Gov. Baker praises Senate for backing MBTA control board
May. 22, 2015
BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker is praising the Massachusetts Senate for supporting his proposal to create a financial control board to oversee management of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
A measure was adopted by the Senate on Thursday night to create a five-member board with broad powers to manage all aspects of the MBTA for the next three to five years.
Three members of the panel will come from the Baker-appointed Massachusetts Department of Transportation board, including state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack.
Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Wednesday said he would also support the creation of the control board.
Boston's record-setting snowfall of more than 9 feet last winter caused widespread delays and shutdowns of MBTA service, frustrating politicians and the public, and prompting Baker to seek greater control of the transit system.
The move to create the control board — and to give Baker the power to appoint three of its five members — is another step toward putting the future of the MBTA firmly into Baker's hands.
Baker has already named every member of the state's seven-person Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which oversees operations at the MBTA, the Registry of Motor Vehicles and other transportation departments.
Baker has filed a bill that would create a new DOT board, expanding it to 11 members.
The recommendation for the control board was included in a report by an advisory panel Baker created following the T's poor performance during the winter. Many of the other recommendations in that report are included in a bill Baker has filed that is working its way through the legislation.
Baker said the T is in such dire shape it needs a separate board focused solely on getting it on more solid financial and management footing.
The Republican governor acknowledged Friday that his push for greater control of the troubled transit system will also place greater credit — or blame — at his doorstep if the efforts fail.
"We have said for a while now that we are willing to be responsible for the operation of the T and what we asked for from the Legislature were some tools that we thought were important to maximize our ability to perform on behalf of the riders and the taxpayers to deliver a reliable and dependable and affordable service," Baker told reporters in his Statehouse office Friday.
"I certainly believe we're headed in that direction and I do believe as an administration that we need to be able ... to own the T," he added.
The Senate amendment would create the financial control board for an initial three-year authorization with an option for an additional two years.
The amendment also mandates the board to meet at least three times a month, with each meeting subject to the state's open meeting laws — something the Legislature has exempted itself from.
The amendment would also place authorization to raise fares under current law — which allows a 5 percent increase every two years — under the financial control board, rather than the MassDOT board.
"This is an important step in the process to reforming the MBTA so residents can count on a reliable and efficient public transit system," said Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst.