Massachusetts taxpayers would be on the hook for up to $20 million over the next five years to support the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, a network of parks and green space on top of the Central Artery Tunnel in Boston, under a bill considered Monday by the Committee on Transportation.
“We cannot go back on our word,’’ said state Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Democrat of the North End, whose district encompasses the tunnel and much of the greenway.
Michlewitz’s bill would extend an annual state budget commitment to the greenway for five years. The state’s current commitment is set to expire on June 30. Michlewitz said the bill would lower the state’s maximum contribution to $4 million from $5.5 million, although he said the state never approached even that lower ceiling.
Michlewitz described a 16-year “sacrifice’’ by neighbors of the Central Artery in Boston while the project was under construction.
“I’m not wedded to any of these individual ideas, but I think something needs to be done,’’ he said.
He added the bill would require the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy - the public-private board that oversees the greenway - to operate with more transparency, a nod to recent criticism and reports of questionable spending by the agency.
“The conservancy needs to be held to a higher standard,’’ he said, calling the greenway “some of the most valuable land in the city of Boston and, I dare say, the entire Commonwealth.’’
Currently, the budget of the Greenway is about $4.7 million a year, with about $2.7 million coming from the state and another $2 million from private sources, according to officials at the agency. The conservancy has come under fire recently for its spending on public relations and its executives’ salaries.
Georgia Murray, who chairs the board of the conservancy, said the entity was established three years ago after a long examination of the best way to operate the greenway. She said that since the conservancy’s inception, there have been $8.2 million in private contributions, most from outside the metro Boston area.
Under Michlewitz’s bill, all conservancy budget proposals would be subject to review and approval by the 13-member Greenway Leadership Council, a roster of politically wired locals.