FY2017 Senate Budget Through a Transportation Lens

May 24, 2016

Today marks the beginning of Senate debate on the FY2017 budget. The House developed its budget last month. Below, we take a look at transportation-related items in the draft budget and amendments that have been filed by Senators. This blog will be updated as debate progresses.

There are 1167 amendments that the Senate will consider this week, before approving a budget, which a Conference Committee will refine before it is voted by both chambers and sent on to the Governor for consideration. 

 

Most of the operating funds for transportation match the House’s proposed levels, including flat-funding for the MBTA. However, the Senate’s draft budget funds Regional Transit Authorities at $84.1 million, which would be a $2.1 million increase over the current year, and which exceeds both the House’s and the Governor’s proposed funding levels. We thank the Senate for increasing the RTA line item, which benefits regions across the entire state.

Our coalition supports strategies to enhance resilience and adaptation in the face of the impacts of climate change on transportation. The Senate budget contains $250,000 for these efforts, building on the House’s recommended$150,000.

Other policy changes proposed in the budget are to move authority to regulate outdoor advertising from the Outdoor Advertising Board to the MassDOT Board, and to prohibit driving instructors from having a revoked or suspended license. 

There are three high priority amendments supported by T4MA:

  1. Amendment 1134 (Senator McGee) would modify the Complete Streets Program at MassDOT, which is an exciting funding opportunity for cities and towns that design roads for all users, making walking and biking more safe. In order to ensure that this program is effective and available to a broad number of cities and towns, T4MA and MassDOT are supporting updates to the legislation that created this program. Adopted!
  1. 1146 (Chang-Diaz) would clarify that the 2013 MBTA fare cap means a cap of 5% every two years, not 10%, and that passes such as monthly passes are subject to the cap. Adopted!
  1. 1136 (McGee) would ask MassDOT to assess the transportation network’s needs and compare the needs to available resources. This language is the same as S1857 / H3100, a separate bill that was filed. Not adopted.

Below is a list of additional transportation-related amendments to the budget.

Bike and Pedestrian Safety and Connectivity

  • 1131 (McGee) would fund MassBike (a T4MA member organization) to examine improvements to bike infrastructure that connects to public transportation in Gateway Cities, which would be a great investment. Not adopted. 
  • 1130 (Brownsberger) would require RMV written exams to contain one or more questions related to bike and pedestrian safety. This smart provision was adopted in the House budget. Not adopted. 

Climate

  • 901 (Pacheco) is legislation that T4MA supports that would mandate the state to develop a climate adaptation management plan; 905 (Tarr) and 912 (Eldridge) would increase the proposed climate change adaptation and preparedness line item from $250,000. Not adopted.
  • 187 (McGee) would fund UMASS-Lowell to study non-polluting transit vehicles. Not adopted.

MBTA

  • 1137 (McGee) asks the MBTA to report on the levels of state assistance it anticipates requesting over the next three years, and to include these in its budget projections in order to avoid the public being misled about deficits. Not adopted.
  • 1161 (Brownsberger) would allow additional procurement methods at the MBTA, including two-phase competitive sealed proposals. Not adopted.
  • 1153 (deMacedo) would eliminate the current law that the MBTA must approve its budget in April, moving the deadline to the state budget deadline of July 1. This language was in the Governor’s and the House’s budgets. Not adopted.
  • 1155 (Fattman) and 1165 (Tarr) were filed to study and reform the MBTA Retirement Fund. Not adopted.

Tolls 

  • 1138 (McGee) would allow toll revenue to be used for bonds. Not adopted.
  • 1162 (Humason) would ensure that toll revenue collected west of Route 128 on the MassPike would be used on the Pike or related to access to the Pike. Not adopted.

Other

  • 1142 (Lesser) would commission a study of the feasibility of high-speed rail between Boston and Springfield. This is a worthy goal of many and would be transformational to the Pioneer Valley. Adopted.
  • 32 (Timilty) would increase the commuter benefit (MBTA or tolls) that commuters who do not receive a commuter benefit through a payroll deduction can receive, from $600 to $800. Not adopted (ruled unconstitutional).
  • 1156 (Fattman) would allow for autonomous vehicle testing. While we do not yet have a perspective on this language, this is an area that will become more important in the coming years, and we are glad legislators are beginning to discuss it. Not adopted.
  • 1147 (McGee) would create a water transportation advisory council to promote and examine ferries. Adopted.
  • 1148 (Lewis) would establish ways to better coordinate municipal complaints from residents using the Commonwealth Connect app or web-based reporting system when the issue in question is actually under the jurisdiction of MassDOT or DCR. Amendment adopted after redrafted language that will study the issue.

Thanks for reading this update. We encourage you to contact your Senator to advocate for better transportation. If you have questions about anything related to the state budget, please contact T4MA's Policy Director Charlie Ticotsky

 

 


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