Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Yesterday the Senate Republican Caucus distributed the following press
release regarding a letter the caucus sent to the Governor urging him to release the full
amount of Chapter 90 funding for cities and towns:
Senate GOP Caucus calls for release of Chapter 90 funding
Letter urges Governor to distribute full $300 million to cities and towns
BOSTON – The Massachusetts Senate Republican Caucus is calling on Governor Deval Patrick to change his course and release the remaining half of the $300 million in Chapter 90 bond funding unanimously approved by the Legislature for critical infrastructure maintenance and repair funding for cities and towns. Patrick recently signed the legislation appropriating the Chapter 90 money, but has thus far refused to release half of it.
In a letter hand-delivered to the Governor’s office on Monday afternoon, the Caucus warned Patrick that “Your conditional release of only half of the funds not only puts our communities in an untenable position of choosing what projects to fund and whether to build half a bridge in the hopes that you will authorize the full amount, but it further delays projects that need to begin if they are to be completed this season.” The letter was signed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Assistant Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Minority Whip Richard Ross (R-Wenham) and Senator Michael Knapik (R-Westfield), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.
Last month, Governor Patrick informed municipalities that he would be authorizing the release of only $150 million of the $300 million in Chapter 90 funding approved by the Legislature. Senate Republicans are asking Patrick to communicate any remaining concerns he has “so that we can address those specific concerns and get this money to municipalities without any further costly delay.”
“Municipal officials have repeatedly heard the message that $300 million is coming to fund critical repairs to roads and bridges, only to now receive half that amount in the middle of the construction season,” noted Senator Tarr. “The Governor filed a bill containing $300 million and the Legislature approved that bill. Now it’s time to honor those terms and move forward on the one funding item everyone has agreed on, and continue debate, discussion and negotiations on the things on which we haven’t agreed.”
“There’s no practical reason our cities and towns should not receive these funds now, which are desperately needed to fix our area roads,” added Senator Hedlund. “The only reason to withhold these funds appears politically motivated and I do not believe cities and towns should suffer from the political games being played on Beacon Hill.”
Based on the Patrick Administration’s own recommendations, the House of Representatives and the Senate unanimously approved $300 million for the Chapter 90 program, an increase of $100 million over last year’s allocation for local road and bridge repairs. Patrick signed the Chapter 90 bill into law on May 24, and just last week the Legislature finalized an accompanying terms bill dictating how the funds will be distributed.
“The release of these funds is extremely important to our cities and towns as the construction season is already underway,” said Senator Knapik. “We must deliver on the full $300 million allocation to help maintain an efficient and functional transportation infrastructure, one that is so critical to the local economy.”
“This funding is crucial for communities across the Commonwealth as construction season has begun and municipalities are addressing their current transportation needs and projects,” added Senator Ross. “Not only will this funding enable cities and towns to maintain the safety and repair of local roads and bridges, it will provide a necessary economic boost to the construction industry and the Commonwealth’s economy as a whole.”
In their letter, Senate Republicans called on Patrick to fulfill the state’s commitment to assisting cities and towns in meeting their infrastructure needs.
“You recognized in The Way Forward: A 21st Century Transportation Plan, that previous commitments to road and bridge funding have led to ‘safer roads, less congestion, and more comfortable commutes for residents of every community in the Commonwealth,’” the Caucus letter notes. “Arbitrarily abandoning that commitment now jeopardizes those gains and will turn today’s cost-efficient repairs into tomorrow’s unnecessary and unduly expensive roadway replacements.”
A copy of the Caucus letter to Governor Patrick is posted below.
June 10, 2013
His Excellency Deval L. PatrickOffice of the Governor
State House Room 360
Boston, MA 02133
Dear Governor Patrick,
We are writing to respectfully request the release of the full $300 million allocated for Chapter 90 funding that was unanimously approved by the Legislature in House Bill 3379 and which you signed into law on May 24, 2013. The House and Senate’s prompt passage of the Chapter 90 Terms Bill last week demonstrates our commitment to getting these needed funds out to our communities as soon as possible. With construction season fully underway, and the April 1 deadline to get notice to municipalities of the amount allocated long past, we believe it is imperative that $300 million be immediately released.
Your decision thus far to withhold $150 million in Chapter 90 funding causes us great concern. The Senate and House Ways and Means Committees have both determined that the $300 million outlay is affordable. This figure has been debated on both the House and Senate floors, with its prudence and sustainability attested to by the members of the committee and the entire Legislature. The $300 million figure had its genesis in the bond bill filed by your Administration on March 13, 2013, and you signified your assent to H.3379 when you signed it into law on May 24, 2013. Given the totality of these approvals, cities and towns have an understandable expectation they will receive the full $300 million. If now you believe it was unwise to approve that funding, please communicate with us immediately your remaining concerns so that we can address those specific concerns and get this money to municipalities without any further costly delay.
We firmly believe that a 25 percent cut to road and bridge construction projects is both unnecessary and imprudent. The spring construction season is already well in progress, and municipalities are counting on the timely release of this funding to begin and complete important road and bridge projects. Your conditional release of only half of the funds not only puts our communities in an untenable position of choosing what projects to fund and whether to build half a bridge in the hopes that you will authorize the full amount, but it further delays projects that need to begin if they are to be completed this season.
We certainly hope that the withholding of half the Chapter 90 funding is not attributable to an effort to expand upon the tax increases contained in transportation finance bills approved by the House and the Senate. Clearly any further increase in taxation is beyond the scope of what the Legislature has approved and is in the realm of what the Legislature has overwhelmingly rejected. The timing of events demonstrates that no tax increase had been approved when you signed the Chapter 90 bill into law, and the release of those funds should not now be contingent upon a tax increase. Moreover, while we believe the tax increases that have been approved will have serious adverse impacts on the commonwealth and our uncertain economic recovery, it is clear that additional increases, beyond what the House and Senate have approved, will imperil our economic stability exponentially further. Each branch of the Legislature has passed a transportation financing proposal that raises over $500 million in new tax revenue. Those proposals are the only viable plans that are now on the table, and any new revenues now approved by the Legislature could be applied to even further address the cost of the Chapter 90 program.
We believe the $300 million funding allocation prudently respects the dramatic need for transportation improvements in our cities and towns, the requests from our residents for the funding to complete them, and the commitment implied by our actions to date on this legislation. Additionally, the funding will provide a needed economic stimulus to those in the construction industry and the overall economy of the Commonwealth. Accordingly, we respectfully ask that you authorize the release of the full $300 million of Chapter 90 road and bridge funding.
Bruce Tarr Robert HedlundState Senator State Senator
Michael Knapik Richard RossState Senator State Senator
Cc: Senate President Therese MurraySpeaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo