(updated as of July 24, 2020)
ACEC/MA President Dennis Baker testifies in support of Bond Bill before Joint Committee on Transportation on 10/8/2019
Legislature forms conference committee to work out final Transportation Bond Bill by July 31, 2020.
ACEC/MA-opposed amendments are rejected by Massachusetts Senate in Bond Bill
ACEC/MA successfully advocate for the removal of 2 bad amendments from the Senate version of the Transportation Bond Bill last week.
On July 23, the legislature appointed a 6-member conference committee to develop a compromise bill to fund more than $17B billion in transportation improvements. The conference committee is expected to merge the bills within a week. The Senate conference committee members are : Transportation Committee Co-chair Senator Joe Boncore, Ways and Means Committee Chair Senator Michael Rodrigues, and Fitchburg Republican Senator Dean Tran. The House conferees are: Transportation Committee Co-chair Representative William Straus, Revenue Committee Co-chair Representative Mark Cusack, and Lakeville Republican Representative. Norman Orrall.
|Amendments Filed to Senate version of Transportation Bond Bill; Debate begin July 16||
Direct link to amendments on Legislature's website is here: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S2813/Amendments/Senate
ACEC/MA is actively opposing two amendments: #191, which would limit private sector work on construction inspection, and
#232, which would expand the "Pacheco Law" to include “Section 13. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, all design, engineering and inspection services shall be subject to the provisions of M.G.L., Chapter 7, Section 52-55.“
We support such amendments as: #94, #144, #148, #160, #185, #273
and #258, filed by the Massachusetts Municipal Association
Senate to propose Transportation Bond with borrowing, not increased gas tax.
Senate version of Transportation Bond Bill is now S 2813. Amendments are due by 5 pm on July 13.
July 10, 2020: The Senate will not take up the House-approved, half billion-dollar Transportation Finance package of transportation tax and fee increases this legislative session, instead focusing attention on the Transportation bond bill. The Senate plans to take up the $16.9B transportation bond bill on July 16. Due to the COVID crisis, the Senate is unwilling to add new taxes and fees for transportation alone at this time.
One day before it approved its own version of an $18B borrowing bill in March, the House passed a bill authorizing hikes to the state's gasoline and diesel taxes, corporate minimum excise tax and ride-hailing fees as well as applying the sales tax to purchase of rental cars. Democratic leaders at the time projected the increases would generate $522M to $612M per year in revenue , though their bill did not prescribe how to spend all of that additional money. While criticizing the Senate's unsuccessful attempts to increase road and bridge repair funding without a parallel revenue boost, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said last month he does not believe the tax and fee hikes can wait.
The legislation would authorize $16.9B in borrowing to be directed to a range of road, bridge and public transit investments, though Boncore said the bottom line could grow via amendments on the floor.
Many of the largest figures mirror what the House approved, including $5.6Bn for federal highway system projects and $695 million for the Green Line Extension project. The Senate version increased funding for non-federally aided highways $250 million over the House version to $2 billion and added another $25 million to the South Coast Rail expansion, bringing the project's total funding in the bill to $850 million.
The MBTA would receive $3.26B, plus a $300 million direct capital transfer under the Senate's bill.
In March, the House Ways and Means Committee prepared a $14.5B version of a transportation bond bill that increased to about $18B through amendments. Gov. Charlie Baker also proposed a roughly $18B version of a multi-year transportation borrowing bill with similar levels of capital investment.
House leaders argued in the spring that the governor's suggestion called for too much borrowing and spending and that the money "isn't fully there" to support it without more revenue.
Asked if the state could afford a minimum of $16.9B in borrowing over the next several years without additional revenue as the Senate suggested, Boncore answered, "absolutely."
"The conversation on revenue -- it's just not applicable to capital budgets," he said. "We did a very similar bond bill five years ago at $14B, and since then, revenues generally have grown over 20%. That more than compensates for the needs of this transportation bond bill."
Debt service payments on long-term capital spending are made out of the state's operating budget, and the dynamics around that budget have been shaken by the pandemic, the economic shutdowns it forced, and estimates that state tax collections will fall by billions of dollars, making big investments a lot more unlikely.
The Senate's bond bill also includes a number of policy changes, some of which had been previously supported by the House and governor and some of which would be new steps for the Legislature.
Under the bill, the MBTA would be able to pay capital worker salaries from bond sources instead of from operating funds, a change T officials have been pushing for to free up resources and lessen pressure on the budget.
The Senate included language imposing new data-collection requirements on ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft and decriminalizing fare evasion on the MBTA, both of which Baker proposed in separate pieces of legislation.
Boncore said the Senate and governor "see eye to eye" on the importance of reducing punishments for failure to pay a public transit fare.
The new bond bill also orders the state Department of Transportation to implement a means-tested fare option on both regional transit authorities and the MBTA by 2022. Transportation leaders have been exploring a similar idea, but the Senate proposal sets a firm statutory deadline for low-income fares to become a reality.
MassDOT would also need to study deploying a mileage-based revenue system, where drivers pay based on how much distance they drive rather than based on the use of specifically tolled roads. A separate commission would study and make recommendations about the adoption of "regionally equitable roadway pricing and congestion pricing mechanisms."
Senate President Karen Spilka, an Ashland Democrat whose region relies on the tolled Massachusetts Turnpike, has pushed for more highways that currently are not tolled to impose charges on drivers as a way of fairly distributing costs.
In addition, cities and towns would gain authorization to embrace regional ballot initiatives under the Senate bill, effectively opening the gates for communities to propose and adopt their own taxes and fees aimed at funding transportation needs.
Boncore said that the Senate's bond bill and many other pieces of legislation have been refracted "through a special lens dealing with racial justice" following widespread protests against police brutality and systemic racism. The bill highlights equity issues by decriminalizing fare evasion and prioritizing low-income fares, he said.
"With the ridership being so depleted in the COVID crisis, how people are going to return to work, who the customers are -- we're going to be dealing with, not just on the core system of the MBTA but on the commuter rail system, that could look very different post-COVID," Boncore said. "We want to address and ensure that all people have access in an equitable way to public transportation."
Lawmakers face a tight timeline to finalize a transportation borrowing bill. After July 31, they cannot take any recorded roll call votes, which renders almost all major legislation that may draw opposition impossible.
Baker has pushed for billions in borrowing to fund transportation capital projects, but his views on proposals such as mandatory low-income fares or congestion pricing are less clear.
If Democratic leaders that hold supermajorities in both branches want to guarantee passage of any of those pieces, they would need to get the bill to Baker with at least 10 days before the end of sessions so they could have a chance to override a potential gubernatorial veto.
That veto-proof deadline falls around July 20, which would leave the House and Senate only a few days to complete private negotiations on a final version once the Senate approves its bill.
"We have no choice but to reach a compromise on a bond bill because it funds our major transportation infrastructure for the next five years," Boncore said. "We know what that state of disrepair number is, and it's growing every day we don't we don't do something."
|House and Senate Agree on Chapter 90 Bill at $200M on June 25, 2020||
Despite both the House and Senate each passing separate bills providing $300M for FY2020’s Chapter 90 Program, the legislature branches have ultimately agreed on a bill funded at $200M for FY2020.
This is the State House News Service article on the bill’s passage, which also includes language extending the current MBTA Fiscal & Management Control Board for one more year:
However, House leaders began to cast doubt over the state's ability to afford the additional bonding amid a pandemic-fueled recession without a package of tax and fee hikes they approved -- hikes that the Senate has left untouched for months.
|Senate approves Chapter 90 at $300M, changes oversight of MBTA. House and Senate to form conference committee next.||
Excerpts from From State House News Service on 6/12/2020: The House passed two major bills in March, right before Massachusetts entered a state of emergency, proposing more than half a billion dollars of tax and fee increases to support transportation and authorizing $18B in borrowing for transportation projects. Senate leaders, however, still have not outlined a plan for dealing with most of those proposals. The Senate this week approved legislation allocating $300M to the Chapter 90 program for municipal road and bridge repairs and creating a new MBTA Board of Directors -- two of the most time-sensitive issues included in the larger House packages. There are still gaps between the two branches after that vote: the House voted to extend the existing Fiscal and Management Control Board 3 to 5 years beyond its June 30, 2020 expiration, but with two new seats added, while the Senate authorized creation of an entirely new MBTA Board of Directors. In separating out the Chapter 90 roadway funding from the House's tax package, the Senate also endorsed spending $100M more on the program than previous years without also approving new revenue sources.
Senate President Karen Spilka has said she still sees the $18B bond bill as a priority, but hinted in April that the current economic climate makes a tax vote less likely. The Senate approved the bill (S 2746) on an unrecorded voice vote with no debate. The legislation directs $300M to the Chapter 90 program that reimburses cities and towns for road and bridge repairs and projects. The vote means both branches are now on record supporting $100M more than previous years to the annual authorization that cities and towns look for each year in early spring. The bill also creates a brand-new MBTA Board of Directors with seven members, up from the current five, including the secretary of transportation and someone chosen by the MBTA Advisory Board group that represents cities and towns within the T's service area.
The two issues in the Senate bill were tackled by the House in March -- about a week before Gov. Charlie Baker declared the COVID-19 state of emergency -- as part of larger bills creating new taxes and fees to fund transportation and authorizing $18B in long-term borrowing to fund transit and infrastructure projects. Both bills sat pending in the Senate for more than three months as attention shifted to pandemic response, and it remains unclear whether or how the Senate plans to address the remainder of their contents.
Legislative leaders have also not outlined plans to settle their policy and procedural differences on road funding and the T board, but they have a narrow window in which to do so if they want to outline the future of MBTA oversight before the existing Fiscal and Management Control Board expires on June 30. If no successor or extension is in place, control would revert to the Department of Transportation Board of Directors, a step that Transportation Committee Co-chair Sen. Joseph Boncore said this week would have "huge" impacts.
Baker and the Legislature created the FMCB in the wake of the disastrous winter of 2015 that brought repeated shutdowns on the T, empowering it to reform what many critics deemed a bloated, inefficient and indebted agency. He then extended the board another two years in 2018, but it will expire at the end of the month and another extension is not possible without legislation.
In his FY2021 budget proposal, Baker also proposed creating a new seven-member board including the transportation secretary and an MBTA Advisory Board appointee, though his board would oversee both the MBTA and the Department of Transportation.
The Senate bill would empower the new board to hire the T's general manager, a responsibility that currently rests with the transportation secretary. The House bill did not include that provision.
Asked about that language during an unrelated Thursday press conference, Baker said he believes the governor should maintain a role in appointing the MBTA's top leader. He also said one of the key funding mechanisms for the T is dedicated revenue from the state's sales tax, which means many Massachusetts residents effectively pay into a system they do not use.
"The executive branch, the administration, me, the lieutenant governor, the secretary of transportation -- (we) own a big piece of the accountability for what happens there, and that translates into a far more transparent agency that I believe is a lot more accountable to the public," Baker said. "Going forward, the more accountable that the T can be and the operation and leadership of the T can be to the executive branch and, by definition, to the governor and lieutenant governor, the better off we're all going to be."
The Chapter 90 authorization, which won't be settled until the House and Senate agree to a final vehicle, will be the latest the Legislature has resolved that matter in recent memory. Cities and towns look to Beacon Hill every year for passage of the bill as early as possible, often arguing that although it authorizes funding reimbursement for the next fiscal year, they need the certainty early to help secure projects in the current construction season. This year's season has been unusual, with some construction projects shut down to limit the spread of COVID-19 and traffic at a fraction of typical levels in April and May.
Both branches have now approved language increasing the annual funding to $300M after years of holding it at $200M despite pleas from municipalities for more money. The state's revenue outlook is dire because of the pandemic, with fiscal year 2020 tax revenues lagging projections $2.25 billion and fiscal year 2021 projections also pointing toward revenues declining by billions of dollars from pre-pandemic estimates.
Senate Breaks Out Pieces of Transportation Bond bill for earlier action:
Time-Sensitive Package Limited to Chapter 90, T Board
From State House News Service on 6/9/2020: While the Senate prepares to take a different path than the House on legislation outlining future management of the MBTA, the upper chamber's Transportation Committee chair said lawmakers must find consensus before the MBTA's Fiscal and Management Control Board expires at the end of the month.
Sen. Joe Boncore told the News Service he is hopeful the two branches will be able to agree on an approach -- a process that may require private conference committee negotiations -- by June 30. If not, oversight of the T would revert to the Department of Transportation Board of Directors until legislators agree and Gov. Charlie Baker signs off on their proposal for a new panel.
"I'm hoping that doesn't happen. I think the impacts would be huge," Boncore said Monday, citing work the MBTA needs to address in the short term on contracts and bond authorizations. "The MassDOT board is a board that is bigger and spread out geographically, and I think it doesn't meet as often. They haven't really been wrestling with these issues in a focused manner the same way as the FMCB."
The Senate will vote June 11y -- in its first formal session since adopting new rules for remote voting on Tuesday -- on its version of a bill (S 2746) that would create a new, seven-member MBTA Board of Directors to succeed the FMCB.
The legislation also authorizes $300M in bond funding for the Chapter 90 program that reimburses cities and towns for road and bridge maintenance. Despite the recession and imploding tax revenues, lawmakers are set to increase the amount available in the annual program by $100M compared to previous years.
The House earlier this session addressed both topics. In March, about a week before Baker declared an emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic, the House included language extending the current FMCB by three to five years and adding two seats in a major transportation tax bill, but did not give it new authority to hire the MBTA general manager as the Senate proposed.
The House also included the $300M Chapter 90 funding in an $18B transportation borrowing bill. Boncore said senators decided to pluck the two specific issues from the broader transportation packages because of their time-sensitive nature, noting that a June authorization would be "probably the latest we've done the Chapter 90 bond bill."
"Part of the thinking, at least on these two issues, was that time was certainly of the essence," he said. "We decided we'd move forward on these two things that are timely and need to be addressed in the short term. As we continue to talk about what COVID has done to our economy, to funding, to federal funding, the conversation around the ($18 billion) bond bill is a fluid one and it's still being had." The bond bill, which Baker filed in July, is "still a priority to get done for the Senate this session," he said.
The tax package is clouded with more uncertainty. Before the pandemic hit, Senate leaders had not offered a clear indication of their plans, expressing support for investing more in the state's transportation systems without saying how they would treat the tax and fee hikes the House approved.
March 5, 2020: House Votes to pass Transportation Bond bill (H4547), now in Senate Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets
|In early March, the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted 113 to 40 (a veto proof margin) to pass the Transportation Revenue bill (H4530). The bill is now in the Senate where its fate is unknown.
The House bill includes a 5 cent gas tax increase, 9 cent diesel increase, increases in TNC fees (Uber/Lyft), a tiered structure for corporate minimum excise tax, and the imposition of the sales tax on vehicles purchased by rental car companies.
Estimated revenue from the legislation ranges from $522M to $612M per year.
ACEC/MA supported the legislation and has expressed our appreciation to House leadership and the members who voted in favor of this important legislation.
Passage of the revenue bill set up the ability for the House to take up, and fund, the Transportation Bond Bill on March 5.
With 467 filed amendments, the House engaged in a long formal session which ended with a 150 to 1 vote to pass the Transportation Bond Bill at 10:53 PM The bond bill, like the revenue bill, is now in the Senate.
By the end of the bond bill debate, with much of the discussions occurring behind the scenes, the House added approximately $4B to the House Ways & Means version of the bill that was originally a $14B bill – for a new total of $18 billion.
We extend our appreciation to the House leadership and the members for their dedication to getting a revenue bill and bond bill passed this session. We now look forward to working with the Senate as these bills are sent to that branch for consideration.
|House Committee on Bonding releases the bond bill now H.4505 and sends it to the House Committee on Ways & Means||February 26, 2020: The House set a deadline of 5 pm on Friday, February 28, 2020 for state representatives to file amendments to the House's current version of the transportation bond bill released by House Bonding and sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means.|
Joint Committee on Transportation releases Transportation Bond bill with changes, sends it to House Bonding, next step in the process. Bill was H. 4002 https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H4002;
Now H. 4397 https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H4397 bill is now in House Bonding, next step in process.
February 5, 2020: Joint Transportation Comm removed ability to use future funding from Transportation Climate Initiative to MBTA, because TCI hasn’t happened yet and also removed ability to use GANs (Grant Anticipation Notes that would borrow against future federal grants to expand state’s bridge repair program.
House Bonding will have a hearing on the bill, but date/time isn’t posted yet.
Sign up for Engineers and Land Surveyors Day – You are needed at the State House on 5/14. More info and registration link: https://www.engineers.org/events/engineers-land-surveyors-day
This bill would allow the Baker administration to begin borrowing up to $18B over multiple years to invest in transit, roads and bridges was voted on by the Transportation Committee.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo and House Transportation Committee Chairman William Straus said that the bond bill would authorize the $18 billion requested by Baker, but it excludes two major provisions from the governor's bill.
Chairman Straus said the committee decided to cut Baker's request to devote half of future Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) money to the MBTA because of the uncertainty underlying the regional cap-and-trade program Baker is working to put together to reduce vehicle emissions.
The bill the committee voted on also omits the governor's plan to expand the use of grant anticipation notes (GANs) by $1.25B to support a $4B bridge preservation and reconstruction program over the next eight years.
Speaker DeLeo did not provide an update on the highly-anticipated revenue bill that House leadership is putting together to expand investments in transportation.
The committee action on the bond bill was a sign of "moving toward that goal" of having a broader debate on transportation spending in the House, DeLeo said.
Neither DeLeo nor Straus would predict when the bill would reach the House floor for a vote because it must first move through the House Bonding Committee, where Chairman Antonio Cabral may seek to hold a second hearing on the redrafted bill.
|Joint Committee on Transportation holds October 8 hearing to consider the transportation bond bill.||
The Joint Committee on Transportation heard a wide range of oral testimony starting with the Governor, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak, and including ACEC/MA President-Elect Dennis Baker. The Governor stated that, “we have enviable problems: our economy is growing, our population is growing, and the economic activity that dominates our commonwealth is constrained by the limits of our current system” in calling for the bond bill’s approval.
In the Governor’s bill, the funding is sourced from the Transportation Climate Initiative, a multi-state collaboration to impose a cap on motor fuel emissions that is still being developed into final form. Under the legislation, 50% of the revenue generated from the initiative would go toward transportation needs. Taking this proposal further, Transportation House Chairman William Straus (D-Mattapoisett) believes it should be 100%.
|Joint Committee on Transportation to hold hearing on October 8, 2019||
Hearing will be held at 10 AM in Hearing Room B-1 in the State House. ACEC/MA plans to testify at this hearing.
|Transportation Bond Bill Referred to Joint Committee on Transportation. Bill is now H4002||On July 30, 2019, the House, followed by the Senate, assigned this bill to the Joint Committee on Transportation, which may hold a hearing on this bill in September. The transportation bond bill will be first heard by the Joint Committee on Transportation, followed by a hearing before the House Bonding Committee, before going to the House Ways and Means Committee and then to the full House for a vote. Following the House vote, the bill would then be reviewed and acted on in the Senate. ACEC/MA will be urging the legislature to take speedy action on this bill.|
Governor Files Transportation Bond Bill on July 25, 2019
On July 25, 2019, the Baker-Polito Administration filed a transportation bond bill seeking $18 billion in additional capital authorization to invest in building and modernizing a transportation system that meets the needs of residents, businesses and cities and towns statewide. The authorization would be used to fund existing programs as well as several new initiatives designed to lessen impacts from roadway congestion and ensure reliable travel throughout the Commonwealth.
Titled An Act Authorizing and Accelerating Transportation Investment, the proposal includes a series of initiatives from the administration to combat congestion on the Commonwealth’s roadways including establishing a tax credit to encourage telecommuting and remote working, expanding the use of designated bus lanes and transit signal priority, as well as creating a program designed to reduce bottlenecks on local roadways.
It includes nearly $5.7 billion to continue modernizing the MBTA, $150 million to improve the pavement condition on state roads, $20 million to ensure municipalities have resources needed to continue efforts to build ‘Complete Streets’ infrastructure to encourage the public to travel more on foot and by bicycle and $70 million for the Municipal Small Bridge Program.
Links to documents provided on July 25, 2019 for An Act Authorizing and Accelerating Transportation Investment
Summary- Section by Section
Baker-Polito Administration Press ReleGovernor Baker unveiled an $18 billion bond bill for transportation improvements. The proposal would distribute funding on varying time frames authorized over the next 10 years, including $2.7 billion for the MBTA, $100 million for locally owned roads in poor condition, $1.25 billion for a “next-generation” fund for bridge maintenance, and a $50 million municipal grant program for congestion improvements such as bus lane installation and traffic signal modernization. The Governor’s proposal also authorizes changes to the procurement process at the MBTA, allowing it to more rapidly advance projects, and it calls for the creation of a new tax credit, capped at $50 million per year, to incentivize employers to let workers telecommute.ase
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