Your very progressive House Ways and Means committee released its budget. In a tersely worded emailed press release, without elaboration (forthcoming, I assume), the Mass. Budget and Policy Center made its thudding assessment:
“We appreciate that the House leadership is trying to take a thoughtful approach to raising substantial, new revenues. But moving the needle on current priorities – from education and transportation, to affordable housing and other services – means giving serious consideration to sustainable, adequate, and progressive revenue options. The House Ways and Means Committee budget proposal would make it nearly impossible for lawmakers to support our Commonwealth’s priorities in any meaningful way in the coming fiscal year.”
In typical fashion, our House wants to be perceived as doing the sacrifice bunts, the little-things-that-win-ballgames, and hoping they’ll get credit for home runs. There’s no vision; no big structural reform and new revenue streams that will let our prize public assets — education and infrastructure — thrive in the 21st century. We hear noises that education funding is going to get a big new push, apart from a miniscule down payment in the W&M budget — $16.5 million. The Foundation Budget Review Commission has estimated that schools are underfunded by between $1-$2 billion (with a b). So that’s a “down payment” of 0.8-1.6%; I doubt even Countrywide in its liar-loan days would have accepted that.
Add that to this call for more money for public investment in the MBTA:
“There’s a fundamental flaw in the way the MBTA is financed,” Paul Regan, executive director of the Advisory Board, told the FMCB. “Rather than admit that, everybody concerned with transit funding has focused on how the T manages the dollars it has rather than how many dollars the T has. I think it’s time for us to step away from that.”
… We have to have this debate now,” Regan said. “We can’t wait another year to have this debate. We certainly can’t wait until the chickens come home and the MBTA has no more money to operate.”
The chickens have already come home to roost; they’re in the basement playing Wii and asking you to make them a sandwich.
Sometimes this blog makes me feel nostalgic. Other times I feel like I am trapped in a Twilight-Zone recursive time loop from which there is no escape — all in an era where because of climate change and rising inequality, we desperately needed a vibrant and indeed expanding MBTA. Nearly 10 years after the D’Alessandro report, we again have appointed experts telling us that the T needs more money; that we can’t just reform our way out of this; that the legislature needs to make a major commitment and get it done. Who knew? Are we really sure about this? Maybe let’s ask another independent commission.
Maybe this time is different. Prove it, House “progressives” — or shed the label and the pretense.