© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Transportation Heads Make Case for Budget

By Charlie Deitz


Pittsfield, MA – The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is facing cuts of about 15 million dollars according to the 2012 budget proposal released by Governor Deval Patrick. This week, transportation officials made their case to house and senate members not to cut any more funding

Berkshire Community College played host to a round of public budget hearings, part of an effort to make sure communities through out the commonwealth get a chance to see the process in action. Tuesday afternoon, Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Mullan made a case to sustain the 363 million dollar funding for the department to house and senate ways and means committee members. Mass DOT was only formed at the end of 2009 to merge all state transportation agencies into one, Mullan says in the first full year of operation the new organization has saved taxpayers over 120 million dollars and has embarked on an aggressive infrastructure repair program.

Ways and means members had their chance to pick apart the transportation budget and call department officials to the carpet on spending allowances, Medford representative Carl Sciortino wants to hear more about the agency's massive debt load.

Mullan took time to highlight achievements over the last year, saying that 70 percent of projects are coming in on time, up from 15 percent just a few years ago. But the agency invests much of its annual allotment into capital projects and contractually obligated costs, so the 15 million dollar hit will have to be absorbed with cuts to regional transit authorities and some agency staff layoffs. The MBTA actually requests a budget increase due to its own shortfalls and funding for snow and ice removal needs to be bumped up as well, especially after this severe winter. As far as labor costs, Richard Davey, the administrator for the rail and transit division says they've had some success moving their employees into the state health care program known as the GIC. So far 7 unions have moved over, and several others are actually suing the department for trying to coerce them to move to the GIC.

Another cost saving initiative has been streamlining RMV web services like registration renewals, and routine paperwork requests. RMV's through out the state could be looking at being closed down next year, but Rachel Kaprilian says the high usage of web services has helped to keep costs down so the RMV in North Adams was able to remain open.

The ways and means committee will take the information gained in the hearing to make their own house and senate budget recommendations, which is why the state agencies bring out their key players to make the most appealing case for why their house should be left unharmed. The house budget, which in recent years has been even more sparse than the governor's should be finalized in April.