Transport: Nope, still don’t get it

Things must be pretty tense on Beacon Hill these days. Mary Connaughton's aggravated. Aloisi's irritated. Therese Murray is dissed.

Again … the frustrating thing about the Transport Reform Rodeo down at the State House is the lack of specificity. Certainly, Jim Aloisi ought to act like a grownup, and if he feels that he has been treated disrespectfully, he can choose to ignore the nanna-nanna-boo-boo and try to respond to the substance of any particular complaint. I think any legislator can similarly discount Mr. Aloisi's outbursts. Does this need to be personal, folks?

And what the hell is “this” about, anyway?

Recently, we've had the Governor's Chief of Staff, the Secretary of Transportation, and the chair of the Joint Transportation Committee all hold forth on this blog. And I don't feel like I know any more than before. I still do not understand the slogan “reform before revenue.” As far as it goes, Aloisi is right: It is a meaningless slogan, unless one provides meaning and context.

To those yoked to this slogan, I ask: Precisely what reforms are missing from Gov. Patrick's plan? Or are legislators just afraid of raising the gas tax? (Is this just a bit of not-very-artful CYA? If so, why bother?)

I keep reading news articles with various players slapping each other around, but I'm still learning precious little about what's actually in play. Can the players and the press actually trust the public with the details?

Time's-a-wasting before the 'Pike hikes fares — and when the swaptioneers may call in their chits. If legislators, Pike board members and the Secretary can have an all-out food fight in the public, can't they discuss the details under consideration in public, with the public?

PS: Globe supports the gas tax hike.

This post was originally published with Soapblox and contains additional formatting and metadata.
View archived version of this post
.



Discuss

27 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Where are the grown ups?

    Politicians of all stripes wonder why soccer moms, NASCAR dads, urban youth, or any other demographic tunes out.  Here it is folks -- let's hash this out in public, and decide what we want and how to implement it.  Like adults.

    • Tom, that has been happening, and more is on the way

      Here's an email I got about a hearing tomorrow. Please go.

      Last week, the Governor held a series of meetings with residents in cities and towns across the Bay State to discuss his transportation reform legislation and to gather feedback. As this important debate continues, we have encouraged you to attend the public legislative hearings being held by the Joint Committee on Transportation, including one scheduled for Wednesday at 1:00 PM in Boston in the Gardner Auditorium at the Mass. State House. Due to the memorial services Wednesday for Speaker George Keverian, however, the Boston legislative hearing will be postponed until Thursday, March 12 at 1:00 PM in Room A1 at the Mass. State House.

      I hope you will be able to attend and share your thoughts and ideas.

      Best,

      Charlotte Golar Richie Executive Director Deval Patrick Committee

      As background, you might want to read Pat Carney's excellent testimony submitted to the Transportation Committee.

      • I don't know who Tom is...

        but I can't go; I've got to get through about 25 pages of somebody else's Ph D thesis tomorrow so I can write 3 pages of mine.

        • Okay, sorry, Tommy!

          Just going by your profile to get to your name. I apologize for name-calling; I don't much like it when people call me "Mike" so I can understand!

          Good luck with the thesis!

          At the Springfield hearing, there were plenty representatives of (at least some of) the demographics you mention. I'd say the split was fairly even for/against the Governor; which I have to say surprised me -- I would have thought it would have come down heavily against him.

  2. Someone finally gets it

    Charley, you've raised a fantastic point.

    All the focus so far has been on the gas tax and Aloisi. Meanwhile there has been no discussion about the reforms. Here's what we should be debating instead...

    1) Do we want one mega-authority running our subway system, highway system, and turnpike system like the Senate has proposed? Or do we want to keep the MBTA in existance, just with a smaller board directly reporting to the transportation secretary as Gov. Patrick has proposed.

    2) Gov Patrick says his plan will result in 300 job cuts. Is this enough? Should we require more?

    3) Both the Senate and Gov. patrick's plan would strip the MBTA employees union of their ability to negotiate health care benefits, and dial back the retirement benefits for future hires. Given this state's support of labor, is this something that should be supported? And if so, do Boston-area legislators have the political support to vote for such a reform in teh face of heavy MBTA union pressure?

    4) The Senate would give a special commission the job of reviewing proposed private/public partnerships. Gov Patrick would give the job to EOT employees. Which is the better way to go?

    5) Should we require a moratorium on mass transit expansions unless the state can prove it has the resources to pay for it?

    6) Should the state absorb some of the MBTA's Big Dig mitigation-related debt? About $2 billion of the agency's $8 billion is related to projects it was forced to do thanks to a Conservation Law Foundation lawsuit. The MBTA is drowning in debt and a 19-cent gas tax hike will only give the MBTA enough money to prevent a fare hike, not actually pay down some of its debt load.

    7)Should the governor be given the power to raise turnpike tolls unilaterally, as he's proposing to do?

    What else am I missing?

    • There's been plenty of discussion about reforms

      In fact, the Senate bill, as I understand it, is all about reforms, and nothing about how we pay for them. Same old evasiveness that got us into the pickle we're in now. As the Secretary has pointed out, some reforms cost money; it's not all about cutting payrolls and benefits, though that needs to happen, too.

      One huge example of a reform that will cost BIG TIME is to get MassHighway employees off the capital budget and onto the operating budget. I'm a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), and I suspect any company that tried to do such shenanigans would be investigated by the SEC (yeah, I know, not the same SEC that never caught Bernie Madoff, but the SEC that we're supposed to have!).

      Point is, we are using the credit card (borrowing through bonding) to meet the payroll. That's a huge deception, which has left Massachusetts in the unenviable spot of #1 on the list of how much of our transportation budget goes to debt service. The median for all 50 states is about 6%, for us, it's approaching 50%!

      At the risk of repeating myself, read Pat Carney's testimony talking about these issues and the issue of fairness; an issue that is also being discussed in the wrong way.

      Your #3 is misframed, imho -- it's not about being pro- or anti-labor, it's an issue of fairness. What is it about MBTA employees that makes them deserve the largess of a better pension and healthcare system than other state employees?

      Your #5 is a really, really BAD idea! This is the attitude that has put us in a $20 billion hole that will take years to fill in. I believe the Governor has said that if we were to solve ALL of our problems simply with a gas tax hike (something he does NOT favor!), we would have to raise it by 73 cents (if I remember correctly) right away!

      Your #6 -- see above, especially Pat Carney's testimony.

      • Just to clarify...

        These aren't my ideas, they're the actual ideas contained within the dueling reform plans.

        And #4 is somewhat about this state's attitude towards labor, because both reform plans call for stripping a legally protected collective bargaining unit of some of its major negotiating points. I'm not neccesarily making a judgement, just pointing our a reality. Trust me, down south, this provision be adopted with lightening speed. But Massachusetts tends to be more supportive of unions. The question for the Legislature is: Does the need for cost savings outweigh the traditional belief of not infringing on the negotiating rights of CBAs.

        And Carney's testimony is interesting. It's actually worthy of its own entry.  

    • Good discussion points

      On 1, it's inevitable that one mega-authority is either going to do as much bad as good, or ignore the smaller aspects of our transportation infrastructure while focused on what serves the most people. Having several, streamlined entities that report to the transportation secretary makes more sense to me -- and makes the governor more accountable, too.

      On 2, why be focused on a particular number? We should have a streamlined system that has as many employees, but not more, as it needs to run an effective transportation network. Maybe that means 300 job cuts, maybe 500? Who knows? It's tough to tell until we bring the agencies together and systemically study the issue. Who's jobs are redundant and can be phased out?

      On 5, the state should be the one paying for future mass transit projects. The MBTA and other transportation authorities should just fund the day to day management necessary to run them. So, while we shouldn't fund something with money we don't have, if the state doesn't have the necessary funding, it should do what it can to get it - including through the gas tax or others, because these projects are that important.

      On 7, I think the gov't having more authority makes sense. It makes he or she directly accountable to the voters of Massachusetts. Perhaps, a compromise could be had in which the legislature would have 60 days to overturn any hike by resolution, or something akin to that.  

  3. We are getting the government we voted for.

    What's your problem? Please don't tell me you expected more.Hope and change? Together we can? Yes we can?.   Please-----!

  4. I work with the Governor?

    From State House News (3/10):

    "Asked about her relationship with the secretary [Aloisi], Senate President Therese Murray today smiled, 'Who? Then, she added, 'I told you Sen. Baddour deals with the secretary. I work with the governor.'

    I agree with you, Charlie, this kind of personalization of a public policy dispute is appalling and very disruptive. I do think Aloisi is at least half to blame but the Senate President owes the taxpayer a better attitude.

    One only has to look at the actual plan once ( http://www.mass.gov/Agov3/docs... ) to realize it is both about reform and revenue at once.

    I do, however, think the Governor/Aloisi have made a serious strategic mistake in pushing for a gas tax within and not after passage of the transportation reform efforts.  It makes it seem like the Governor included the "reforms" primarily to get sign-off on a gas tax.  That impression is what "reform before revenues" sought to avoid.  It's too late now.

    This whole debate, sadly, reminds me more and more of the national immigration reform debate and the "enforcement before legalization" mantra there.  In the end it didn't really matter politically that the actual bill included funding for 300 miles of fence, 100 camera and radar towers, and 20,000 more Border Patrol agents.  The effort died because they didn't "do" enforcement first.  Instead, as here, the attempt was to imprudently combine "enforcement" simultaneously with restructuring visa rules and legalization of current illegal immigrants.  Too complex and too easy to ridicule.  

    Let's hope the result here is more satisfying and that the Legislature is able to put aside their petty differences and do what is best for the entire Commonwealth.  

    • Reform before revenues

      is a cute way to say "give us what we want at the bargaining table and hope we repay you with a vote later."  It's nonsense and not going to happen.

      Are the pro-public transit financing using reform as a bargaining chip?  Sure.  Are the anti-public transit financing trying to get what they want (reform) without increasing the public transit finances?  Sure.  This is exactly why both should just happen at the same time.  Otherwise, you've got deadlock, and there's a deadline w.r.t. the Pike.

      • Agreed

        If anything, the mantra ought to be "revenue before reform" -- it's because we haven't paid for anything (except by borrowing ridiculous amounts) over the last 20 years that we're in such a mess now!

        So, I think we need to talk about how much it's going to cost us to do things right, and after that realization scares us to death, we'll be motivated to compromise and do only some of what we need to do and raise only some of the revenue we need, but at least we'll be headed in the right direction (instead of the wrong way down a one-way street that we've traveled for far too long!).

        • 18 years is long enough

          We've goon 18 years without a gas tax increase.

          Not a penny!!!!!

          So the gas tax has lost a third of its value.

          Don't blame Big Dig overruns alone for the poor state of our transportation infrastructure here in Western Mass. and elsewhere.

          Blame the Big Dig AND the Democrats in the legislature who refused to allow the gas tax to keep up with inflation, let alone keep up with our changing transportation infrastructure needs.

          If the gas tax had increased just half-a-cent a year we wouldn't be in the mess we are in now:

          Crumbling roads and bridges.

          The highest transportation debt in the nation.

          That is what we get when when Democrats buy into the Republican anti-tax frame.

          So, now we are in crisis.  And now we have an opportunity.  Unfortunately, very few Democrats in the legislature seem to be willing to take a lead on the gas tax, or even acknowledge that they--or at least the legislature as a whole--has helped get us in the current fiscal mess.

          It is time for legislators to step up and get behind Deval's 19-cent proposal.

          --Leo

  5. Well, I $quot;get$quot; that Connaughton got booted from the Pike's Audit Committee

    and can't see financial documents (that, maybe, should be public, and surely should be available to all board members). I don't get why, but that's something real.

    "Respect is a two-way street," Aloisi said, a few days after cutting Connaughton off repeatedly during the Feb. 24 meeting and removing her from a spot on the authority's audit committee, where she had freer access to agency documents.

    The rest of it, sure, smells like Jr. High hormones.

  6. Why People Don't Like the Tax Hike

    People who oppose the increase in the gas tax are angry because they state government has been a terrible steward of taxpayer money.  Nobody, Republican or Democrat, denies that the state government has made a giant mess out of paying for infrastructure.  One party blames another, one person blames another, but if you just look at the big picture...our state government let us down.

    Obviously, we have to pay for our debt and our roads and bridges need to be maintained.  The administration's basic argument is that the state of Massachsuetts has done a terrible job managing money to pay for infrastructure, and to fix it, we need more taxpayer money.  People are resistent because the same group (state government) who messed this up say they can fix it now.  Understandably, they are pessimestic.

    The person who commented that the push for reform should have come WELL before the request for more tax dollars was right on.  The people of Massachusetts want a clear, detailed explanation of what went wrong, a plan to fix the system, and proof that the state can make that reform happen.  Heck, it's basically a one-party state, so it shouldn't be hard.  Then, and only then, should taxpayers be open to discussing higher taxes.  If we don't demand that the government be good stewards of our money, they won't be.

    • Well, that's all well and good...

      ... but, as I've pointed out elsewhere, some reforms cost money, so you can't have them done without new revenue.

      I agree with you that people are skeptical, and have a right to be. Yet, we the people (it's OUR government) have sat by and let it happen, so don't point the finger -- look in the mirror!

      So, we now have painted ourselves into a corner, and suddenly people are saying, "get me out of here, or I won't finish the job!"

      It's too bad Governor Patrick has to bear the brunt of people's anger over the sins of the past. He's the first one to face the problem head-on and propose a complete solution. Really, now, don't you think we can walk and chew gum at the same time?! That doesn't mean we have to agree with all the details of his plan, but I think we have to buy into the idea that we have to fix it all or it won't work. If you don't like the gas tax, propose another source of revenue. But ya can't have something for nothing! It's that kind of (wishful) thinking that has gotten into the mess we're in.

      • You are right...

        I for one have not been nearly active enough in state politics, a situation I am currently working to rememdy (hence my presence here!).  I do look in the mirror...we are ultimately responsible for our government, and we do have to take responsibility for it.  It appears that a lot of areas of the government were engaged in corrupt and irresponsible stewardship of state money.  So, I want to hold my government responsible.  I would be willing to support a tax increase IF the administration can produce evidence that it clearly understands exactly how this mess was created (a mess I'm still trying to untangle in my own mind).  If the administration can clearly and publically communicate that and can push through reforms to fix the system, I would be willing to support a tax increase.  However, I am reluctant to support paying more in taxes to the same government that got us here in the first place.  Joan Vennochi wrote a piece in today's Globe that sums up my feelings:  "Why We Need Reform Before Revenue."  It's a matter of order.  The current administration would have us pay more in taxes now, with the promise that reforms will happen.  I'd like to see the reforms first.

        • Terrific!

          Sounds like you've heard the clarion bell! Good for you!

          I do think you are missing one point, however; the Governor's bill does do BOTH. That's the whole idea, and why I support it. It's not just about raising the gas tax. In fact, that's one of the most trivial (and negotiable, I imagine) parts of the bill. We need revenue, and that seems like a logical place to get it, but if you have a better idea, that's fine with me.

          The real substance of the Governor's proposal comes in such things as moving MassHighway employees off the capital budget (credit card) onto the operating budget (taxes). Duh! (No business could get away with this nonsense!) But this can't be done without breaking the horrific cycle of borrowing and shifting money from one account to another to hide the true cost to us taxpayers, as has been done for so many years.

          So, I say (again) "reform before revenue" is a catchy slogan, but it just can't be done. It's irresponsible. We should have had enough of that! It's trying to get something for nothing. It's time to face the music!

          • WHAT EXACTLY DOES $quot;REFORM FIRST$quot; MEAN?

            A number of the comments, including the last three or four, have focused on different aspects of the "reform first" versus "reform and revenue" debate.  There was an interesting exchange at the hearing today before the Joint Transportation Committee (this was the Greater Boston hearing, one of four).  Stephen Silveira (Chair of the Transportation Finance Commission that issued a key report in 2007) testified that he supported "reform first." Rep. Bill  Bowles questioned Silveira.  This is a rough approximation of the exchange:

               Q.  How long will it take before we can measure the success of the reforms and see what we have accomplished?    A.  You can't implement the reforms and see how they go.  You don't have that luxury.  It will take years to get monetary benefits from the reforms.    Q.  If we passed a law in two weeks, making the proposed reforms, when do we need to do the revenue package?      A.  It will take 20 years to get $2.5 billion in savings from the reforms we recommended.  Most of them will take years.  So, if you passed the reforms in two weeks, then you must immediately turn attention to revenue and get that done quickly.

            It is possible that the Senate leadership has another view of "reform first," one that involves a year or more of determining the effects of reform before discussing additional revenue.  But, if not, this debate comes down to a political/psychological judgment about the general public.  Is the public so angry and disillusioned that they need to have a signing ceremony and newspaper headline about a big reform package? Or is the public sophisticated enough to understand that a package that genuinely has both gets to the same result?

            There is also the disquieting possibility that "reform first" has left the public with the inaccurate impression that we don't need to face ANY increases in gas tax, tolls, fares or service cuts.  Let's hope, at minimum, that the "reform first" supporters are more precise about the timing--it makes for better debate and avoids the big risk of the public misunderstanding "reform first."    

            • What about presenting the public a choice?

              It seems to me (and I could be wrong...I'm sincerely trying to get the numbers right), that the anticipated budget deficit could be another $1 billion this year (this is on top of big deficits that have already been "gapped").  Between the federal stimulus money and what's left in the stabalization fund, which will be close to empty after this, the government can cover this year's deficit.

              So, the concerns around the deficit issue are for the upcoming fiscal year.  Some estimates put the number at $4 billion.  The state budget is $28 billion.  That's just under 17%.  Of course, if the economic environment improves, the deficit may not be quite so bad.  

              According to the Globe, there is very little appetite amond the public for increased taxes.  The article cites the 2000 referendum in which citizens voted for a decrease in tax rate.  

              What if the administration put forward two plans to the public and to the legislature?  One is a cut-spending-only plan, with cuts that are "draconian" according to the Globe - 17% across the board (maybe a little less if the March and April revenue projections improve).  Let the public digest exactly what those cuts will mean.  The second plan could be more modest spending cuts with proposed tax increases.  The administration could obviously explain their preferrence for tax increases to preserve services, but could also acknowledge that they serve the public and there are two ways to handle the problem:  cut services, raise taxes, or some mix of the two.  Either way, in a democracy, the public should be the ones to choose.  

              This way, the public could weigh in and legislatures could really represent what the people want.

              After all the shenanigans in state finance, I understand why people are mistrustful of being told that taxes must be raised to preserve services.  Let the public understand EXACTLY what services will be cut, and they'll either decide they can live without those services or they'll be willing to pay more in taxes.  

              FYI - I got these figures from from "State deficit may hit $1 Billion Again" in Thursday's Globe (http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/03/12/state_deficit_may_hit_1b_again/?page=1).  Again, I've tried to faithfully get the numbers right, but do let me know if I'm mistaken.

      • Couldn't Agree More

        It's too bad Governor Patrick has to bear the brunt of people's anger over the sins of the past

        It is up to the Legislature to set the Transportation policy and provide the revenue to implement it.  Inaction on that front has led the Governor to pick up the challenge and run with it, taking all the slings and arrows along the way.  Meanwhile, methinks that some elements of the Legislature are working to counter that progress to cater to the special interests that could be adversely affected by a more efficient government.

        Unfortunately the Governor has taken the bait, and in his effort to boost the revenue side he has put forth too many options.  Please stay with the gas tax increase for Transportation, and institute the reforms necessary to make that portion of the State bureaucracy much more efficient.

        • Sins of the past

          One major sin of the past has been the willingness of the legislature to let the value of the gas tax fall by a full third over the last 18 years.

          It has been too easy to blame the Big Dig for our transportation woes and let the legislature off the hook for failing to keep tax revenue at a responsible level.

          If the gas tax had increased half a cent a year since 1991 we wouldn't be in the current mess we are in--decaying infrastructure, inadequate public transportation, and the highest transportation debt in the nation.

          --Leo

  7. Quick, get Jim a bucket...

    Secretary Aloisi loses a shootout with Senate President Murray every time.  Ever recall anyone insulting William Bulger in public and subsequently carrying the day?

    Aloisi diminished Sen. Murray's standing in front of her colleagues, which is very bad form.  Like it or not, emotion and ego are part of the public policy cocktail.  Problem is, the bartender (Gov. Patrick) never shut-off Aloisi - and now he's vomited on himself.  

    I respect the Hell out of Jim, but for a guy who grew up around politicians and Beacon Hill, his verbal gaffes have been inexplicable.  

       

  8. Gas Tax Verbal Gaffs?

    While some people are still hysterical about the "reform before revenue" controversy, I agree with other comments that we need to give Aloisi a break.

    A few years ago I used to do media as part of a former job.  And whether it was the Herald to the right or the Globe to the left, I was rarely accurately quoted regardless of whether I liked the story or not.  Often it was one or two sentences out of context, where they thought a few words would make a great sound bite, but left off the subsequent "unless ... " explanation.  Other times it seemed (after reading the paper the next day) that the reporter had already written the story, and just needed to fashion a quote to fit his or her spin.

    As my company grew, they hired a full-time press relations person, and I learned it just wasn't me - even she often had to battle for fair treatment.

    That seems to be exactly what is happening with this debate about reform versus revenue.  But everything I've read and seen makes sense - we must have both at the same time.

    At one public hearing a man called Patrick and Aloisi liars for saying we need any gas tax increase, as they earlier floated a higher gas tax proposal. He didn't understand that the more money that the administration has to work with (via cuts and new revenue), the greater the options they have.  An even higher gas tax than 19 cents -- I can't remember the exact figure that was once quoted -- could eliminate tolls entirely.  And while that would make Metrowest and North Shore commuters very happy, other reps and senators in the state said absolutely not.  

    The print media is handling this gas tax debate like a continuation of the Presidential campaign, where every fart by the candidates -- or their spouses -- was analyzed to death for surreptitious meaning. But separating revenue from the reform bills will cause two things to happen.

    First, the reforms (as will be passed - not as proposed) won't be as deep as they need to be, but the legislature will explain that is okay, as they are not asking for new revenue.

    Second, we won't have the needed new revenue this year or next.  Who really wants to vote on a standalone tax package? And can we expect our House and Senate to vote upon needed monies next year, when all the members are up for re-election?  

    A final thought - do we think all of the special interests that like the status quo are going to passively stand by without putting up a fight?  And if they do fight, are they going to fight out in the open, or are they going to try to confuse the issues by heralding phrases like "reform before revenue" when the reality is that neither should or can pass without the other.

    Good night.  MM

    • Ok a Long Post but thank you Mike and Jeanne for the Dialogue

      Here on BMG there has been a lot of discussion about several related issues that once again are hard to put into order and understand the relationship. From the Swaptions discussion to the gas tax debate to the Reform before revenue throw down.

      I separated the last two even though they may be about the same issue, there are several discussions critical to both that have not been brought together fully mainly because the gas tax is set to deal with a host of issues here in the Commonwealth not just infrastructure and agencies.

      Let me explain some of the facts that have been uncovered thus far.

      You may want to look at the discussion by Rep Ehrlich on the Swaptions as well as Bobs 2 posts on Swaptions their is a lot of good information and enlightened discussion on how when and why these occurred but, if I may let me just summarize and tie it into this discussion. For 20 years the Commonwealth has been hamstrung by the mantra of no new taxes if George HW Bush had uttered those words here in Massachusetts he likely would still be elected governor here at least. So as a result of the crumbling roadway infrastructure that I would suggest started even back in Governor Dukakis's day we have ducked the responsibility to maintain it and improve it as necessary all over the state not just her in Eastern Mass but also in the Western Part of our state. We in the late 80's began to find the political will power to rehab the falling central artery and hatched the Big Dig idea. Let me share just a small tidbit in the late 70's when I was still a college student I attended the unveiling of the original plan, at that time it was laughed out of the auditorium where they held the event and most students present suggested it was pure Science Fiction. I still think it is but time will tell, Any way the big dig has continued to be the mill stone around our neck especially as the costs rose and Massachusetts embarked on the path of exotic financing in order to put of the actual cost and thus continue the no new taxes mantra of the Weld, Celluchi, Swift, Romney years. Point in fact they took out interest only bonds with Swaptions to minimize the impact and left the future generations with options that have failed and balloon payments due starting in 2025. As a result of this attempt to hide the year-to-year cost of the big dig on the tax payers they were forced to forgo other infrastructure in order to once again fulfill the charge of "No new Taxes", knowing full well that their artful and creative financing was likely dooming the future to a lot of new taxes. How does this now tie into the current gas tax well simple the exotic financing that they had hoped would hide the bills under the rug till they were in their golden years and hopefully no one would remember who what why and how come. Has collapsed and now many of the bills are due. This fact has been thrown on the desk of Governor Deval Patrick and unlike the past seat warmers on Beacon hill he has chosen to deal with it in a more direct manner. I do wish that he would run from the discussion of new Swaptions by the state or the MTA but the cost under this economy may not make this a real option with out causing greater harm. Yet in trying  to stem the flow he has had to advance the time table on new revenue at the same time as a reform package was beginning to take shape. That brings us to today and this more pointed discussion on reform or revenue and what order. Truth be told the gun that was loaded bak in 1998 is at our head and we need to either take the bullet and see if we survive or try to put the gun down on the table instead of back in the draw and  deal with it. On April 1 2009 the Swaptions with UBS are going to be called the revenue is not currently their nor is the bond market unfrozen enough to allow the capital to be raised quickly.

      Ok there is the money trail to a small extent but the reality is there, The question is how do we move forward, what will work, what will hurt?  First lets be real no one unit nor one neighborhood nor one region deserves to bear the brunt of the burden to undo the sins of the past, yes I agree that reforms need to occur and I believe we need to demand them now when the options are few. I would have suggested that we look at bringing together the MBTA, MTA and Mass Highway under one umbrella agency that we stream line both job grades and job salaries and descriptions where applicable, pension frameworks and structures to be aligned with early retirement grades available at 62 years of age or 40 years of service and that full retirement not to be available till age 65 with he current payment structure to be in effect adding years of service to Age determining benefit awards, and that health care for every state employee be the same and covered through one new comprehensive department of Employee Relations for departments as well as all agencies. Unions will be preserved to negotiate wage and job function and working conditions collectively they will be involved in setting the Heath care Contribution for all employees. May I also suggest that the New Transportation Department have subunits of equal weight made up of a western region, south coast region, a cape and island region and a northeast region (to include Boston). That the regions be weighted two ways one by population the other by miles of road and that a budget and an infrastructure plan be arrived at in a public fashion and the funding for each region be addressed in a comprehensive and transparent fashion. This plan with Identify needs and revenue to more the infrastructure forward dealing first with critical needs and then with expansion.

      Finally, that all outstanding debt obligation return come under the state of Massachusetts and that we have a full accounting of current outstanding debt and any future costs (no more shell games) such as principle balloon payments. That a plan for revenues be put on the table to deal with all debt out to the termination of the debt. We all may be shocked by the figures but we need to realize that sooner or later these debt will come due putting them off for decades as we have practiced thus far only allows them to snowball and eventually threaten our future. We need to see the days of the governor and legislature running around the state house looking for loose change in the sofa's to make a partial payment and a new promise to raise more revenue to make good on old debt.

      So I suggest we get busy and work with the framework that Governor Patrick has put forward it certain begins the process of dealing with the tough choices Politically I do not see how he could have gone further with out risking the Huge jump in Health care from the Heart attacks that obviously would have occurred had he recommended taking it all on at once. Just look at the gasps and cries that this start has causes. We have little option, yet we should advocate for the changes we think should be a part of this process but more and more and more importantly we need to advocate for a change in how we do business and how transparent that business is. I would also suggest that a few monetary regulations should be adopted as part of this process to avoid repeating the same pain over and over and made clear to every taxpayer how we will move together as a commonwealth once again

      1. The state will no longer entertain exotic fincial vehicles to minimize debt

      2 That all bonds with be principal and interest notes for their full term.

      3 That bonds will only be of a term that is consistent with the life expectancy of the project, goods or service and those revenues include proper amounts for maintenance over the life of the note.

      Some will suggest that many of these do exist in one form or another yet looking at the documents that the MTA has released the regulations are either not tight enough or were violated and we need to correct that now.

      This should be the legal manner in which we raise capital for every project in the state from roads and bridges, to schools and court houses, to commuter rail and regional transport ation systems. If we do not we can expect to be little more then firemen forced to rush into burning buildings on a regular basis. Today we are doing so with out the equipment to protect our selves so yes this is going to hurt for a time lets just plan on coming out alive.

      As Usual Just my Opinion    

  9. ALOISI

    will learn that there are certain people you don't mess with in the Legislature (O'Flaherty as an example) and because Aloisi took away the discounts for residents in that district, hhe'll be screwed every inch of the way by Basile, Petruccelli, O'Flaherty and the others who'll make fools out of the administration's people....

  10. Transportion Bill & Resident Discounts

    In response to Pocoloco91, I just looked up the Governor's bill online, which indicates in Section 43 that the resident discounts are not ending. The Governor's bill, however, states that the discount fares should be no more than 50 cents more than a regular one-way MBTA fare.

    Currently the tunnel discount means certain neighborhood residents pay a 40 cent toll, and correct me if I am wrong, these have never been raised since the program was started, while T fares have gone up many times. The Tobin Bridge has a similar program for Charlestown and Chelsea residents: a 30 cent toll.

    As a promoter of mass transit, I don't think that it should be cheaper to drive than to take the subway.  In other words, should a person who lives along a Blue Line stop pay four times as much to jump on the T than to jump in their car?  

    I have mixed feelings about the discount program, as urban neighborhoods pay a high price for having tunnels and bridges in their back yards, including lower property values and more pollution.  But should these extremely low tolls stay forever frozen, while people who choose not to have (or can't afford to have) a car pay even more for less service?

    What is the right and fair balance - and for whom?  

« Blue Mass Group Front Page

Add Your Comments

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Wed 30 Jul 1:10 PM