Governor Deval Patrick vowed Thursday to veto the transportation finance plan backed by the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate if it lands on his desk as currently proposed.
“I’m going to veto that bill if it comes back to me in its current form, and then we’ll go from there,” the governor said on his monthly radio show on WGBH-FM.
Although Patrick has been vocal about his displeasure with the legislation, it was the first time he had formally issued a veto threat and his comments made clear the sharp disagreement he has with House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray.
The governor argues that the bill supported by those two leaders, which includes $500 million in higher taxes on cigarettes and gasoline, does not raise enough money to upgrade and expand crumbling roads, rails, and bridges. He wants legislators to raise the gas tax even higher.
But DeLeo and Murray have said they will reject his amendment for a higher gas tax next week and send him the bill as it is currently written. At that point, Patrick said, he would veto the measure and send it back to the Legislature.
The veto could buy the governor more time to press his case with lawmakers, but could also prolong the standoff with DeLeo and Murray and does not appear likely to produce a different outcome.
Murray and DeLeo have said they have enough support among their membership to override a veto and make the bill law without Patrick’s signature.
Patrick said Thursday that it has been difficult to get rank-and-file lawmakers to consider his plan, given DeLeo and Murray’s staunch opposition.
“It is fair to say the speaker and the Senate president are pretty dug in on the transportation bill as it is right now,” said Patrick. “That doesn’t mean I have to agree, because they’re dug in. It does mean I have to try to get their members to stand up to their leadership, and I am under no illusion about how hard that it is to do.”
Despite his standoff with legislative leaders, he said he has no animosity toward them. He said he had spoken to DeLeo Thursday morning. “This is a policy difference; it’s not a personal one,” the governor said.