Senator says more to be done on transportation

Some have seen Boston's Olympics bid as a way to accomplish needed infrastructure upgrades

BOSTON – Hoping for a reappointment as Senate chairman of the Transportation Committee, Sen. Thomas McGee said Tuesday “we didn’t get to where we need to be” with recent laws aimed at shoring up transportation system funding and authorizing spending on capital projects.

Soon after approving a 2013 tax law to boost transportation revenues, lawmakers reversed course and repealed a tax on software services. Then last November, voters repealed another portion of the 2013 tax law, doing away with the provision that tied the gas tax to inflation. Left intact was a 3-cent hike in the gas tax to fund transportation and increased taxes on tobacco products.

Lawmakers also authorized roughly $12.7 billion in transportation projects in a bond bill last year.

“Our economy hinges on our ability to put a transportation system in place that’s safe, efficient and meets the needs of the citizens of the Commonwealth, and that’s a discussion we’re going to have with the new administration recognizing we made progress in both the transportation bond and the financing piece,” McGee told reporters. “But we didn’t get to where we need to be so that’s going to be an ongoing discussion.”

Speaking to reporters just before Gov. Charlie Baker announced the appointment of Stephanie Pollack as transportation secretary, McGee deferred on a question about specific funding sources and said Boston’s 2024 Olympics bid would be a “great opportunity” to assess transportation needs.

“I think it’s premature right now to say what action we’re going to take in terms of whether there’s going to be other funding opportunities,” McGee said, expressing hope that Congress would come up with a long-term transportation funding plan.

Some have seen Boston’s Olympics bid as a way to accomplish needed infrastructure upgrades, while others see it as a potential boondoggle.

“Interesting dynamic with this discussion on the Olympics,” said McGee. “I think the reality is it’s going to allow us to focus more clearly on the transportation investments we need to make over the next 10 years.”

McGee said, “I would really be happy to continue on as chair of transportation,” and said he has “weighed in on that” with Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, who is new to that post and mulling leadership assignments.

A Lynn Democrat, McGee was Senate chairman of Transportation the last two sessions, serving alongside House Chairman Rep. William Straus, a Mattapoisett Democrat. McGee is also chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

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