Before digging into the details, let’s recall what Baker told Globe columnist Brian McGrory a couple of months ago:
I went over to Baker’s campaign office to ask him about his role in the Big Dig. He was the state’s chief budget writer in the 1990s when the massive project was put under the control of the Turnpike Authority and the decision was made to borrow $1.5 billion against future federal highway funds. These days, the financially crippled authority has been eliminated, and we’re still paying off that debt.
When I asked Baker about his influence in either decision, he said, “I was one of about 50 people.” That would make for an interesting campaign slogan.
But he was the state secretary of Administration and Finance, the most prominent fiscal adviser to the governor. “So what,” he replied. “My approval meant nothing.”
[Baker’s] statements are sharply at odds with a picture of Baker’s financial leadership of the project that emerges from hundreds of pages of memorandums, letters, and other documents culled from his four-year tenure as secretary of the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, from 1994 to 1998. The documents show that Baker was the chief architect of a financing plan to sustain the project during its peak construction years, just as federal support was diminishing substantially….
Joseph Sullivan, the House transportation committee chairman at the time, … said Baker was a key player, especially in bringing all the parties together.
“When you are the secretary of administration and finance, your voice matters,” Sullivan said.
And, by the way, Baker’s plan was a mess.
Baker maintained that using the money for the Big Dig would not compromise road and bridge work elsewhere in the state, arguing that at least $400 million would be available every year for other projects.
“I don’t see how anybody could argue that the artery will be pulling money away from non-artery projects,” he said during a 1998 legislative hearing.
But others disagreed. “The administration kept denying the obvious,” Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed watchdog group, said in a recent interview. “If you keep spending more on the Central Artery, you’re going to have less to spend on state highways. I learned that in second grade. If you’ve got a dollar, you can only spend it once.” …
[T]he need for road and bridge repairs has long exceeded the state’s ability to pay for the work, and Baker’s financing plan for the Big Dig exacerbated the problem, by committing federal aid to the project until 2015. A blue-ribbon panel in 2007 concluded that the state was underfunding its transportation needs by nearly $1 billion a year.
Read the whole article — it’s long, but well worth it.
Finally, here is the Governor’s campaign’s statement (email, no link):
“Today’s Boston Globe story raises troubling questions about Charlie Baker’s central role in the failed financing and oversight of the Big Dig. It is clear from the story that Baker has repeatedly misled the people of Massachusetts about his role in developing the finance plan that has now saddled taxpayers with over $800 million in debt, and that he failed to reign in billions in cost overruns. Baker owes the people of Massachusetts a full and honest accounting of his role in the Big Dig.
Charlie Baker’s credibility is at stake here. His repeated claims that he played a limited role in developing the failed financing for the Big Dig have been proven false by public documents uncovered by the Boston Globe. Voters cannot take anything Baker says seriously until he comes clean about his role in the failed Big Dig financing scheme.”