DeLeo vows more T reforms
Speaker indicates House may back changes sought by Baker
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
HOUSE SPEAKER ROBERT DELEO said the body will continue to fight for MBTA management reforms favored by Gov. Charlie Baker both in ongoing budget negotiations and in a separate bill being reported out of committee.
The Joint Committee on Transportation on Monday unveiled a reform bill that would expand the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board to 11 members and institute a financial control board first proposed by Beacon Hill Republicans and Gov. Charlie Baker to take charge of the T.
The bill, which is currently being voted on by committee members, does not include provisions requested by Baker to suspend the “Pacheco Law” for the MBTA, which would make it easier to privatize transit services, or give the board veto power over binding arbitration awards involving T unions. Many members of the Senate oppose those provisions.
“We will make further changes,” DeLeo said Tuesday, indicating that House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey would now be involved in rewriting the committee bill.
The timeline for the House to consider a standalone MBTA bill “could be delayed,” according to DeLeo, because he said Dempsey currently has his hands full trying to negotiate a final fiscal 2016 state budget.
DeLeo said he and his team are still trying to negotiate a suspension of the “Pacheco Law” into the state budget. The House voted for that measure as part of its $38.1 billion spending plan for fiscal 2016.
Asked specifically about eliminating binding arbitration, DeLeo would only say, “You’ll see some changes.” He also suggested Dempsey would be taking a closer look at Baker’s proposal to lift the 5 percent cap on MBTA fare increases every two years.
The Boston Carmen’s union, representing many T workers, opposes changes to the collective bargaining process.
“We want to get something done so Gov. Baker, by the time the winter at least rolls around – I’m presuming it’s going to be long before the winter, I didn’t mean it that way – but we want to give him enough time to prepare the T, whether its take control of the T, to make sure those horrific problems we had last winter do not occur again,” DeLeo said. “That’s my ultimate goal is to make sure we don’t go through a winter like we did last year because of poor management decisions and other problems at the T.”
Baker, in a statement addressing the substance of the committee bill, suggested he was hoping for more tools to improve MBTA management.
“I am pleased to see progress toward fixing the MBTA, but solving the chronic problems that plague the agency will require a strong Fiscal Management and Control Board armed with the appropriate tools to make meaningful reforms. Taxpayers who do not ride the T contribute over a billion dollars to this system every year, while millions of riders depend on it to get to work and pay the bills, so we owe it to them to work collaboratively and strengthen the MBTA for the long term with the full toolbox now,” Baker said.
On the Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589 website, Larry Hanley, international president of Amalgamated Transit Union, wrote that the Pacheco Law provides an “important consumer protection.”
“Nothing is stopping MBTA from moving ahead with a plan to outsource any part of the operation as long as a cost analysis is done and it is found that the quality of service will not suffer. Ask the riders and taxpayers: what in the world is wrong with that?” Hanley wrote. “The Pacheco Law has served MBTA riders well for more than two decades, helping the Commonwealth avoid the mistakes of other US cities that have moved to privatize transit without considering all of the implications.”