Friday, May 22, 2015

Senate Endorsed Tarr Plan to Put MBTA Under Control and Accountability Board

Boston- May 21, 2015    The Massachusetts Senate today overwhelmingly adopted a bi-partisan plan championed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) to move the transit system under a new fiscal control and accountability board after a growing chorus of calls for the adoption of major reforms to the ailing MBTA were amplified across the state and on Beacon Hill.
Tarr was joined by Transportation Committee Chairman Thomas McGee (D- Lynn), Transportation Committee Chairman, and other members of the Senate.  

“One of the most important things that the Senate can do in this budget is provide a major reform package that comports with the framework of the plan offered by Governor Baker and restores confidence from an exasperated public,” said Tarr.  “The bi-partisan support for MBTA reform affirms that we are ready and willing to bring accountability to a dysfunctional system and give riders, taxpayers and the public the mass transit system they need and deserve.” 

Tarr initially filed finance control legislation in February while winter storms still pounded away at the beleaguered transit system which serves 175 Massachusetts communities.

The new MBTA Control and Accountability Board will be comprised of five members appointed by Governor Baker; three of whom will be members of the Mass Department of Transportation Board of Directors, including the Secretary of Transportation; one member will have expertise in transportation finance; and one member with experience in mass transit operations.  Initially established for a three year period, the bill contains an option to extend the board for two additional years.  The control board is responsible for creating operational stability, budgetary, and performance standards including;
  • ·          Requiring rigorous performance management standards, 
  • ·         Providing a safe, reliable and sustainable rail, bus and commuter rail system, 
  • ·         Short and long-term planning of budgets, of one and five years, which align with operational and capital project needs of five and 20 years, 
  • ·         Prioritizing service enhancements for its existing customers and attracting future riders, 
  • ·         Developing a sound management plan for the safety of T workers and others, 
  • ·         Reducing absenteeism, improving employee morale, and achieving procurement and service contract improvements, 
  • ·         Responsibly promoting mass transportation for regional transit needs.
In response the crippled public transit system, Governor Baker commissioned a special panel of national leaders in transportation, economic development and municipal planning after a harsh winter exposed dramatic failures throughout rail and bus systems.  Following an in-depth diagnostic review of the MBTA’s core functions, Baker’s panel recommended the creation of a fiscal control board after reviewing numerous MBTA studies and performance reviews.

The board will be required, by January 1, 2018, to make a determination if it has achieved its goal of operational stability.  If performance standards are met, they will be required to make recommendations on the governance structure of the MBTA. Should the board determine that the goals have not yet been achieved; their continued existence can be extended until permanently dissolved on or before June 30, 2020

Senate Republicans also sought other changes to the agency including; lifting the requirements of the so-called Pacheco Law during the term of the control board, subjecting the MBTA Retirement Fund to the public records law, and subjecting the agency to an audit.

The Republican Caucus, having called for action in the $38 billion budget proposal, worked successfully to build consensus to promote the goals of MBTA reform.