State Senate approves commission to study troubled MBTA pension fund

The Green Line.
Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe
The Green Line.

The state Senate this week approved a budget amendment that would create a commission to review the troubled MBTA pension fund.

Under the measure, passed unanimously late Thursday and made public Saturday, an 11-member panel would be established to conduct a rigorous review of the $1.5 billion retirement fund for transit workers, which the T has predicted will need $1 billion in additional funding over the next 18 years.

In total, the pension fund, which operates as a private trust, without the scrutiny of other funds for public employees, could need $3 billion in funding over the next two decades, to meet its obligations to retirees, the T has said. That could create pressure for taxpayer infusions or fare hikes, both of which would be politically unpopular, T officials and lawmakers have said.


Members of the commission would include an appointee each by Governor Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, state Auditor Suzanne Bump, and members of the Legislature. It also would would include the head of the state pension fund, the general manager of the MBTA, and three labor appointees, including one from the Boston Carmen’s Union, Local 589.

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The Senate version of the amendment must still be worked out with the House, and the governor must approve it.

“Should the retirement fund falter or fail, there could be many serious negative consequences,’’ said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, a sponsor of the amendment, in a statement.

A shortfall could jeopardize retirees’ pensions, he said, burden taxpayers, or “seriously undermine the MBTA’s ability to properly fund its operations, maintenance and infrastructure.”

Tarr also said, “it is imperative that we take action now to avoid a crisis.”


If passed in its current form, the commission could be established by August and produce a preliminary report by January, according to spokesman Don Siriani.

Beth Healy can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @HealyBeth.