The Massachusetts House on Wednesday will take up a bill to close most of the $51 million deficit in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
But the state’s transportation secretary, while satisfied with the move, warns that it’s just a one-off.
“This is just another reminder that this is a one-year solve,” Richard Davey said Monday after the House gave initial approval to a bailout bill for the MBTA, the state’s largest public transportation agency.
Davey expects the authority to face a $100 million deficit at the start of next year.
Under the bill, the state would transfer $49 million to the T, as the transportation system is called in Massachusetts, from the motor vehicle inspection trust fund. Officials had detected a surplus in that amount, and unused snow-removal money.
Davey said he and MBTA general manager Jonathan Davis would identify a further $2 million to cover the budget gap.
The bill also lays the groundwork for a possible transfer of ferry operations to the Massachusetts Port Authority. It requires the state Department of Transportation to report by July 9 on the possible sale of piers to Massport and by Aug. 13 on the sale to Massport of commuter boats “Lightning” and “Flying Cloud.”
Some lawmakers had recommended an immediate sale of those properties to Massport, but officials from that agency and Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration worried about obtaining necessary approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA is in the picture because Massport owns Boston’s Logan International Airport.
Amendments to the bill also double to $7 million an allocation for 15 regional transportation authorities. “They have needs as well,” Davey said.
Moody’s Investors Service called out the MBTA for its heavy reliance on debt and “sizeable capital needs” in assigning an Aa1 to $411 million of Series 2012A assessment bonds, which the MBTA sold last week through negotiated sale with Ramirez & Co. as lead manager.
The authority estimated its deficit at $160 million in January, and in April passed a series of fare increases and service cuts. Deeper cuts could loom if the legislature does not pass the bailout bill, according to Davey, who was the MBTA’s general manager until Patrick named him transportation chief last September.
Agency officials project the deficit to escalate to $330 million by fiscal 2016.
According to authority documents, the MBTA has $5.2 billion of outstanding debt, including $1.7 billion in legal commitments associated with the Central Artery “Big Dig” project permitting process.