Baker leaves door cracked on Pacheco Law suspension

No plans for seeking extension at T, but doesn’t rule it out

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER said on Wednesday that he has no current plans to seek a longer suspension of the Pacheco Law on behalf of the MBTA, but indicated his thinking could possibly change.

“At this time, we’re not going to seek an extension,” he said. He noted, however, that a series of initiatives approved by the Legislature, including a three-year suspension of the Pacheco Law, which regulates privatization of state services, have paid big dividends.

“I think the T has demonstrated that these tools have been enormously effective in both improving the performance of the T overall and enhancing its financial position – making it possible to take the savings associated with some of these operating reforms and investing them in the capital payments, which as we all know had been horribly neglected for years.”

But Baker didn’t shut the door completely on seeking an extension. “We’re certainly going to take a look at this and come back and make a decision about whether to press for an additional extension when we get a little closer to the end of the term,” he said.

The three-year suspension is scheduled to run out in June 2018. T officials have said the suspension of the law, which they say has allowed for privatization initiatives to move forward and move forward more swiftly, has helped save money and improve service at the transit agency.

It’s not even clear whether Baker could push an extension through the Legislature now. In 2015, lawmakers were reluctant to suspend the Pacheco Law, but it was pushed through in a budget conference committee by a handful of lawmakers. Many lawmakers were also eager to give Baker some running room in turning around the T in the wake of snowstorms that brought the transit agency to a standstill.

Now the Senate is likely to oppose any move to extend the T’s suspension and Baker, who is up for reelection next year, is in no hurry to pick a fight with the Legislature. State Auditor Suzanne Bump, who is charged with implementing the Pacheco Law, has also said that the T could continue privatizing operations without suspending the law.

But Eileen McAnneny, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed government watchdog, said Baker should seek an extension of the Pacheco Law suspension to continue the progress at the T.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

“Suspension of the Pacheco law has proven to be a valuable tool for the MBTA as the outsourcing of the cash collection and reconciliation and warehousing functions demonstrate,” she said in a statement. “The collaboration with Uber and Lyft in The Ride pilot program demonstrates how service delivery can be improved, costs can be reduced, and the customer experience made better when the T has the ability to partner with innovative third parties.  Where the value of Pacheco suspension is most apparent is the successful negotiation of the most recent Carmen’s union contract.  In previous attempts, the negotiations have ended in arbitration. In the most recent round, the Carmen’s union was incented to reach a mutually agreeable deal or run the risk of losing the work. Despite the numerous successes the administration has had in reducing operating expenses, more work remains and the T should retain the ability to outsource when it makes sense to do so.”