Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Senate Republicans Successful in Securing Transpo Reforms

On Saturday, April 13th I released the following press release regarding the passage of a Senate transportation finance bill:

Senate Republicans Successful in Securing Transpo Reforms
Measure Now Moves to House for Consideration

On Saturday, the Senate Republican Caucus was successful in securing several significant transportation reforms and a series of major reforms and initiatives geared toward accountability, performance and reducing dependence on increasing taxes.

The reforms, which were presented by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Assistant Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Senate Minority Whip Richard Ross (R-Wrentham), and Senator Michael Knapik (R-Westfield), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, presented as part of a comprehensive plan, would boost accountability, tie spending to performance, and provide additional resources for transportation without increasing taxes. The measures passed stem from an alternative plan presented by the Senate Republican Caucus on Wednesday, April 10th. The reforms secured by the minority party include:

• Requiring all reports conducted by the MassDOT Special Audit Unit to be posted online, and directing the unit to conduct a comprehensive audit comparing the transportation law of 2009 to the current transportation agency, and identify future savings;

• Requiring the MassDOT to regularly consult with the Public Private Partnership Infrastructure Oversight Commission (PPP Commission), and provide the commission the opportunity to weigh in on all transportation proposals, initiatives, and plans;

• Directing the MassDOT to turn HOV lanes into Automated Tolling HOT Lanes by additionally allowing solo drivers to pay a fee to utilize the lane;

• Requiring the MassDOT and the MBTA to post financial reports, and detailed customer service and performance management information online;

• Creating a study to address deficiencies in the taxicab market to target passenger costs, wait times, employee mistreatment, and inefficiencies preventing drivers from picking up passengers in multiple communities;

• Tying MassDOT performance benchmarks to salary increases ensuring MassDOT and MBTA cannot increase the pay of high ranking transportation officials if benchmarks aren’t met; • Requiring MassDOT to issue a five-year plan to eliminate the current transportation backlog to bring the road and transit network into a State of Good Repair;

• Directing the MBTA to issue requests for proposals to sponsor a mass transit service beyond its current hours of operation, also known as the Night Owl Service; and

• Directing the MBTA to create a pilot program reserving a limited number of premium parking spots for customers willing to pay an elevated price to have a spot reserved for them.

“Amid a frenzy of increasing taxes and tolls, we have been able to secure a series of meaningful reforms that will hopefully mitigate the growing financial burden on the citizens of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Tarr. “While we certainly don’t agree with increasing that burden, our caucus is appreciative for the majority members who crossed party lines to make these components of the Senate Republican reform bill part of the legislation that now leaves the Senate Chamber. Each member of our caucus played a vital role in securing these reforms, and thus has had a major impact on today’s debate.”

The House previously passed its version of a transportation finance bill, and now the two chambers will work together to reach an accord.