Transportation bill vetoed by Patrick

Says the ‘good bill isn’t good enough’

Saying the Legislature’s “good bill isn’t good enough,” Gov. Deval Patrick on Friday vetoed legislation that would have pumped $500 million into the state’s transportation system and helped avoid steep cuts in local aid and transit spending.

Patrick had said he would veto the bill unless it included an amendment that called for a 3 cent increase in the state gas tax to make up for the revenue shortfall that would be incurred if tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike between Route 128 and the New York border come down as scheduled by law in 2017. Both the House and Senate rejected Patrick’s amendment earlier this week.

Patrick said that while the bill would respond to a key priority of his administration, would stimulate jobs, and would provide some short-term funding to the state’s transportation network, the uncertainty surrounding the tolls makes it difficult to “plan a steady, disciplined reinvestment plan sufficient to get the Commonwealth to where it needs to be.”

The Legislature is unlikely to let Patrick’s veto stand. Top leaders have pledged to override his veto and seem to have the votes to do so. On Wednesday, the House rejected Patrick’s amendment by a vote of 121-31; the Senate followed suit on Thursday, striking it down 29-9.

Under state law, the tolls will come down if Turnpike bonds are paid off and state officials determine the Pike is in a good state of repair. Lawmakers believe Patrick’s successor is likely to determine that the Pike is not in a good state of repair and that the tolls need to remain, making the current dispute moot. Patrick’s own secretary of transportation, Richard Davey, said he doesn’t think the Pike is currently in a good state of repair.

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However, Patrick said it’s important for the state to deal now with the uncertainty regarding what will happen if the tolls do come down, which he supports, rather than simply putting it off until later.

“Transportation is too important to our citizens, their livelihoods, their quality of life, and our economy as a whole,” Patrick said. “And too often, those needs are only dealt with when they become a crisis. While this administration and the Legislature have done much to improve on that record, and worked together successfully to address many challenges, I believe this good bill misses a critical opportunity for the people we serve.”