So this is what our politics is going to look like for the foreseeable future. Could be entertaining.
You might recall that Governor Baker is proposing, as part of his budget, to give the MBTA a 50% bump next fiscal year, up to almost $200 million, in direct state aid. Because, you know, it’s broken, and it has to be fixed.
Stephanie Pollack, Baker’s transportation secretary, said the transit agency’s disastrous winter — marked by days of system-wide closures, shuttered rail lines and fuming commuters — made it clear some investment was necessary, even as Baker has pledged not to raise taxes or fees.
“We need to get a handle on the structural deficit, and there needs to be a sustainable long-term plan so that the T can operate in the revenue it has available to it. This fiscal year was not the year to tackle that type of challenge,” Pollack said in an interview.
And what was the reaction from our friends in the legislature?
“Well, giving the T more money right now is kind of crazy,” [House Majority Leader Ron] Mariano told reporters after a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast, where Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo delivered a speech. “I think they have to begin to demonstrate that they can use that money effectively. … There seems to be no one looking at long-term maintenance or any maintenance. So until we can figure out what’s going on over there … I think it might be a little crazy to be spending money.” …
Speaking to reporters afterward, DeLeo was cool to Baker’s initial plan to boost state funding.
“I think we have to try to make sure the house is in order, in terms of the T structure and whatnot, before we talk about additional funds,” he said.
Oh for the love of Pete. You know what’s “crazy”? What’s crazy is that the T doesn’t work, and that the legislature doesn’t really seem to care. That’s crazy. DeLeo, Mariano and the rest of them can natter on all they want about a long-term maintenance plan and the T structure “and whatnot,” blah blah blah. But meanwhile, maybe somebody should make sure that the trains don’t catch fire.
So let’s be clear: Charlie Baker is right about this (and about this too, for that matter), and the House Democrats are wrong. If this keeps up, things could get pretty interesting around these parts.