Chapter 90 Funding: New Tug of War

Yesterday I posted about the budget conference currently under way in Boston between the House and Senate, and listed some of the local aid numbers for Methuen. I mentioned that there was still some controversy over where we would end up on Chapter 90 aid, with everyone agreeing that the number should be $300 million, but not agreeing on how to fund that number, which is a $100 million increase over last year. The Governor asked the Legislature for an additional $1 billion in revenues targeted towards transportation, but will receive only about half of that amount.(Transportation Finance is also in conference) In response to that the Governor is only willing, for now, to release Chapter 90 monies of $150 million, a cut of $50 million for localities.

The Bond Authorization bill passed by the Legislature is subject to the Governor’s release of funding, and in light of the Legislative reduction in the Governor’s new revenue proposal it appears that he is going to reduce an account that is very important to legislators, and vitally important to localities. From the Massachusetts Municipal Association website:

<blockquote The administration is citing multiple transportation priorities and the unresolved issue of available revenue as the reasons for withholding $150 million in road maintenance funding from cities and towns…“The administration continues to work with the Legislature on transportation financing,” Transportation Secretary Richard Davey stated in the letter to cities and towns, “but it is clear that we will need to make hard choices about where to devote available resources.”

He said “it may be possible” to release additional Chapter 90 funding later in the fiscal year, “depending on the final disposition” of a transportation finance plan in the Legislature.

Now that is a bit of leverage being applied by the Governor to the Legislature. Don’t pass my full finance package? Then some of your priorities will go unfunded. The Mayors have taken notice:

Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan, president of the Massachusetts Mayors Association, told the State House News Service, “We’ve gone from what was a proposed increase of 50 percent to a 25 percent reduction. In many ways it’s not comprehensible to us.”

So the Transportation Finance package continues to create some disagreement between the Governor and the Legislature. Will the Governor veto the final package? Will he eventually release the balance of the Chapter 90 money to localities? More to come for sure. The MMA statement calling for the release of the full $300 million is here.

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