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Metro

Patrick vetoes transport bill; lawmakers could override

Governor Deval Patrick vetoed Friday the Legislature’s $800 million transportation finance bill.

“This good bill is not good enough,” Patrick said in a statement.

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The governor had promised the veto after the House and Senate ignored his suggested changes to the bill, which would have increased gas taxes to make up for potential lost revenue if some tolls are eliminated in 2017.

But votes in the Legislature this week suggest that there is enough support to override the veto.

In a statement released after Patrick’s announcement, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said the House will vote on an override next week.

“The Legislature has delivered the administration a carefully balanced package that provides funding for transportation needs without overburdening Massachusetts’ families and businesses,” DeLeo wrote.

The bill, which was introduced in April, raises taxes on gas, cigarettes, and computer software services to fund the state’s beleaguered transportation system and prevent immediate fare increases and service cuts on the T.

Patrick and legislators struck a compromise on the amount of new transportation revenue the bill should provide, agreeing to a sum that ramps up to $800 million in 2018.

But a dispute between Patrick and legislators remains over whether to address a state law that allows for tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike to be eliminated after 2017. If the tolls are abolished, the Department of Transportation could receive as much as $170 million less in revenue than projected, Patrick’s office estimates.

Democrats in the Legislature have maintained that there is little political will to end the tolls, and say Patrick has exaggerated the likelihood that toll revenue will disappear.

But Patrick said in his statement that he does not want to leave the issue to the political whims of Beacon Hill politicians after he leaves office in early 2015.

“The issue has to do with the fate of the western tolls, and whether we should deal now or later with a problem we can see coming,” Patrick wrote. “The Legislature has chosen to deal with it later. That uncertainty makes it difficult to plan a steady, disciplined reinvestment plan sufficient to get the Commonwealth to where it needs to be.”

Still, Patrick praised parts of the bill, saying that it will stimulate job growth and address many short-term transportation needs “after decades of willful neglect.”

“While this administration and the Legislature . . . worked together successfully to address many challenges, I believe this good bill misses a critical opportunity for the people we serve,” Patrick said.

Martine Powers can be reached at mpowers@globe.com.
Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.
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