The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a $500 million transportation bill that would, among other things, shore up a struggling Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
Gov. Deval Patrick has threatened to veto the bill.
Patrick supports a $1.9 billion transportation and education bill and believes that the $500 million plan is inadequate.
The House voted 97-55 in favor of the $500 million bill. However, the 64.6% favorable vote is just short of the two thirds vote needed to override Patrick's threatened veto. Additionally, the Senate would have to approve the bill for it to become law.
The MBTA is a public transit authority mainly serving the Boston area. It is facing a $118 million gap in the coming fiscal year, despite a 23% fare increase last year. About 30% of its budget goes toward debt service, making it the most leveraged public transit agency in the country.
The House bill would increase the state's gas tax by 3 cents a gallon, and raise tobacco taxes, car registration fees, turnpike fees, subway and commuter rail fares. By comparison, Patrick's bill would primarily rely on an increase in the income tax rate to 6.25% from 5.25%. Patrick's bill would also increase the turnpike and car registration fees and public transit fares, but the administration says the increases would be much smaller.
"The [legislative] leadership's proposal is a return to the old way of doing business," Patrick said. "It's the same short-term, fiscal shell game that got us the Big Dig and the mess that followed…. If this bill passes, and it may, we'll be back in a couple of years in the same place. Chronic budget problems at the [MBTA]. Structurally deficient bridges."
Patrick said the House's bill would address the MBTA's operating deficit and little else. It would not, for example, fund the state's legal obligation to extend the Green Line on the subway system.
Patrick said he would be willing to compromise with the legislature.
Massachusetts general obligation bonds are rated Aa1 by Moody's Investors Service and AA-plus by Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's. The MBTA's senior sales tax bonds are rated Aa2 by Moody's.