No beach for Baker

Governor has his hands full with T, RMV, offshore wind

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER hasn’t had much time for the beach this summer. First there was the Red Line derailment on June 11, which knocked the MBTA on its heels and prompted an extended debate about whether the T needed more resources. Baker had insisted the T didn’t need more money, but he hedged a bit as the debate went on – first proposing an extra $50 million for a T “flex force” and then announcing he intended to steer half of the revenue from a planned fee on the carbon in automobile fuels to the transit authority.

On June 21, Volodymyr Zhukovskyy allegedly drove his truck into a group of motorcyclists in New Hampshire, killing seven of them. That tragedy was compounded when it was discovered that Zhukovskyy, a Massachusetts resident, should have lost his commercial driver’s license after being arrested for drunken driving in Connecticut in May. It turned out that Connecticut’s attempts to alert Massachusetts about Zhukovskyy were all ignored by the Registry of Motor Vehicles. A legislative oversight hearing – delayed a week because of tepid cooperation from the Baker administration – revealed that many within the Registry were aware out-of-state violations by Massachusetts drivers weren’t being processed, but did nothing about it. Baker said he didn’t know about the boxes of unopened violation notices until his registrar resigned.

Baker is also trying to rescue the Vineyard Wind offshore wind project, which says it needs federal approval of its environmental impact statement by the end of this month if the wind farm is to move forward. Baker said he is working on a “cure plan” to deal with the concerns of the fishing industry. Meanwhile, he headed off a potentially fatal flaw with the next procurement for offshore wind by rushing through a budget amendment removing the requirement that the price of the new project come in less than what Vineyard Wind intends to charge. Given an expiring federal tax credit, many feared the state would get no bidders if the provision had remained.

With all the turmoil surrounding the administration, it’s no wonder Baker took the easy way out when the Legislature finally sent a budget to his desk a month late. Baker ditched his usual practice of vetoing money for legislative earmarks, and signed the budget with no spending vetoes. It’s something that had never been done before, according to veteran Beacon Hill watchers.

— BRUCE MOHL