Here’s Governor Charlie Baker at his press conference yesterday, discussing the woes of the MBTA and how to avoid them next time:
“We need to start from the premise the taxpayers have been taxed enough,” he said, speaking to reporters at a Tuesday afternoon news conference.
All due respect, Governor, that’s dead wrong. We need to start from the premise that the MBTA has to work. We’ve seen over the last week or so what it means when the MBTA craps out. Thousands of commuters unable to get to work. Thousands more standing around on freezing cold platforms waiting for a train that may never come, or if it does, it’s so crowded that they can’t get on. People stuck on trains for hours because their ancient motors don’t work when it’s cold, or when it snows. It’s bad for people, it’s bad for business, it’s bad for the economy, it’s bad for Massachusetts. It’s simply not acceptable.
So. What that means in terms of management fixes, improved efficiencies, and all the other magical no-new-taxes hand-waving that you say you’ve got up your sleeve in terms of making the T work, I don’t know – that’s your department. But you simply must be open to the possibility that all of those clever bookkeeping maneuvers will not be enough to bring the MBTA to an acceptable level of functionality. The state may need to take over the MBTA’s debt so that it isn’t perpetually chasing its tail. And, yes, more revenue may be necessary.
Charley said it right: this could be Baker’s Nixon-to-China moment. If Charlie Baker, Mr. No New Taxes, faced with an unprecedented collapse of public transportation, makes the case for new revenue to fix the problem, the legislature will go along despite Bob DeLeo’s allergy to new revenues. But whatever the solution, Baker needs to find one. If he doesn’t, his governorship will be a failure.
Because the MBTA has to work.