THE PIONEER BLOG

Jason Bedrick on Religious Freedom & Private School Autonomy

Bob and Cara talk with Jason Bedrick, EdChoice’s director of policy, about New York’s controversial “substantial equivalency” proposal that would give the state Department of Education oversight of school curricula at yeshivas and other private and parochial academies.

VIDEO: Reduce Carbon Emissions with Perq!

In the final video of a new three-part animated series, Pioneer Institute explores how the MBTA’s commuter benefit program called Perq saves you money, lowers your tax burden, and shortens your commute – all while helping the planet.

NH Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut on State-Driven K-12 Reform

New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut joins “The Learning Curve” podcast this week, plus Bob & Cara break down the new NAEP results, and share education stories out of Denver and Detroit.

VIDEO: Attract & Retain Top Employees Through Perq!

In part two of a new three-part animated video series, Pioneer Institute highlights an MBTA commuter pass program called Perq, that helps Greater Boston businesses attract and retain top talent, and results in savings through tax benefits. The video features two characters, one of whom recommends that the other, an employer, begin offering Perq. She then describes how many businesses already use the program, how it generates savings, and the impact on employee retention and productivity. Companies looking to participate in the program can visit the MBTA’s Perq website: https://perq.mbta.com/. The 2018 Pioneer Institute white paper, “Increasing MBTA Ridership and Revenues with Company Commuter Benefit Programs,” found that a 20 percent jump in employer and employee participation could increase annual T revenue by […]

VIDEO: Making a Difference Through METCO

A new video about the METCO program centers around the friendship between two Wayland High School students; one who lives in Wayland and the other from Boston. It also features interviews with METCO CEO Milly Arbaje-Thomas and Mabel Reid-Wallace, Director of Wayland’s METCO program.

MassAnalysis: Highest income towns per capita within average debt range or higher

Understanding debt limits Municipalities issue debt to fund long-term capital projects such as schools and other buildings. In well-run communities, bond terms align with the lives of the capital assets being funded, a practice that provides resources for future projects. Paying debt service on assets long out of use can have dire financial consequences. So who decides when bonds should be issued? Cities, towns, and special purpose districts may authorize indebtedness by a two-thirds vote of their respective legislative bodies. A municipality’s statutory debt limit is based on equalized valuations (EQV). The EQV represents the estimated value of all taxable property in each municipality, an amount that is regulated and reviewed every three years by the Commonwealth’s Bureau of Local […]

Telecommuting Tax Credit Stands to Help Public Transportation

Governor Baker recently proposed a telecommuting tax credit that would incentivize businesses to allow employees to work from home. The program is a part of a bill that would create a $2,000-per-employee tax credit, capped at $50 million annually, awarded to businesses that allow working from home as a way to reduce the number of cars on the road. The Governor hopes the program will reduce congestion and cut commuting times. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, Massachusetts ranks 20th in the country in the percentage of full-time telecommuters, with 4.7% of the workforce working from home. The tax credit is part of the Governor’s $18 billion long-term transportation spending plan. The telecommuter tax credit would presumably be part of […]

MBTA Facilities in Desperate Need of Spending Increase

A number of MBTA facilities have deteriorated in recent years. As a result, many commuters are left to navigate stations with crumbling steps, limited access for the disabled, broken elevators, and leaking ceilings. The condition of these facilities is not surprising, given the T’s lack of spending compared to peer transportation systems.  A 2018 report published by the MBTA rated the agency’s stations and parking facilities on a scale of 1 to 5. The report found that nearly 60 percent of the MBTA’s 378 stations and parking facilities scored 2 or less, meaning they need significant repairs. Seventy eight of those properties had a rating of 1. To make matters worse, some of the worst-rated stations include major hubs such […]

Signs of Growth in Several Gateway Cities

It’s safe to say that Boston is the economic hub of Massachusetts and will be for the foreseeable future. However, a number of cities have the potential to boost the Commonwealth’s economy in the long-run. These communities, known as “gateway cities”, were once home to booming industries that have since left; but what these industries left behind can become the foundations for another wave of economic development. Gateway cities have struggled both economically and socially over the past several decades. In fact, two characteristics that originally defined these cities were rates of educational attainment and median household incomes below the state average. While these issues persist, some communities are showing notable signs of growth, the first of which is rising […]

MassAnalysis: What are the 10 towns with the highest local taxes per capita?

Massachusetts municipalities generate the bulk of their revenue from local taxes, primarily property taxes. Tax revenue is spent on a variety of community needs including: Education Road and bridge construction Public safety Sewers and water In 2016, the 10 towns with the highest local taxes per capita had all been within the top 20 towns since 2000, according to MassAnalysis.  The towns with the highest local taxes per capita remained steady over the previous 16 years. All had less than a 20 percent increase. The amount of revenue local municipalities have to generate largely depends on how much state aid they receive. Overall, the ten towns with the highest local income taxes per capita receive very little state aid. These […]

MBTA Struggles with Commuter Rail Ridership Count

Accurate ridership calculations are critical for public transportation planning as they are a key factor in prioritizing projects. MBTA ridership statistics help determine the optimal allocation of capital among lines and trains as well as projecting capacity requirements for station platforms, waiting areas, and parking facilities.  Further, ridership patterns on existing lines can be used to predict probable patterns on proposed service extensions. The commuter rail falls far short in obtaining sufficient ridership data needed for highly calibrated project planning. Unlike subway and bus services that are operated directly by the MBTA, the commuter rail system lacks the faregates or fareboxes that, under ideal circumstances, can count passengers. The conductors on each commuter rail train must collect fares and inspect […]

MBTA’s Bus Program Driving in the Wrong Direction

According to Pioneer Institute’s MBTAAnalysis.com, the MBTA’s bus program has the second largest ridership of all MBTA modes of transportation trailing only the heavy rail system. However, in recent years ridership has begun to decline while operating expenses have risen.  From 2015 to 2017 unlinked passenger bus trips decreased by 13.3%. This was a significant shift as ridership had increased by 22.1% from 2009 to 2015. Further, total operating expenses continued to increase despite the falling ridership. Since 2015, when ridership began to decrease significantly, bus operating expenses increased by 7.1%. The expenses show no signs of slowing, as they grew by 46.4% between 2007 and 2017, increasing every year in that span. This rise led to the total operating […]

How Do Massachusetts’s State Pensions Compare with Their Peers?

For those who have kept up with Pioneer’s work on pensions, it’s clear that Massachusetts’s public retirement systems are troubled. However, readers still may wonder how these systems compare to those in other states.  Unfortunately, a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that the Commonwealth’s state-run pensions are underperforming relative to other states. This is especially concerning given that, as a whole, public pension systems nationwide are considerably underfunded. Using data from 2017 — “the most recent year for which comprehensive data were available for all 50 states” — the report found that the average funded ratio of state-run pensions was 69.1%. At just 59.9% in 2017, the funded ratio of Massachusetts was almost 10 percentage points below the […]

No Clear Correlation Between Fare Revenue and Ridership

In recent weeks, many MBTA riders have expressed frustration about the T’s recent fare hike. In fact, some riders are volunteering to stand on platforms and lead a conversation about what riders can do to roll back the hike. However, the T is unlikely to budge. Even when ridership declines for a period, fare revenue continues to climb. The last three fare hikes occurred in 2012, 2014, and 2016. While all three led to a decrease in unlinked passenger trips the following year, they generated an increase in fare revenue. In fact, fare revenue increased every year from 2007-2017, with the exception of 2010. Further, the largest increase in fare revenue actually came in a year in which ridership declined. […]

The Chancellor at this University Makes about 18.5 Times what an Average Employee at this Same University Makes… 

According to MassOpenBooks, the average annual pay for UMass Medical School Employees is $57,746. But as highlighted in the chart below, Medical School Chancellor Michael Collins makes $1,069,752.  According to USA Today, the income that qualifies a Massachusetts resident to be included in the top 1% is $582,774.  When looking at MassOpenBooks 2018 Highest Paid Employees under Higher Education, four out of the six highest-paid employees earning more than $582,774 annually are all from UMass Medical School. TITLE NAME BASE PAY OTHER PAY TOTAL PAY Chancellor and SVP Health Services Michael Collins $742,777 $326,975 $1,069,752 Executive Deputy Chancellor Provost and Dean Terence Flotte $722,495 $224,042 $946,537 Executive VP Innovation and Bus Development  James Glasheen  $477,327 $193,941 $671,268 Executive Vice Chancellor, […]