It’s been something of a parlor game in policy and political circles these last weeks. Can the group commissioned by the no-new-taxes Baker administration to review the troubled MBTA possibly provide a comprehensive blueprint for its overhaul that doesn’t include a call for new revenue, something many view as a necessary part of the fix?
The answer, apparently, is yes.
To get everyone used to the idea of no new revenue, the administration leaked a preview of the report to the Boston Globe, which reports today that the recommendations will lean heavily on measures to rein in costs and will include no call for new funding for the system. The T has been plagued by “limited cost control, low labor productivity, and high maintenance costs,” according to a draft of the report, due to be released later this week.
“The focus on reform over revenue will probably draw criticism from public transit advocates,” writes Globe reporter David Scharfenberg, in what is likely a considerable understatement.
Multiple reports over the recent years have pointed to the need for more revenue to stabilize the system, including a 2007 transportation finance study commissioned by the Romney administration and a 2009 report overseen by former John Hancock chief executive David D’Alessandro. The 2007 report said the T was on track to be short $4.8 to $9 billion in funding needed just for infrastructure maintenance over the next 20 years.
In a Globe op-ed last month, D’Alessandro showed little patience for the idea that more reform alone will be enough, saying both House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg have been part of several reform efforts already. “The legislative leadership needs to stop its excuses, stop bloviating, stop shifting blame, and accept responsibility for its decades of failures,” he wrote.
D’Alessandro wrote that as the two legislative leaders and Gov. Charlie Baker grapple with the T’s plight, “they must face one inescapable fact that should drive any plan to solve the mess: The T is bankrupt. It should be treated as if it were in receivership.” He has called a focus on reforms that ignores the need for significant new funding a “politically attractive distraction.”
The new report will highlight that the T’s operating costs are increasing at twice the rate of inflation and its maintenance costs are far higher than those of other transit agencies. The Globe notes, however, that the T’s rate of operating cost increase “is roughly in line with that of other large transit agencies.”
Of particular interest will be how Baker’s transportation secretary, Stephanie Pollack, spins the report. Pollack was a longtime transit advocate and policy expert, and her appointment by the tax-averse new governor turned lots of heads because of her past support for new revenue to aid the aging transit system.
In his op-ed last month, D’Alessandro suggested that Baker, with his deep background in state budgeting and turning around Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, is the “right guy at the right time” to bring a no-nonsense approach to the task at hand.
Whether he and others who have put a lot of faith in the new governor’s management chops will still be saying that later this week is now the question.
The Baker administration refuses to issue a key environmental permit to Wynn Resorts for its proposed Everett casino. Most of the problems are fixable, but resolving traffic issues with the city of Boston is not going to be easy. (CommonWealth)
Between the state and cities and towns, a patchwork of regulations and laws have emerged to cover e-cigarettes. (Salem News)
Without Cape Wind, the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, financed with more than $100 million in state money, is facing a bleak future. (WBUR)
The Berkshire Eagle supports legislation that would add points to a driver’s auto insurance if that person is caught texting.
Norman Leventhal, who made an enormous mark on Boston as both a tremendously successful developer and a devoted philanthropist and civic leader, died on Sunday at age 97. (Boston Globe)
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is vowing to beef up the city’s citizen oversight board that reviews complaints about the police department, a panel created during the Menino administration but viewed by many as too weak and largely ineffective. (Boston Globe)
MARATHON BOMBING TRIAL
Closing arguments will be heard today in the Boston Marathon bombing case. (Boston Herald)
A Telegram & Gazette editorial defends the religious freedom law in Indiana and says those who criticize it are wrong.
Kansas becomes the sixth state to let residents carry concealed weapons without a permit. (Governing)
Does Jeb Bush have the stomach to follow through on his pledge to repeal Obamacare after earning millions as a member of a board of directors at a hospital chain that profited handsomely from the Affordable Care Act? (National Review)
Bush identified himself as Hispanic in a 2009 voter registration form in Florida. (New York Times)
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul will officially jump into the Republican contest for president tomorrow with an announcement in his home state, after which he’ll head for New Hampshire and a Wednesday rally in the first-primary state. (Boston Herald)
Nearly all letters sent to the FCC in support of the Comcast merger with Time Warnerhave come from organizations or individuals that have received corporate, charitable, or political support from Comcast. (New York Times)
Amid the empty storefronts of downtown Fitchburg, the city’s art museum attracts its fair share of visitors. (Fitchburg Sentinel and Enterprise)
A Globe editorial says the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education should put the struggling Holyoke school district in receivership. Two months ago CommonWealth reported that a state takeover in Holyoke could be coming.
A judge ordered Somerset school officials to expunge the record of a high school senior and star athlete who was suspended with 12 others for allegedly having alcohol on a school trip. The ruling came in a suit brought by the student’s father, a lawyer, who claimed the suspension would affect his son’s chances for college admission and a scholarship. (Herald News)
New Bedford school administrators are seeking to have enough money in the budget to train and hire 35 English as a second language teachers, more than double the current number. (Standard-Times)
The MetroWest Daily News argues that special education increasingly benefits the wealthy: When it comes to fighting school districts on special education placements, low and middle income families frequently lose out since they can’t afford attorneys’ fees.
Richard Doherty, president of the Association for Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, says the state needs to offer tax incentives to those who save for college. (CommonWealth)
A former Harvard professor sues the university alleging she was denied tenure because of her defense of victims of sexual assault. (WBUR)
Three Billerica officials may live too close to a proposed site for a new high school to vote on it under state ethics rules. (The Sun)
Despite the full-court press being applied to stop it, heroin addiction is exacting a rising toll in Vermont. (Boston Globe)
Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack says the fix to the MBTA is simple: The agency has to change everything it does. (Keller@Large)
A new state law scheduled to take effect Tuesday requires drivers to turn their lights on whenever it’s raining or face a $5 ticket. (Herald News)
An opponent of expanding the region’s natural gas pipeline capacity tells Gordon Van Welie, the head of the region’s power grid operator, to do his job. (CommonWealth)
As oil prices fall, the value of recycled plastic becomes less and less and recycling itself becomes more difficult. (Wall Street Journal) CommonWealth examined the slow pace of recycling in Massachusetts in its recent print issue.
Proponents of a solar farm in New Braintree file suit against the Zoning Board of Appeals, which rejected the bid as being inconsistent with local zoning. (Telegram & Gazette)
Cohasset officials are considering asking town meeting voters to approve money to challenge the new federal flood zone maps that have dramatically increased flood insurance. (Patriot Ledger)
The grisly case of a bag of human remains found Saturday in a duffel bag in Cambridge’s booming Kendall Square is also cloaked in mystery, as officials have thus far refused to identify a person they are holding in connection with case or release the name of the victim. More remains were found in nearby apartment. (Boston Herald, Boston Globe)
The defense will have its turn today in the Aaron Hernandez murder trial, but it is not expected to take long, and the jury could have the case by Wednesday. (Boston Globe)
The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem is turning over a painting in its Indian art collection to federal authorities who say it was stolen. (Eagle-Tribune)
A Columbia School of Journalism report commissioned by Rolling Stone to look at the magazine’s discredited story on rape at the University of Virginia found the article failed every basic rule of journalism and should have never been published. (New York Times)