T board trying to kickstart revenue debate

Pollack offers help, but acknowledges she doesn’t agree with FMCB

TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY STEPHANIE POLLACK said on Monday that she is willing to act as a conduit between members of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board and the Legislature on the need for broader transportation revenue initiatives even though she doesn’t see a need for them.

Several members of the five-person control board have indicated they support efforts to raise more revenues for transportation, with some of the money flowing back to the T. The idea first surfaced at a control board meeting two weeks ago, when Brian Lang said the MBTA can’t raise fares in isolation – that if T fares go up so should the gas tax and fees paid by ride-hailing apps. There was also some support for congestion pricing.

Key members of the Legislature have voiced support for raising more transportation funds, and shown an interest in learning what the control board has to say.

Pollack said the control board has asked for a briefing on the relevant bills pending before the Legislature and her staff is pulling together that information. She said she has offered to act as a conduit to the Legislature on behalf of the control board, but she acknowledged her views differ from those of the control board members.

“I am in the same place the governor is, which is right now that both MassDOT and the T need to focus on delivering with the resources they already have available to them,” she said. “If the control board feels differently, I’m sure they will weigh in. They are not shy and retiring.”

Gov. Charlie Baker appointed all five members of the control board.

The two members of the control board who have been the most vocal in calling for new revenues said on Monday that it’s unclear right now how the board will proceed. Monica Tibbits-Nutt, the vice chair of the board, said she has begun reaching out to lawmakers she has dealt with in the past. She said it was possible board members interested in the issue might testify at the State House.

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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.

Joseph Aiello, the chairman of the control board, said last week the board might try to craft a joint letter to lawmakers on new revenues, but Lang said it was unclear whether there would be enough unanimity on the board to do that. Aiello was not present at Monday’s meeting.

Lang said it’s an awkward situation because the control board has no authority to make policy decisions about non-T matters and members lack the staff to put together a legislative proposal on their own. “It’s very unclear what we’re going to do,” he said.