Last night, the Senate adopted the Governor’s recommendation for a Financial and Management Control Board for the MBTA. The vote was unanimous after a week of debate and negotiation.
I came out in support of the FMCB concept a little sooner than some of my colleagues and it was a big relief for me that we were all able to come together at the end. The final package was negotiated late into the evening between the Governor’s team, including his Secretary of Transportation (Stephanie Pollack) the Senate Minority leader (Bruce Tarr), our Transportation Committee Chair (Tom McGee) and the Senate President (Stan Rosenberg) — all supported by good lawyers.
The outcome produced essentially the FMCB that the Governor wanted, with one change that the Transportation Committee Chair felt strongly about — three of the five members of the FMCB will be drawn from the MassDOT board. The Governor appoints both boards, so he has full control, but the overlap will ensure close collaboration between the T and the rest of the transportation bureaucracy.
The process in the Senate on this issue was a great credit to the leadership style of Senate President Rosenberg. The Senate budget proposal came out last week, including an MBTA plan that did not include the FMCB. When I and other members (and many outside the body as well) expressed support for the FMCB, the Senate President guided a series of frank caucus conversations that ultimately brought the body together in support of the FMCB. The Senate Minority Leader also deserve great credit for facilitating the negotiation with the Governor’s team that cemented the deal.
There are some important elements of the Governor’s transportation package which remain unaddressed, notably the issue of loosening privatization restrictions on the MBTA. The Senate President and the House Speaker have both committed to further legislation before the end of July. The Transportation Committee is scheduling additional hearings on the issues. Also, significantly, the House Budget, in outside section 51, did include privatization and procurement reforms for the MBTA. Although they were not adopted, these measures were before the Senate as amendments in this week’s budget process, so it would be fair game to include them in the final budget package negotiated between the House and Senate.
SENATE PRESIDENT’S PRESS RELEASE ON THE FMCB
Senate Adopts Bipartisan Amendment Creating MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board
Boston, MA- During today’s fiscal year 2016 budget debate, in response to the failures of the public transit system this past winter, the Massachusetts State Senate unanimously adopted a bipartisan amendment creating an MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board (FMCB).
The Tarr-McGee amendment creates a direct line of accountability from the MBTA to the Governor’s office without creating additional bureaucracy. The FMCB will consist of five members, three of whom will also be members of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Board, including the Secretary of Transportation or her designee.
“This is an important step in the process to reforming the MBTA so residents can count on a reliable and efficient public transit system. This past winter illustrated the vital importance of the MBTA to businesses and residents alike,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “In addition to this bipartisan effort, I look forward to the work of the Transportation Committee on the MBTA.”
“This bipartisan amendment maintains a direct line of accountability from the MBTA to the Governor’s Office. In addition, we have protected riders from unpredictable fare hikes while giving the Governor the structure to fix the management problems at the MBTA,” said Senator Tom McGee (D-Lynn), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation.
“One of the most important things that the Senate can do in this budget is provide a major reform package that comports with the framework of the plan offered by Governor Baker and restores confidence from an exasperated public,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “The bi-partisan support for MBTA reform affirms that we are ready and willing to bring accountability to a dysfunctional system and give riders, taxpayers and the public the mass transit system they need and deserve.”
The FMCB has an initial three year authorization with an option for an additional two years. The amendment mandates the board to meet at least three times a month, with each meeting subject to Massachusetts Open Meeting Laws. The authorization to raise fares under current law (which allows a 5% increase every two years) will be placed under FMCB control, rather than the MassDOT board.
Finally, the FMCB must make monthly reports to the Secretary of Transportation on implementing the necessary changes to fix the MBTA, avoid future breakdowns, and put the system on firm financial footing.