Governor Charlie Baker and Senate Republicans on Monday called on legislators to give the administration the tools they say are necessary to overhaul the way the MBTA is run, a week after state Senate leaders voiced opposition to most of Baker’s plans to fix the embattled agency.
As the Senate gears up to debate its $38 billion state budget proposal, the chamber’s Republicans have filed a number of amendments to support Baker’s plans for the T. One would create a “fiscal management and control board” that would take away oversight from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation board.
“We believe the time is now for the Senate to take substantive action to address the problems with the MBTA,” Senate minority leader Bruce Tarr said during an afternoon press conference.
The Republicans, who make up a small minority in the Senate, might face an uphill battle in garnering support for their amendments. But Tarr said failure to pass them could lead to another difficult winter.
“If we pass a Senate budget that doesn’t include major reforms like the kind we are proposing, we will be setting the stage for that to happen,” he said. “We think our colleagues will take action.”
On Monday, Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito privately met with commuters who had complained about the agency’s dismal service during the winter. The two then urged the Legislature to quickly pass legislation to overhaul the T.
“What I don’t want to see happen, and what I don’t think these riders that we just talked to want to see happen, is to have nothing happen over the course of the next five or six months,” Baker said during a news conference after the meeting with commuters.
Baker and his transportation secretary, Stephanie Pollack, have been adamant that a “fiscal and management control board” will be essential to fixing the T. The two have also called on the Legislature to suspend a law that puts up hurdles to contracting out the T’s services.
Both those provisions were rejected last week by Senate leaders, who said they objected to creating another layer of bureaucracy for the T. They also defended the law that made it difficult for agencies to privatize, saying the law has been an ideological target.
During his Monday news conference, Baker alluded to the rebuff but never mentioned the control board or the privatization law specifically. The governor said he was “open to a conversation about every element of our reform plan.”
“In the end, we need real reform, structured reform that’s going to give us the ability to have the tools that we need to fix the T,” Baker said.