Baker rules out new taxes for the T

Says new revenue can come from more riders, land sales, advertising

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER on Thursday announced an $83 million winter resiliency plan for the MBTA, urged the Legislature to pass a separate package of management reforms, and ruled out new tax revenue for the transit agency.

Baker repeated his administration’s standard line that the many holes in the T’s operations need to be fixed before new revenue for the agency can even be considered. But he subsequently answered yes when asked if new tax revenue for the T was off the table. He noted the agency has the capacity to raise significant revenue internally by becoming more reliable and attracting more riders, by selling off surplus real estate, and by selling advertising.

Baker said he and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, who prior to joining his administration often called for more revenue for the T, are on the same page in regard to additional funding for the agency.

The governor urged the Legislature to pass his T reform plan, which includes a fiscal control board, ends binding arbitration in disputes with the T’s union, and repeals the so-called Pacheco Law, which regulates privatization of state services.

Baker, Pollack, and interim T General Manager Frank DePaola announced a series of initiatives to help the T winter weather storms in the future.  The measures include snow fences and heater upgrades along outdoor sections of the Red and Orange Lines. The plan also directs the T to contract for snow removal with outside vendors and the Department of Corrections so transit workers can focus on keeping the trains and buses running instead of clearing ice and snow from stations. The T also plans to purchase new snow removal equipment and rehab existing machines.

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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.

Many MBTA employees said the agency’s rail lines wouldn’t have had to shut down entirely during last winter’s unprecedented snow storms if trains had continued to run around the clock to keep snow from piling up. That approach was not included in the winter resiliency plan unveiled on Thursday, but DePaola said he is aware that many T employees think management erred in not ordering the trains to keep running. He said he plans to study the issue.

The winter resiliency plan is expected to cost $82.7 million, with $62 million coming from the federal government, $10 million from the MBTA’s capital budget, and $11.7 million from the T’s operating funds.