOU BOTH FOR BEING HERE.

>> THANK YOU.

>> WE'RE JOINED BY KYLE MIDURA, OUR STATE HOUSE REPORTER.

>> THANKS, KRISTEN. WE'LL START WITH YOU, SEN. MAZZA. TALK ABOUT THE TRANSPORTATION BUDGET THAT THE SENATE HAS SIGNED OFF ON AND THE HOUSE AS WELL.

>> WE DID GET A BILL THIS WEEK. THE HOUSE HAD ONE VERSION, WE HAD ON THE VERSION AND HOUSE HAD AN INCREASE STARTING MAY 1st AND THEY HAD INDEXING AND WE TOOK IT OUT SO THERE WON'T BE INFLATIONARY COSTS EVERY YEAR. WITH THE DIESEL TAX, IN ALL FAIRNESS WITH USAGE ISSUES, WE ADDED A DIESEL TAX THIS YEAR, 2 CENTS A GALLON ON TRUCKS AND ONE CENT A GALLON NEXT YEAR, TOTAL OF THREE CENTS. SO THE COMBINATION -- THERE WASN'T A LOT OTHER THAN THE FACT THAT WE NEEDED SOME REVENUES IN A TIME WHEN CARS ARE GETTING BETTER GAS MILEAGE, WHICH IS GOOD NEWS, AND PROTECTING OUR ENVIRONMENT, AND THE BAD NEWS IS WE'RE USING LESS GASOLINE AND WE HAD TO COME UP WITH SOME SOURCE OF REVENUE, SO WE FIGURED AS SMALL AMOUNT AS POSSIBLE TO GET THROUGH THE NEXT TWO OR THREE YEARS, BUT OUR GASOLINE IS NOT GOING TO BE THE INCOME IN THE FUTURE. WE'RE FACED WITH ELECTRIC CARS AND HYBRIDS AND SO THE FINAL BILL -- AND I THINK VERMONTERS ARE UNDERSTANDING THAT SOME SMALL AMOUNT WAS NEEDED TO CONTINUE ON ON A PATH OF BUILDING OUR INFRASTRUCTURE AND IMPROVING OUR PAVING AND OUR BRIDGES AND SO IN ESSENCE, I KNOW IT'S NOT A -- ALWAYS NOT A POPULAR WAY TO RAISE A TAX, BUT I THINK THIS IS ONE TAX THAT I THINK IF PEOPLE UNDERSTAND WHAT'S HAPPENING, IT'S AGREEABLE.

>> YOU MENTIONED THAT IT'S NOT TIED TO INFLATION, BUT THERE IS A ROLLING AVERAGE WITHIN THE CALCULATION THAT WOULD ALLOW FOR THAT NUMBER, SIX CENTS OR 5.9 CENTS TO GO UP AS THE PRICE AT THE PUMP GOES UP. HIGH HOW WOULD THIS POSSIBLY GO?

>> WE HAVE A CEILING SO I THINK IT'S FIXED AT $5.09 OR SOMETHING.

>> IT'S NOT OPEN-ENDED BECAUSE WE DON'T KNOW WHERE GASOLINE IS GOING TO BE. WE HAVE A FLOOR AND WE HAVE A CEILING. CERTAINLY, WE DON'T WANT TO GET IN A SITUATION WHERE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO PAY SO MUCH A GALLON AND WE DON'T WANT THAT TO HAPPEN, SO WE'RE TRYING TO HAVE A FLOOR AND CEILING AND WE ALWAYS CAN LOOK AT IT IN THE FUTURE, WHAT HAPPENS, BUT THERE'S A LOT OF UNCERTAINTY IN GASOLINE USAGE OUT THERE.

>> MR. SECRETARY, YOU'VE BEEN FOCUSED ON, A LOT OF PEOPLE SAY THEY'RE ALMOST BEING PEOPLIZED FOR DRIVING MORE -- PENALIZED FOR DRIVING MORE EFFICIENT CARS.

>> YOU HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT AS THE CLASSIC USER FEE AND IT GOES BACK TO THE 1930s WHEN THE FEDERAL HIGHWAY SYSTEM WAS CREATED AND GOT MORE EMPHASIS WITH THE INTERSTATE SITUATION AND IF YOU TAKE A LOOK AT THE VERMONT STRATEGY, WHICH IS TO USE STATE TRANSPORTATION FUNDS TO LEVERAGE THE FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION FUNDS, THIS IS A CLASSIC USER FEE IN THAT THE PEOPLE WHO USE THE SYSTEM MEASURED BY THE AMOUNT OF GASOLINE THAT THEY PURCHASE ACTUALLY PAY FOR THE SYSTEM. THAT'S THE WAY IT'S HISTORICALLY BEEN CONSIDERED. NOW IT'S CHANGING AND VERMONTERS PURCHASED 39.3 MILLION FEWER GALLONS IN 2012 THAN THEY DID IN 2005, AND THERE ARE A LOT OF REASONS. FUEL EFFICIENT VEHICLES IS CERTAINLY ONE OF THEM, DIFFERENT DRIVING HABITS, WE'VE INVESTED A LOT IN PARK AND RIDES, AS YOU KNOW, AND PEOPLE ARE USING THEM. WE'VE INVESTED IN PUBLIC TRANSIT AND PEOPLE ARE USING PUBLIC TRANSIT MORE THAN THEY DID. THESE ARE ALL GOALS THAT WERE SET BY THE LEGISLATURE AND VARIOUS ADMINISTRATIONS OVER TIME, AND WE'RE SEEING SOME SUCCESS. THE BY-PRODUCT OF THIS IS THAT THE PRIMARY PIECE OF THE TRANSPORTATION FUND REVENUE SYSTEM, THE GAS TAX, IS GOING DOWN AS LESS GAS IS PURCHASED.

>> SO WHAT IS THE LONG-TERM SOLUTION? YOU HEARD SEN. MAZZA JUST SAY GAS IS REALLY NOT THE TAX OF THE FUTURE. YOU BOTH KNOW THIS ISN'T SUSTAINABLE UNLESS WE'RE GOING TO BE IN A SITUATION WHERE WE JUST KEEP RAISING THE TAX.

>> THAT'S CORRECT, AND THIS PARTICULAR FIX, WE KNOW, IS A FAIRLY SHORT-TERM FIX. I THINK WE WERE FACED WITH A BUDGET THAT WAS VERY SERIOUS THIS YEAR. LAST YEAR WE HAD A 20 MILLION STATE FUND PROBLEM AND THE STATE LEGISLATURE WAS ABLE TO DEAL WITH THAT IN A DIFFERENT WAY. THIS YEAR, IT WAS HIGHER. WE WENT IN WITH ABOUT A $36 MILLION PROBLEM, AND THAT TRANSLATES TO $107 MILLION IN THE BUDGET, SO IF YOU TAKE $107 MILLION OUT OF THE BUDGET, IT REALLY PUTS PROJECTS IN JEOPARDY AND THAT'S WHAT WE WANTED TO AVOID. SO WE DON'T THINK THE PROBLEM IS GOING TO GET SMALLER GOING FORWARD. THIS PARTICULAR TRANSPORTATION BILL, THOUGH, DOES BUY US SOME TIME UNTIL WE MOVE TO WHATEVER REPLACES THE GAS TAX AS THE PRIMARY FEATURE OF THE REVENUE STREAM.

>> SEN. MAZZA, YOU'VE BEEN DEALING WITH TRANSPORTATION ISSUES FOR DECADES ON THE STATEWIDE LEVEL. WHAT DO YOU SEE AS A SOLUTION SO WE'RE NOT IN THIS POSITION A FEW YEARS AGO?

>> I THINK IT'S A NATIONAL PROBLEM, NOT JUST VERMONT. EVERY STATE I READ ABOUT IS LOOKING FOR AREAS, HOW THEY'RE GOING TO CHANGE IN THE FUTURE. A LOT OF DISCUSSION HAS BEEN CENTERED AROUND THE MILEAGE TAX AND THAT HAS PROBLEMS. I MEAN, YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO HAVE AUTOMOBILES EQUIPPED WITH EQUIPMENT THAT JUDGE WHERE THE MILEAGE IS --

>> THIS IS THE IDEA YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR HOW MANY MILES YOU DRIVE.

>> THAT'S BEEN A TOPIC OF DISCUSSION THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY, BUT I DON'T SEE HOW YOU'RE GOING TO DO IT ON A STATE WIDE BASIS ALONE. YOU'LL HAVE TO DO IT WITH OTHERS, AND THEN YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE PRIVACY ISSUE. THAT'S GOING TO BE A BIG FACTOR. WHERE HAS MY CAR BEEN DRIVEN, YOU TELL ME WHERE I AM OR DRIVE, SO IT'S AN INTERESTING DISCUSSION. YOU CAN'T -- ONE OF THE THINGS ABOUT THE GAS TAX I WANT TO ADD THAT CAME OUT ON THE SENATE FLOOR IS THAT 25 OR 30% OF THE PEOPLE WHO ARE PAYING THE GAS TAX, THE TOURISTS, ARE OUT-OF-STATORS, IT ISN'T ALL VERMONTERS. SOMEONE SAID TO ME, WHY DON'T YOU RAISE REGISTRATION AND PURCHASE USE TAX AND THAT'S FINE, BUT YOU ONLY HIT VERMONTERS AND THIS WAY, THE TOURISTS COMING IN TO OUR STATE PAY A THE -- PAY A LOT OF GAS TAX, SO THAT'S ANOTHER ADVANTAGE OF THE GAS TAX, BUT WE CAN'T CONTINUE TO RAISE THE GAS TAX EVERY YEAR IF THERE'S A PROBLEM.

>> IT SOUNDS LIKE THERE'S A PROBLEM BUT --

>> WE KNOW IT'S A PROBLEM.

>> AND HOW ARE FUEL EFFICIENT CARS, OR EVEN MORE SO, THE VEHICLES THAT DON'T NECESSARILY RUN ON GAS, AFFECTING THIS OVERALL OUTLOOK? IT DOESN'T APPEAR WE HAVE TOO MANY HYBRID OR ELECTRIC CARS CURRENTLY ON THE ROAD. ARE THEY CHANGING THE CALCULATION?

>> NO, AT THIS POINT -- IN FACT, YESTERDAY WE HAD AN INTERESTING DISCUSSION WITH TOYOTA IN MY COMMITTEE YESTERDAY TALKING ABOUT THEIR HYBRIDS AND ELECTRIC CARS. IT'S A VERY SMALL PERCENTAGE OF VERMONT RIGHT NOW, BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN IT'S NOT GOING TO GROW IN A FEW YEARS. WE HAD PUT INTO THE LEGISLATION THIS YEAR A STUDY BY MOTOR VEHICLE, TAX DEPARTMENT, OTHERS, TO LOOK AT THE FUTURE OF HOW MANY ARE GOING TO BE REGISTERED, HOW DO WE ADDRESS THAT ISSUE. THERE ARE THOSE WHO SAY, WELL, WE WANT TO BUY ELECTRIC VEHICLE NOW, BUT ALSO THE WHOLE SYSTEM IS BASED ON USAGE, SO IF WE'RE GOING TO BE FAIR TO EVERYONE, AS I SAID, THE TRUCK INDUSTRY, WE GOT TO FIND WAYS OF IF YOU HAVE A HYBRID OR IF YOU HAVE AN ELECTRIC VEHICLE, HOW CAN WE BE EQUAL WITH THE FOLKS DRIVING GASOLINE. THAT'S GOING TO BE A TOUGH ONE.

>> THE ISSUE MOVING FORWARD IN MARCH, THE HOUSE PASSED A 12 CENT HIKE IN THEIR GAS TAX AND OBVIOUSLY THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF DISCUSSION THROUGHOUT THE PROCESS ABOUT THAT BORDER ISSUE AND FEARS OF DRIVING BUSINESS ACROSS THAT STATE LINE. DID THEIR PASSAGE OF THAT IN THEIR HOUSE MAKE IT EASIER TO MOVE FORWARD WITH RAISING OUR GAS TAX?

>> VERY MUCH SO. AS YOU PUT IT LAST NIGHT, IT WAS MORE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE AND THAT'S A GAS TAX -- I ALSO WANT TO POINT OUT THAT LAST WEEK, I WAS IN NEW YORK STATE AND IT'S WAS 30 CENTS HIGHER. WE ALSO HAVE THESE ISSUES ON BORDERING, BUT I KNOW A LOT OF NEW YORKERS AT THIS POINT ARE COMING OVER TO VERMONT TO FILL UP, SO WE DO HAVE -- WE'RE SO MUCH LESS THAN NEW YORK, BUT NEW HAMPSHIRE HAS ALWAYS BEEN AN ISSUE AND IF THAT CAN COME CLOSE, AND I THINK IT WILL WITH THEIR -- I KNOW THE GOVERNOR, I SPOKE TO THE GOVERNOR OF NEW HAMPSHIRE THIS PAST WEEK, AND SHE'S VERY INTERESTED NOW IN DOING SOMETHING ON THE GAS TAX, WHICH THEY WEREN'T WANTING TO DO A FEW MONTHS AGO.

>> I THINK THE POINT ABOUT THE FEDERAL ROLE, IF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WAS PLAYING A MORE SIGNIFICANT ROLE, AS THEY ONCE DID, IN THE MAINTENANCE OF OUR SYSTEM, THE BORDER ISSUES WOULD NOT BE WHAT THEY ARE NOW EXCEPT TO THE EXTENT THAT COMPETITION FEEDS THAT. TAXES ARE NOT THE BIGGEST PIECE OF GAS PRICES RIGHT NOW. WE ALL KNOW THAT, AND EVEN THIS TAX INCREASE IS NOT ASSESSED AT PUMP, SO IT ISN'T GOING TO BE PRECISELY 5.9 CENTS AT THE PUMP. IT WILL BE INTERPRETED BECAUSE IT'S AT THE DISTRIBUTOR LEVEL AND WE STILL HAVE THE COMPETITIVE FORCES. GETTING BACK TO THE FEDERAL ROLE, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS PLAYING LESS OF A ROLE. THERE'S A WORD CALLED DIMINUTION HAPPENING IN THIS AND OTHER AREAS, SO IT'S A FANCY WORD FOR PASSING THE BUCK ON TO THE STATES SO THEY HAVE TO DEAL WITH THIS. SOME STATES HAVE MORE CAPACITY THAN OTHERS.

>> AND BY PASSING THE BUCK, I TAKE IT YOU MEAN THAT THEY HAVEN'T ALTERED THE 18.4 CENTS THAT --

>> RIGHT. THE 18.4 CENTS HASN'T BEEN ENOUGH TO FUND THE HIGHWAY TRUST FUND FOR A LONG TIME. THEY'VE BEEN MAKING MASSIVE TRANSFERS FROM THE GENERAL FUND AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL TO THE TRANSPORTATION FUND, AND, OF COURSE, THAT'S ALL ON THE CREDIT CARD TOO. SO I REALLY THINK THE FUTURE IS SOME SORT OF SYSTEM THAT METERS USE, THAT TAKES A LOOK AT WHO'S USING THE SYSTEM, WHO'S DOING THE MOST DAMAGE TO THE SYSTEM, ALL OF THOSE FACTORS. AND PUTS IN THE FAIRNESS SO THAT THE SAME PEOPLE AREN'T BEARING MOST OF THE BURDEN. AND WE KNOW, IN THE CASE OF THE GAS TAX, THERE ARE SOME FOLKS WHO ARE BEARING MORE OF A BURDEN THAN OTHERS, PARTICULARLY IN RURAL STATES, SO I THINK THIS IS DOABLE. I THINK THAT THE STUDY THAT THE SENATOR MENTIONED ON ELECTRIC VEHICLES IS, TO SOME DEGREE, GOING TO BE ABOUT METERING BECAUSE THEY ACTUALLY CAN PAY ON THE ELECTRIC BILLS, METERING ALREADY EXISTS, AND THAT WOULD -- THERE WILL BE SOME LESSONS FOR US IN TERMS OF OTHER PEOPLE PROCEEDING WITH GAS-POWERED VEHICLES.

>> TALKING, SEN. MAZZA, ABOUT THE HOUSE AND SENATE BEING A LITTLE FAR APART ON THE GAS TRACKS. THE TRANSPORTATION BILL WAS CLOSE TOGETHER, BUT THE GAS TAX WAS NOT AND THE GOVERNOR BROUGHT IN BOTH SIDES AND HE HAD A DEAL. WHAT DID THE GOVERNOR SAY?

>> I THINK EITHER BILL WAS ACCEPTABLE. I THINK THAT THE HOUSE WANTED TO LOOK MORE LONG RANGE AND NOT COME BACK TO THE VOTERS IN TWO OR THREE YEARS AND LOOK AT PUTTING SOMETHING IN PLACE WITH THE INDEXING THAT WAS ALLOWED TO CONTINUE ON, AND OUR FEELING WAS, LET'S ADDRESS THE ISSUE FOR THE NEXT TWO OR THREE YEARS AND NOT GO TOO FAR DOWN. IF WE HAVE TO COME BACK TO THE VOTERS, LET'S COME BACK TO VOTERS AND TELL THEM WHAT'S GOING ON. WE DIDN'T WANT TO ENACT SOMETHING THAT WAS GOING TO LOCK US IN FOR FIVE, SIX YEARS, BECAUSE WE KNOW IT'S GOING TO CHANGE. SO THAT IS BASICALLY WHAT IT WAS. THE OTHER ISSUE WAS THE DIESEL TAX. WE HAD PUT IT IN AND THE HOUSE DID NOT. SO THE GOVERNOR CAME IN, AS YOU RECALL, AND THE GOVERNOR'S PROPOSAL WAS 8.4 CENTS, I THINK, A GALLON, SOMETHING 8.4, AND SO WE REDUCED IT, LIKE I SAID, TO 5.9, SO HE WAS PLEASED WITH THAT, BUT I DON'T THINK THERE WAS A GREAT AMOUNT OF DIFFERENCE AS TO THE RESULT. I THINK HE WANTED THE BILL SO HE COULD SIGN IT THIS WEEK AND GET IT INTO EFFECT BY MAY 1st. THAT WAS HIS ISSUE.

>> AND THE GOVERNOR SAID WE'RE NOT WANTING TO RAISE TAXES AND AS SOON AS THE SPEECH ENDED, YOU WERE IN THE HOUSE ENACTING THE GAS TAX. DO YOU THINK THAT'S A --

>> I DON'T THINK SO. I TALKED ABOUT THE CLASSIC USER FEE AS BEING A PART OF THE GAS TAX AND I BELIEVE THAT THAT'S TRUE. WE WENT IN WITH A CONVERSATION STARTER, BASICALLY, TO DEAL WITH THE $36 MILLION HOLE. IT WAS A FAIRLY SIMPLE ONE-YEAR PROPOSAL THAT RAISED THE GAS TAX MORE THAN EIGHT CENTS. WE HAD ACTUALLY NO REAL BELIEF THAT THE LEGISLATURE WOULD FINISH THEIR WORK EXACTLY WHERE WE STARTED. THERE ARE 20 OR MORE COMPONENTS TO THE TRANSPORTATION FUND. SO, YOU KNOW, WE WENT IN LOOKING TO FILL THE HOLE. YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER THAT WITH THAT 39.3 MILLION FEWER GALLONS, WE ACTUALLY ARE COLLECTING LESS, SO THE GOVERNOR SPOKE ABOUT THE LEAKY BUCKET AND THAT'S REALLY WHAT WE HAD. COSTS INCREASING, BUYING POWER BEING REDUCED, LESS FUEL BEING CONSUMED, WE REALLY NEEDED TO GET BACK WHAT WE HAD LOST OVER THE YEARS, AND THE BACKDROP TO THIS IS A $240 MILLION GAP ANNUALLY BETWEEN WHAT WE'RE DOING AND WHAT'S ACTUALLY NEEDED, AND PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER VERMONT, WHO LIVE PARTICULARLY ON SOME OF THE RURAL, LESS-USED STATE HIGHWAYS, CAN TELL YOU ABOUT THE CONDITION OF THOSE ROADS. WE'D LIKE TO BE ABLE TO GET TO MORE OF THEM AND THAT'S WHAT THIS IS ABOUT.

>> WE NEED TO TAKE A

>> WELCOME BACK, EVERYONE. WE'RE TALKING ABOUT TRANSPORTATION ISSUES WITH SEN. DICK MAZZA, CHAIR OF THE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE IN THE SENATE, AND BRIAN SEARLES, THE VERMONT SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION. NOW, AGAIN, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THE GAS TAX, WHICH IS GOING TO BE ENACTED ON MAY 1st TO HELP PAY FOR PROJECTS. WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT PEOPLE CAN EXPECT AS WE HEAD INTO THE SUMMER PAVING SEASON?

>> WELL, I CAN TELL YOU THAT WE'VE GOT $108 MILLION PAVING PROGRAM THAT'S BEEN APPROVED AS PART OF THIS BUDGET. THAT IS A LITTLE MORE THAN WE SPENT LAST YEAR, WHICH WAS A VERY AMBITIOUS PROGRAM. WE HAVE A NUMBER, A PERCENTAGE OF VERY POOR ROADS COMING DOWN, IT'S BEEN COMING DOWN FOR A COUPLE OF YEARS.

>> WHAT HOW MANY HAVE POOR ROADS?

>> IT'S ABOUT 24% RIGHT NOW.

>> THAT'S A --

>> IT'S ONE OUT OF EVERY FOUR MILES, A SERIOUS PROBLEM. IT'S PART OF THAT $240 MILLION ISSUE ON AN ANNUALIZED BASIS. WE THINK WE CAN BRING THAT DOWN ANOTHER THREE OR FOUR PERCENTAGE POINTS WITH THIS BUDGET. SO WE'RE VERY PLEASED ABOUT THAT. WE'VE GOT THE BIGGEST BRIDGE PROGRAM THAT WE'VE EVER HAD THIS YEAR, AND THAT'S ACCELERATED BRIDGE PROJECTS INVOLVED IN THAT. SOME EFFICIENCIES THAT CAME OUT OF THE IRENE EXPERIENCE ARE PART OF WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO THIS YEAR, AND, OF COURSE, EFFICIENCIES DON'T EQUAL LESS MONEY SPENT. EFFICIENCIES ACTUALLY EQUAL MORE MONEY SPENT BECAUSE OF THE QUEUE OF PROJECTS THAT WE HAVE SO WE JUST GET MORE DONE. THIS GETS MORE DONE. WE WERE DOWN TO 9% ON STRUCTURAL DEF FISH BRIDGES, WE WERE -- DEFICIENT BRINLS, WE WERE AT 14% A FEW YEARS AGO. IT'S ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY THAT WE KEEP THE SYSTEM SAFE, NUMBER ONE, AND OPERATIONAL, NUMBER TWO. IF YOU HAVE A BRIDGE THAT FAILS INSPECTION, THAT ROAD IS CLOSED UNTIL THAT BRIDGE CAN BE FIXED. WE DON'T LIKE THE IDEA OF HAVING TO CLOSE BRIDGES ON AN EMERGENCY BASIS. WE'D MUCH RATHER HAVE A PROGRAM THAT KEEPS THEM IN GOOD REPAIR.

>> SEN. MAZZA, WHAT ELSE ABOUT THE TRANSPORTATION BUDGET?

>> I JUST WANT TO MAKE ONE POINT THAT THE TRANSPORTATION IS NOT ALL ABOUT HIGHWAYS AND BRIDGES. WE'RE INVOLVED WITH OUR STATE-OWNED AIRPORTS, OUR RAIL SERVICE. PUBLIC TRANSIT ALONE IS $28 MILLION THIS YEAR, SO WE TAKE ALL THESE DIFFERENT -- WHEN WE SPEAK OF TRANSPORTATION, IT'S NOT JUST THE ROADS AND BRIDGES. WE INVOLVE A LOT AND I CAN ALSO ASSURE FOLKS, AND IT'S IN THE LEGISLATION THIS YEAR, THAT EVERY NICKEL RAISED IN THE GAS TAX WILL GO SPECIFICALLY FOR TRANSPORTATION. THAT'S BEEN A CONCERN OF A LOT OF FOLKS IN VERMONT. THEY SAY, WELL, WE DON'T MIND THE GAS TAX GOING UP, BUT YOU'RE GOING TO SPEND IT FOR SOMETHING ELSE, EDUCATION OR WHATEVER, BUT THIS WILL GO FOR TRANSPORTATION. SO I THINK THAT'S AN IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER. BUT WE INVOLVE, WHETHER IT'S AMTRAK OR WHETHER IT'S FREIGHT SERVICE IN VERMONT, OR WHETHER IT'S OUR AIRPORTS, OUR PUBLIC TRANSIT, THERE'S A WHOLE ARRAY OF ISSUES WITH TRANSPORTATION.

>> YOU BROUGHT UP PLANES. I HAVE TO ASK, THERE'S A LOT OF CONTROVERSY AND THE GOVERNOR PROPOSED A NEW STATE PLANE. AS WE HEAD INTO THE CRUNCH TIME HERE, WILL THERE BE ANY NEW URBAN TO A STATE PLANE THIS -- NEW PUSH FOR A STATE PLANE THIS YEAR COMING TO THE END OF THE SESSION?

>> NO, THERE WILL NOT AND THAT DECISION WAS MADE BECAUSE THE STATE PLANE WHICH HAS BEEN PART OF OUR AIRPORT OPERATIONS FOR, OH, IT'S A 1962 AIRCRAFT, SO THAT TELLS YOU HOW LONG THIS PARTICULAR ONE HAS BEEN INVOLVED, WE JUST FELT AS THOUGH THIS PLANE WAS TOO OLD, IT NEEDED TOO MUCH MAINTENANCE, HAD TOO MANY ISSUES, SO THAT'S THE REASON WE CONTEMPLATED IT. THE TIMING WASN'T GOOD, ADMITTEDLY --

>> IS IT COMING BACK NEXT YEAR?

>> I HAVE NO IDEA, BUT AT SOME POINT, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO CONSIDER THE REPLACEMENT OF THAT AIRCRAFT.

>> SOME OF THE SUBSIDIES HAVE BEEN AN ISSUE THAT'S BEEN DEBATED IN BOTH THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE. WHERE DID YOU LAND ON THOSE?

>> HERE'S MY FEEL ABOUT RAIL. RAIL'S FUTURE IS VERY BRIGHT IN VERMONT, PASSENGER RAIL. LET ME TELL YOU THAT WE CAN'T BACK OUT ON THE SUBSIDIES AT THIS POINT. HERE'S TWO REASONS WHY. NUMBER ONE, WE'RE VERY CLOSE TO PUTTING A PASSENGER TRAIN INTO MONTREAL. WHEN THAT HAPPENS, RIDERSHIP WILL DOUBLE OR TRIPLE. WE'VE BEEN TRYING TO THREE YEARS TO GET A PASSENGER TRAIN BO MONTREAL. WE HAD IT AT ONE TIME AND WE NO LONGER HAVE IT. THE OTHER ISSUE WALS THE TRAIN COMES FROM BURLINGTON TO RUTLAND AND WE'RE GOING TO TRIPLE THE PASSENGER SERVICE WHEN IT COMES TO BURLINGTON BECAUSE YOU HAVE TWO AMTRAK SERVICES THAT WILL PROVIDE A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF RIDERSHIP, BUT WE CAN'T PULL THE PLUG ON AMTRAK RIGHT NOW. WE HAVE TO GO THROUGH -- WE PUT A LOT OF MONEY INTO OUR RAILS, BUT IT'S A BENEFIT OF RAIL -- OF PASSENGER AND FREIGHT, BUT AT THIS POINT, EVEN THOUGH WE DO HAVE SOME LANGUAGE IN THE BILL THAT ADDRESSES AN INCREASE IN FEES FOR THE RIDERSHIP, BUT WE'RE VERY CLOSE TO BOTH OF THOSE. BURLINGTON AND MONTREAL.

>> THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF THIS DEVOLUTION WE TALKED ABOUT, LESS OF A FEDERAL ROLE IN AMTRAK AND MORE OF A STATE ROLE, AND AS THE SENATOR MENTIONED, THEY HAVE INSTRUCTED US TO TAKE A -- TO USE WHAT INFLUENCE WE CAN TO ENSURE THAT MORE IS CAPTURED AT THE FARE LEVEL FOR AMTRAK.

>> WILL RAIL SERVICE BE SPEEDING UP AT ALL? I KNOW THAT IN MY TRIPS ON AMTRAK, SOMETIMES IT FEELS LIKE IT TAKES QUITE A WHILE TO GET THROUGH THE STATE WHEREAS ONCE YOU PASS INTO OTHER STATES, TRIPS SPEED UP QUITE A BIT. IS THERE GOING TO BE ANY CHANGE THERE?

>> WELL, ACTUALLY, THE VERMONT PROJECT ON THE VERMONTER LINE IS THE FIRST RAIL PROJECTS THAT WAS COMPLETED, SO SPEEPD ARE ALREADY UP IN -- SPEEDS ARE ALREADY UP IN VERMONT. THERE'S A PROJECT IN MASSACHUSETTS THAT WILL TAKE US STRAIGHT DOWN THROUGH WHAT'S KNOWN AS THE KNOWLEDGE CORRIDOR THROUGH AMHERST INSTEAD OF OVER TO PALMER. THAT PROJECT IS UNDERWAY. CONNECTICUT IS MAKING PROGRESS ON RAIL IMPROVEMENTS ON THEIR PART OF THE VERMONTER LINE. WHEN THESE PROJECTS ARE COMPLETED, ALONG WITH OUR PROJECT THAT THAT WILL BE GOING ON THIS SUMMER FROM ST. ALBANS TO THE BORDER, WE'LL BE CLOSER TO GETTING TO MONTREAL AND WE WILL HAVE CUT AN HOUR AND A HALF OFF THE VERMONTER'S TRIP TO NEW YORK AND WE'LL BE COMPETITIVE WITH THE AUTOMOBILE.

>> BOTH OF YOU HAVE WORKED IN TRANSPORTATION FOR SO MANY YEARS. I'M CURIOUS, WHAT CONCERNS YOU THE MOST AS WE LOOK DOWN THE ROAD?

>> WELL, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE HAVEN'T REALLY TALKED ABOUT YET TODAY IS THE IRENE EXPERIENCE, AND THERE ARE $52 MILLION IN THIS BUDGET FOR CONTINUING IRENE REPAIRS. THAT STORY IS NOT OVER. THAT STORM WAS SO DEVASTATING AND WE'VE HAD A NUMBER OF STORMS THAT HAD HIGHER VOLUME AND CONCENTRATION OF RAINFALL. IT'S THAT TREND THAT WE'RE CHANGING CLIMATE AND ITS EFFECT ON OUR SYSTEM PROBABLY WORRIES ME THE MOST AND SECOND WOULD BE THE OVERALL ISSUE OF FUNDING THAT WE TALKED ABOUT.

>> HOW MUCH OF THE PIECE THAT WE'RE DEALING THIS YEAR IS A DIRECT RESULT OF IRENE?

>> WELL, WE HAD ABOUT 50 MILLION THAT WAS AT RISK. IRENE FEDERAL MONEY THAT WAS AT RISK THIS YEAR OF GOING BACK TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IF WE DIDN'T USE IT AND OUR CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION DID SUCH A GREAT JOB OF PULLING TOGETHER EVERYTHING WE NEEDED FOR THAT STORM, IT WAS VERY IMPORTANT THAT WE KEEP THE EXPENDITURE OF THOSE FUNDS AND THE REPAIR OF IRENE DAMAGE GOING SO WE CAN PUT THAT PART OF THE STORM BEHIND US.

>> SEN. MAZZA?

>> MY FEAR IS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, THE CONDITION FINANCIALLY AT THIS POINT, IS NOT GOING TO BE THERE IN THE FUTURE FOR TRANSPORTATION LIKE THEY HAVE IN THE PAST OVER THE YEARS. WE HAVE TO COME UP WITH THOUGHTS AND IDEAS AND IT'S NOT EASY FOR SOMEONE LIKE OURSELVES TO SIT HERE AND TELL PEOPLE THEY HAVE TO INCREASE THEIR GAS TAX. THIS IS A VERY DIFFICULT POSITION TO BE IN, SO WE HAVE TO FIND NEW AREAS. WHAT TO DO DIFFERENTLY, BECAUSE I DON'T THINK THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS GOING TO BE ISSUING A LOT OF NEW MONEY TO STATES. EVERY STATE IS EXPERIENCING THISES. THIS IS NOT, LIKE I SAID EARLIER, IT'S NOT A VERMONT PROBLEM, IT'S NATIONWIDE AND WE'RE STRUGGLING WITH WHAT THE NEXT ANSWER IS.

>> THE LEGISLATURE IS LOOKING TO ADJOURN SOON, MAY 11th.

>> RIGHT.

>> I'M CURIOUS IF YOU SEE ANY ROADBLOCKS. WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE FINAL PUSH FOR THE GAS TAX?

>> IT HAPPENS EVERY YEAR SINCE I'VE BEEN THERE. THE FINAL IS GOING TO BE THIS IS GOING TO CRASH AND THAT'S GOING TO CRASH AND THAT'S --

>> WHAT'S GOING TO CRASH?

>> WE HAVE A BUDGET ALL OVER THE -- I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT THE PASSENGER BILL IS ON TRACK, THE TRANSPORTATION BILL IS PASSED. THE BIG ISSUE WILL BE THE TAX BILL AND THE BUDGET. AND SO AS YOU KNOW, THE HOUSE CAME IN AT $27 MILLION I GUESS IN TAXES AND THE SENATE WILL NOT BE ANYWHERE NEAR, THAT I HOPE. PEOPLE ARE TAXED OUT, AND SO THERE WILL BE -- THAT'S GOING TO BE A BIG DISCUSSION OF HOW MUCH WE WANT TO RAISE AT THE END.

>> WHY IS IT SO NECESSARY TO RAISE TAXES? WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT THE BUDGETS AND BILLIONS OF DOLLARS, IT SEEMS TO SOME FOLKS THAT WHY CAN'T LAWMAKERS FIND $10 MILLION IN FUNDS IN CUTS?

>> THE GOVERNOR HAS BEEN SAYING ALL ALONG, I DON'T KNOW WHY THAT WE HAVE TO RAISE IT. I HAVEN'T BEEN TOLD. WE HAVEN'T HAD A REVIEW ABOUT WHAT THE NEEDS ARE, BUT MY FEELING, THIS IS NO TIME TO RAISE ALL THE TAXES THEY DISCUSSED IN THE HOUSE AND I HOPE WE CAN COME UP WITH LITTLE OR NOTHING AT ALL, AND THE GOVERNOR HAS SAID THAT AND I AGREE WITH HIM. HE HAS A PLAN AND I THINK IT CAN HAPPEN.

>> A LOT WAS MADE IN THE LAST SESSION ABOUT THE SENATE AND HOW THINGS WERE, OR MORE ACCURATELY, WERE NOT RUNNING SMOOTHLY. YOU HAVE SOME CONCERNS ABOUT THINGS LAST YEAR. HOW HAS IT GONE THE FIRST HALF OF THIS BIENNIUM?

>> VERY WELL. THE PRO TEM HAS DONE A TERRIFIC JOB. HE'S WORKING VERY HARD AT IT. IN FACT, SOMEONE GOT UP ON THE FLOOR THE OTHER DAY AND SPOKE ON HOW SMOOTH THINGS WERE RUNNING. THERE'S A SCHEDULE. WE WILL NOT HAVE THE PROBLEMS WE HAD LAST SESSION. IT'S GOING GOOD. I THINK THE UNDERSTANDING THAT -- WE ALSO HAVE A SESSION WITH A LOT OF NEW MEMBERS, BRAND-NEW SENATE AND I THINK THE EXPECTATIONS WERE HIGH AND I THINK ONCE WE HAD SOME MEETINGS LAST SUMMER, SOME CAUCUSES PUT TOGETHER, AND I THINK IT WAS LAID OUT THAT THESE ARE THE THINGS THAT WE THINK WE CAN ACCOMPLISH AND WHAT YOU CAN'T ACCOMPLISH AND I THINK REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS CAME TOGETHER, THE LEADERSHIP OF THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR WHO PRESIDES OVER THE SANT AND DID A GREAT -- OVER THE SENATE AND DID A GREAT JOB OF PUTTING PEOPLE TOGETHER WITH THE PRO TEM AND I THINK EVERYONE, THEY'RE A LOT MORE RELAXED THIS SESSION THAN THEY WERE LAST SESSION.

>> GIVING US SOME INSIGHT THERE, THANK YOU. BRIAN SEARLES, VERMONT'S TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY, WANT TO MAKE SURE THIS BILL MAKE IT THROUGH THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE AND IT SEEMS LIKE WE'RE ON TRACK.

>> WE ARE ON TRACK.

>> THANKS TO YOU AT HOME FOR WATCH EVERYONE. HAVE A GREAT SUNDAY. TAKE CARE. CAPTIONING PROVIDED BY. CAPTION ASSOCIATES, LLC www.captionassociates.com

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