Senate Transportation Bill Executive Summary

Senate President Therese Murray issued a statement through her email newsletter, which is below. I have attached an executive summary of the Senate Transportation bill as well. A big win for the Senate President.

Reform Before Revenue: Senate Passes Bill To Dramatically Restructure And Simplify State Transportation System

I am pleased to announce that the Senate stood by its pledge of “Reform before Revenue” and in a 39 to 1 vote passed comprehensive reform legislation that consolidates multiple agencies into an independent authority and eliminates the MBTA’s “23 and out” retirement policy.

The Senate bill eliminates the Turnpike Authority, streamlines communications, and creates a more efficient and cost-effective system under a unifying agency called the Massachusetts Surface Transportation Authority (MSTA), potentially saving the Commonwealth up to $6.5 billion over 20 years.

The MSTA sheds the many layers of bureaucracy in the current system by consolidating and sharing existing resources and services. In the first two years of the Senate reform plan, the new system will see a surplus of $71.7 million in year one and $25.5 million in year two, based on reforms alone with no additional revenues attached.

Under the new Authority, the current system is reduced to two divisions: Roads and Bridges; and Public Transit.

The Roads and Bridges Division assumes the duties of MassHighway, the Turnpike Authority, the Tobin Bridge, and Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) parkways and bridges; while the Public Transit Division assumes the duties of the MBTA and provides the Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) with central oversight and funding through the new Authority.

Transition to the MSTA will phase in over a three-year period, consolidating the Western Turnpike, MassHighway and DCR parkways and bridges by July 1, 2009; the Metropolitan Highway System, the Tobin Bridge and the RTAs by July 1, 2010; and the MBTA by July 1, 2011.

The Senate bill aligns the new Authority’s retirement policy with the state retirement system, eliminating the MBTA’s “23 and out” and implementing “55 and 25”. It also requires that the cost of MBTA health care benefits will be no greater than those provided under the GIC. Employees will be required to participate in the GIC only if an actuarial study shows it to be more cost effective.

The legislation also includes significant transparency and accountability measures, including:

A special audit unit within MSTA to root out fraud, waste and abuse in Authority spending. The unit is authorized to refer matters to the state inspector general for further investigations;
Improved fiscal scrutiny for major capital expansion projects (those with projected construction costs greater than $25 million) by requiring a written finding that sufficient revenues will exist to operate the project;
Use of the state fiscal year and the state’s accounting system;
A ban on former employees from lobbying the Authority for one year;
Restrictions on the use of outside consultants;
Mandatory reporting requirements to the Legislature; and
A requirement that employee salaries are counted as operating expenses, thereby ending the Commonwealth’s practice of paying employee salaries from bond proceeds.
Massport is left untouched under the Senate restructuring bill and remains independent of the MSTA because it is not a surface transportation agency and is responsible for, and specializes in, aviation and the Port of Boston. Additionally, it does not use state money for its operations.

The bill now goes to the House for further action.


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7 Responses to Senate Transportation Bill Executive Summary

  1. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    In reference to our discussion on “reform”- before-revenue in previous entries, does this proposal meet your requirement for reform?



  2. Fred Mertz says:

    Mr. Mayor:

    I wonder what size Dunkin’ Donuts coffee to order … oh, wait, someone didn’t take up their own bet!



  3. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,
    I guess you are going to bump this issue to the archives without answering my simple question above.



  4. Bill Manzi says:

    It is not really a simple question. The first reviews have been negative on the “reform” that this bill achieves. Michael Widmer, a member of the Transportation Finance Committee, said the bill will achieve “no savings”. The Globe wrote an editorial essentially saying it was a bill that did not achieve real savings. The Globe editorial was pretty tough, but the Globe is also looking for a big gas tax increase. There was no protest of the bill by organized labor, as I have already twice pointed out. There is a clue somewhere in that silence.


  5. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    You claim my question, “does this proposal meet your requirement for reform?” is not simple.

    Well, I reviewed your fine crafted response high in journalistic construct and honed with appropriately applied political-talk to maintain a semblance of obfuscation and reduced the answer to—-NO!

    See, it is simple.

    Is that worth a coffee??



  6. Bill Manzi says:

    Today’s Globe has a bill post mortem that essentially condemns it as at best “watered down”. Widmer once again says it will achieve no real savings. The Globe points to the following as the “watered down” reforms.

    1) The elimination of 23 and out at the MBTA will only be for new hires. On that basis no immediate savings.

    2) The forcing of the MBTA employees into the state’s health care system was deleted. In its place an “actuarial” study will be done to “study” the issue. No health care savings, and maintenance of existing higher cost health care structure.

    3) Management rights language was removed. These rights had to do with being able to assign work without regard to seniority.

    Michael Widmer has called this a huge victory for the Carmen’s Union.

    “This was a grand slam home run for the Carmen’s Union. They celebrated. This is a huge victory”.

    My constant refrain, that I was not hearing any objections in the press from organized labor, has been answered by Widmer and the Globe analysis of the bill.

    I will buy the coffee.


  7. Jules Gordon says:

    Your Honor,

    I accept your coffee. Anytime next week if that’s okay with you. Going to California to see my grand kids on the 6th for a week.

    If you can’t make it next week I’ll contact you when I get back.

    The next coffee, by the way is on me.

    I’m having a good day. Fred thinks he may vote for me for Governor. Can you believe it.



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