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Mass. Governor Criticizes Legislative Leaders' Transportation Plan

Ride Works to End in Berkshires
Berkshire Regional Transit Authority

Democratic leaders in the Massachusetts legislature and House Republicans both answered Governor Deval Patrick’s 2014 transportation budget with plans of their own, but the governor is warning that a plan too small would hurt low and middle income families .

On Tuesday, top Democrats in the Massachusetts legislature including Senate President Therese Murray, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and chairs of the House and Senate Ways and Means committees released a transportation plan to rival investments called for in Governor Patrick’s fiscal year 2014 budget proposal.

The plan released by the legislative leaders would hinge on a $500 million increase in revenue through a 3-cent increase in the gasoline tax, as well as a one dollar-per-pack increase on tobacco products. 

The governor has been pushing to raise $1.9 billion in additional revenue through the income tax, and elimination of deductions, to make significant investments in education and transportation.

Governor Patrick responded to a question about what he thought about the legislative leaders’ plan Thursday at an event in Berkshire County…

"I understand this is hard but there is such a thing as too small, and I think fundamentally what the legislative leadersships' proposal does is ask everybody in the commonwealth to pay more and get less," said Patrick.

The legislative leaders’ plan would preserve the governor’s $300 million for Chapter 90 local aid to assist cities and towns in repairing roads and bridges.

It would also move employees off of the Capital Budget over three years, increase funding for Regional Transit Authorities, and fully fund the Snow and Ice Budget.

The legislative leadership is warning that now is not the time to burden Massachusetts families with an increase on the income tax.

In a statement, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said, “With this plan, we seek to provide adequate funding for the 21st Century transportation system our economy needs while not over-burdening the families and businesses of Massachusetts. It also helps maintain our strong financial standing, which lowers our borrowing costs when they arise.”

However, the plan also does not address many of the governor’s modernization projects, including repairs to the I-91 viaduct in Springfield, or restoring passenger rail from Pittsfield to New York City.

The governor said the state government must make critical investments to modernize the transportation system.

"I think as a commonwealth we need a modern system," said Patrick.

Meanwhile, House Republicans have released their own transportation plan, which is significantly smaller than the governor’s and legislative leaders’ plan. The Republicans’ plan  would not raise taxes, but would pay for investments by making a number of reforms to government.

Representative Peter Durant of the 6th Worcester District is the ranking Republican on the House transportation committee said the conversation should be started by asking how to solve problems, not by asking how to raise taxes.

Reforms would include repealing the Pacheco Law, which requires a government analysis before a project can be privatized, eliminating Project Labor Agreements, and other reforms.

The House Republicans’ plan would also preserve Chapter 90 funding, focus on eliminating debt from the MBTA, and would forward fund Regional Transit Authorities -- but would not identify or dedicate funding to specific projects. 

The House Republicans’ plan would also dedicate a portion of new tax revenue growth towards transportation needs.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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