By Bob Katzen
The House 159-0, Senate 39-0, reduced from $300 to $200 million Chapter 90 funding for cities and towns for the maintenance, repair and improvement of local roads and bridges. The House in March and the Senate in early June, approved proposals that included $300 million in Chapter 90 funding for cities and towns’ local roads and bridges. That $300 mlllion was a $100 milion increase over last year.
The Senate version of the legislation also established a new seven-member MBTA Board of Directors to succeed the current Fiscal Management and Control Board. The MBTA Board of Directors would be responsible for governing and exercising the corporate powers of the MBTA. The Senate version differed from the House version which does not create a brand-new MBTA board but instead extends and expands the existing Fiscal and Management Control Board.
Last week, the House and Senate changed their minds and reached an agreement to reduce the road and bridge funding to $200 million and to keep the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board in place for another year. That measure is now on Gov. Baker’s desk.
Supporters of the reduction say that, in retrospect, the state cannot afford the extra $100 million while state revenues are down by billions of dollars.
Despite repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call, House Transportation Committee chair Rep. Bill Strauss (D-Mattapoisett) and Senate chair Joseph Boncore (D-Winthrop) did not respond when asked to explain why they both championed the original $300 million and then supported the reduction to $200 million.
The Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) expressed mixed feelings. “On behalf of cities and towns, we are glad that the Chapter 90 bond bill has been enacted, so that communities can access desperately needed funds to repair and rebuild local roadways,” said MMA Executive Director and CEO Geoff Beckwith. “However, our members are understandably disappointed that the funding level remains flat at $200 million, rather than the $300 million amount that representatives and senators voted to support earlier in the process. MMA will continue to advocate for an increase in Chapter 90 road funds, so that communities can adequately maintain 30,000 miles of local roads.”