BOSTON (AP) — Republican Gov. Charlie Baker won a key legislative ally Wednesday in his fight to win passage of a bill overhauling the management of the troubled Boston-area transit system.
Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo announced that he would support creation of a financial control board to oversee the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for the next several years.
“As I have stated consistently the MBTA failures of this winter were completely unacceptable and we must make the changes necessary to fix the system. I am committed to the creation of a control board to help implement much needed reform,” DeLeo said in a statement released by his office.
The powerful speaker had not previously taken a position on the proposed five-member control board, though he pointed out that the House had accepted another key element of Baker’s MBTA bill — a proposal to exempt the transit agency from the constraints of a state law that restricts privatization of government services.
Baker welcomed DeLeo’s support.
“I deeply appreciate the leadership of House Speaker Robert DeLeo in standing with riders, taxpayers, businesses and workers in support of much needed MBTA reform,” Baker said in a statement. “I join the speaker in recognizing the seriousness of the problems that plague the MBTA and the immediacy of the need for reform.”
DeLeo’s announcement could breathe new life into Baker’s plan, which appeared to be floundering after Senate Democratic leaders said they opposed creating a control board and any changes in the anti-privatization law named for its author, state Sen. Marc Pacheco of Taunton.
Senate President Stan Rosenberg has said he remains “personally skeptical” about the control board, but added in a statement Wednesday that he agrees with DeLeo that the MBTA overhaul bill should go through the Legislature’s joint committee process.
“We are committed to working with the speaker to deliver a bill to the governor’s desk this summer,” said Rosenberg, D-Amherst. “We understand the urgency to get a bill to the governor so that he will have enough time to ensure that a reliable and efficient public transit system will be in place before next winter. We assume the House will join us in this effort.”
Boston set an all-time snowfall record last winter, with more than 9 feet piling up, causing widespread delays and shutdowns of MBTA service.
A task force appointed by the governor after a winter of breakdowns and delays that infuriated MBTA passengers identified a “pervasive organizational failure” of the system and recommended a control board that would have broad powers over spending, fares and union negotiations.
A $38 billion state budget being debated in the Senate includes a provision to expand the state transportation board, which oversees the MBTA along with highways and other transportation functions. The new board would be chaired by the state transportation secretary, who in turn would appoint a general manager to run the T.
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