Strange bedfellows on fed infrastructure bill

They say politics can make strange bedfellows, and the vote over the weekend on President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill was no exception.

The bill passed 228-206 with the help of 13 Republicans who chose infrastructure over ideology. Six far-left Democrats joined with Republicans in opposing the bill, uniting Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, the far-right fan of Donald Trump who claimed the legislation represented a “Communist takeover of America.”

Pressley said she voted no because the infrastructure bill was not being paired with an even larger bill called the Build Back Better Act dealing with health, family, and climate change programs. 

“I refuse to choose between the livelihoods of the union workers who build our highways and bridges, and the childcare and healthcare workers who care for our children, elderly, and disabled loved ones. I refuse to choose between our crumbling roads, bridges, and public transit system, and our crumbling housing stock. I refuse to pit community member against community member,” Pressley said in a statement.

Pressley was not criticized in Massachusetts for her no vote. Supporters of the legislation instead focused on the money it will bring to the state over the next five years for roadway improvements ($4.2 billion), bridge replacements ($1.1 billion), public transit ($2.5 billion), water infrastructure ($1.1 billion), and electric vehicle charging stations, broadband access, and airport investments (a total of $407 million).

On top of the $9 billion Massachusetts is expected to collect, the state will also be able to compete for billions of more dollars that will be awarded by the federal government on a competitive basis. State transportation officials are hoping they can land a significant chunk of the competitive grant money for the $1 billion I-90 Allston interchange project and the multi-billion-dollar East-West rail connection.

The infrastructure bill represents a huge infusion of federal aid, and the money comes at a time when the state and its municipalities are already flush with billions of dollars in federal funds. State coffers are also swelling, with surplus tax revenues mounting there as well.

“We’re very, very happy to be on the receiving end of more federal money,” said House Speaker Ron Mariano on Monday at a State House press conference with Gov. Charlie Baker and Senate President Karen Spilka. “It’s a great opportunity for us.”

Neither Mariano nor Baker criticized Pressley for voting against the legislation.

“She’s an elected official,” Mariano said. “She makes decisions based on the facts that she’s presented with and I have no insight as to why that was a no vote. I’m sure she had her reasons.”

Baker said he agreed with Mariano. “I’ve been saying for a very long time that the infrastructure bill was a great opportunity to do something really important for the country, for the Commonwealth. I’m very glad that it passed,” he said. “I think it presents a unique opportunity for us and for other states if we’re strategic and smart about it and take full advantage of the so-called allocations, which in many cases require state funding.”

BRUCE MOHL

 

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FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

The debate over congressional redistricting, which would unite Fall River in one district, but the same one as New Bedford, is creating a big fissure between South Coast leaders. (Boston Globe)  

Michelle Wu’s idea for fare-free MBTA service is getting a cool reception from Beacon Hill leaders. (Boston Herald

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Community leaders and elected officials are calling for the resignation of Danvers school officials and other municipal employees responsible for the handling of allegations of violent, racist, and homophobic behavior by the Danvers High School boys’ hockey team. (Boston Globe

A Berkshire Eagle editorial calls for an ARPA advisory council to hold its meetings in public rather than behind closed doors.

Worcester’s vaccine mandate for municipal employees went into effect November 1, and so far 79 percent of workers are vaccinated, 12 percent are undergoing weekly COVID tests, and 9 percent are not compliant. (Telegram & Gazette)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

UMass Medical School and the US Department of Veterans Affairs are set to open a new outpatient clinic for Worcester area veterans next month. (Telegram & Gazette)

Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River was the first hospital in the nation to receive a FedEx delivery of pediatric COVID vaccines, at 6:59 a.m. on Monday, November 1. (The Herald News)

A state study finds opioid overdose deaths rose dramatically in the construction, farming, and fishing industries in recent years. (Associated Press)

The Samaritans launch a new program where fishermen, maritime workers, and others in seafaring industries can call to get emotional support by phone. (Standard-Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Large companies in Central Massachusetts call President Biden’s vaccine mandate for workers at large employers a disaster, saying it will hurt their businesses and they will lose employees. (Telegram & Gazette)

EDUCATION

As Marshfield High School approaches the 80 percent vaccination threshold that would allow the school to drop its indoor mask mandate, a school committee member calls the state-imposed mask mandate “child abuse.” (Wicked Local)

TRANSPORTATION

The federal infrastructure bill includes $66 billion for Amtrak, the biggest infusion of funds in its 50-year history. (Washington Post

Boston Acting Mayor Kim Janey extends free rides on the Route 28 bus an additional month through the end of the year. (GBH)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Federal prosecutors are appealing a judge’s decision to throw out 10 of 21 corruption charges former Fall River mayor Jasiel Correia was convicted on. The remaining 11 convictions stood and he was sentenced to six years in prison. (Herald News

A Berkshire County prosecutor offered probation to a defendant with more than 80 convictions who is currently doing well at a recovery facility, but the judge thought the punishment was too lenient. (Berkshire Eagle)

MEDIA

McClatchy is severing ties with Report for America after the president of Report for America wrote an op-ed criticizing hedge fund ownership of newspapers. (Columbia Journalism Review)