In remarks to a closed door meeting of state and municipal leaders Secretary of Transportation James Aloisi struck back hard at the State Senate, calling “reform before revenue” a “meaningless slogan.” From the State House News Service:
Taking direct aim at the central mantra behind Senate President Therese Murray’s transportation reform policy, Gov. Deval Patrick’s top transportation aide on Wednesday derided her insistence on “reform before revenue” as a “meaningless slogan.”
Ouch! Senate leaders responded through the Chair of Ways and Means, Steven Panagiotakos:
Senate leaders said they were bewildered by the criticism.
“I don’t even know what to think,” said Senate Ways and Means chair Steven Panagiotakos.
“I would say it’s certainly not meaningless to the citizens of Massachusetts,” said Panagiotakos (D-Lowell). “Everywhere I’ve gone, people have thought that was the proper approach: clean up the transportation system, make it as efficient as possible, then you have an idea of how much it’s going to cost.”
The Republicans piled on Aloisi as well, with Sen. Richard Tisei slamming him over his recent comment that as a staff lawyer for the Turnpike Authority it had not been “his job to tell people the truth”.
Referring to a Boston Globe column in which Aloisi was quoted saying that during his time as a top attorney at the Turnpike Authority, “It wasn’t my job to tell people the truth,” Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei questioned Aloisi’s credibility.
“I find it kind of surprising that somebody who was quoted over the weekend saying he wasn’t paid to tell the truth over the Big Dig is now promoting a transportation plan where you have to wonder if he’s being paid to tell the truth now,” Tisei said. “The administration doesn’t have a lot of credibility right now.”
Secretary Aloisi also said, according to meeting participants, that he would recommend that the Governor veto a nine cent increase in the gas tax. Secretary Aloisi did not just pull the nine cent figure out of his hat. That number increasingly has been coming out of the Senate side as the upper limits of what that body might accept for an increase. With Aloisi now openly threatening a veto of that number the Governor has decided to raise the stakes with Senate leadership, and return some of the political fire directed at his proposal. The Governor has also hit the road to throw his personal weight behind the transportation package, traveling around the state to hold events where he can explain his position and take questions from concerned citizens. It is a powerful tool to use, and shows that the Governor is fully engaged in trying to win support for his proposals. The Transportation Policy Chess match continues. Senate leadership, your move!