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CFO Anticipates Regional Transit Authority Funding Vote Soon .: The State House News Service

CFO Anticipates Regional Transit Authority Funding Vote Soon

Pottier "Fully Confident" With MassDOT Budget

JULY 21, 2021.....House leaders may be poised for budget veto override votes, and that could mean more money for regional transit authorities.

During a Massachusetts Department of Transportation Audit and Finance Committee meeting Wednesday morning, MassDOT chief financial officer David Pottier said the Baker administration and the Legislature had repeated their previous disagreements over RTA funding levels during this year's budget cycle.

When Baker signed the $47.6 billion state budget Friday, he vetoed $3.5 million in RTA funding, trimming that account to $90.5 million from $94 million.

It's up to House Speaker Ron Mariano and his team to decide which of Baker's budget vetoes and amendments to take up, and when.

"While they do have until end of the year to technically submit a veto override, we anticipate that they'll be coming out with something sooner rather than later," Pottier told the committee. "In fact, hopefully something by even Monday, so we could have something of a final budget for the board to consider and hopefully vote on."

The MassDOT Board of Directors is scheduled to meet Monday at noon.

The House plans to hold a formal session Thursday, when the RTA veto override and actions on other Baker budget vetoes or amendments could occur. The House is meeting Wednesday, but in an informal session where recorded votes are not taken, and session plans beyond Thursday haven't been announced.

It takes a two-thirds vote in each branch to override a gubernatorial veto, but the process must start in the House. Lawmakers usually only take up overrides that they know will prevail, and often do not disclose override votes until they surface. Branch leaders are spending these final days of July trying to wrap up loose ends before a summer recess.

The governor also vetoed $2.9 million in charter school reimbursement funding, $1 million for the Municipal Police Training Committee, $150,000 from the Department of Mental Health's administrative account, and $150,000 in emergency assistance family shelter funding.

While road flooding has posed hazards during this month's heavy rains, Pottier also highlighted another danger -- snowy and icy roads -- while explaining a big jolt of money coming his department's way out of a legislative conference committee. Baker had proposed $95 million for snow and ice removal. Both the House and Senate reduced funding for winter road-clearing to $45 million, but then reported a compromise budget that jacked the account up to $95 million.

Pottier called it a "highwater mark" for the account in recent years, adding that "it's good to have the money upfront."

Massachusetts voters in November 2022 are scheduled to decide the fate of a proposed surtax on household income above $1 million per year, with $2 billion in anticipated revenue earmarked under the constitutional amendment for spending on education and transportation only.

The adequacy of transportation funding is a perennial point of contention on Beacon Hill, where some critics say the transportation system's obvious flaws underscore the need for larger investments while Baker has asserted that existing transportation revenue sources are sufficient.

Pottier suggested the fiscal 2022 transportation budget is adequate.

"All in all, we ended up very well this year," he said. "We're fully confident that we'll be able to provide the services that the Commonwealth requires."

The state's new fiscal 2022 operating budget features a $1.36 billion transfer of state revenues to the MBTA and $403 million in total funding for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, up from $381 million in projected MassDOT spending this fiscal year.

The state also spends significant amounts from its capital budget on transportation projects.


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