NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

April 11, 2013

Ahead of debate, Senate GOP offers transportation finance plan

(Continued)

Republicans envision their proposal sending more money to education, including increasing the state’s contribution to UMass to create a 50 percent split between state funding and tuition and fees.

The proposal would prohibit any transportation projects that cost more than $1 billion without legislative approval.

It calls for repairing structurally deficient bridges, and putting all transportation projects on a five-year timeline, prioritizing anything that needs to be fixed.

The plan also forward funds regional transit authorities and moves transportation employee salaries to the operating budget to end the long-running practice of borrowing to pay workers.

It also calls for state lawmakers to look at an “anti-privatization” law, known as the Pacheco law, to see if it is meeting its goals, but stops short of asking for its repeal, Tarr said.

Sen. Robert Hedlund said residents still face a tough economy and taxpayers are “nickeled and dimed at every level of government right now.”

Hedlund, a Weymouth Republican, said the Patrick administration and the Legislature “talked a good game” about reforms to the state’s transportation system in 2009, but many of the measures passed into law that year were never fully realized. Savings from the reform act did not hit the $6 billion anticipated, Hedlund said. He called on the Patrick administration to fully implement reforms.

“The fact we are having a debate about how high the taxes should be is the biggest insult to the six and half million people who have suffered through a withering recession and are still trying to make ends meet,” Sen. Michael Knapik (R-Westfield).

The discussion ought to be about lowering taxes. Barring that, the debate should be centered on how little to raise taxes “not the bidding war we are engaged in today,” Knapik said.

Other elements of the plan include:

Asking the attorney general to review legal agreements that mandate projects, like the Green Line extension, as part of the Big Dig project to see if there is any room for changes, Tarr said.

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