Monday, March 10, 2014

Senate Republican Caucus Succeeds in Securing Transparency Amendment in Transportation Bond Bill

Today the Senate Republican Caucus distributed the following press release regarding a transportation bond bill the Massachusetts State Senate passed on Thursday, March 6:

Senate Republican Caucus Succeeds in Securing Transparency Amendment in Transpo Bond Bill
Caucus Vows to Continue to Fight for Accountability and Responsibility in State Transportation System
Boston- On Thursday, March 6th, the Massachusetts State Senate debated a transportation bond bill that totaled more than $13 billion to assist in the financing of transportation projects throughout the Commonwealth.  Among the 237 amendments filed, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Assistant Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Senate Minority Whip Donald Humason (R-Westfield), and Senator Richard Ross (R-Wrentham), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means succeeded in securing an amendment to S.2023, An Act financing improvements to the Commonwealth’s transportation system, that would instill needed transparency and allow for more accountability within two of the state’s major transportation agencies.

The amendment, which passed unanimously by a roll call vote of 38-0, requires the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to post an annual report to the MassDOT website of all financial activities.  It also requires the MBTA to post an annual itemized budget online, allowing anyone the opportunity to scrutinize and examine the expenditures made by the agency.

“Our state government spends billions of taxpayer dollars on a system of transportation that people depend on every day, said Senator Tarr.  “It makes sense to open the doors of accountability to allow people to see how their money is being spent, and compare those expenditures with the value they are getting when they drive on a roadway or ride on a train.”

While this amendment passed overwhelmingly, several other amendments aimed at increasing transparency, accountability, and efficiency in the state’s transportation system were offered unsuccessfully by the caucus, which will continue to pursue them in other venues.  They include:

• Requiring the secretary of transportation to issue a five-year plan prioritizing the repair and maintenance of existing transportation infrastructure over expansion projects, also known as the Fix it First Plan;

• Prohibiting the MBTA from undertaking expansion projects without first conducting a cost analysis and demonstrating that sufficient revenue exists or will be generated to operate and maintain the expansion project; and

• Prohibiting the registrar from raising Registry of Motor Vehicle fees until after the secretary of transportation has reported on the status of a mandate requiring all state transportation employees’ salaries and benefits being funded through the operating budget, and not with bond money.

“In order to increase transparency within our state government and instill the system with greater integrity, it is paramount that measures like these are vigorously pursued at every opportunity, and the Senate Republican Caucus will continue to fight for a more transparent and efficient state government,” said Senator Tarr.

The transportation bond bill was engrossed by the Senate by a unanimous vote of 38-0.  The House previously passed its version of a transportation bond bill, and now the two chambers will work together to reach an accord.