Apr 11, 2024 - News

Dems warm to MBTA funding boost

The MBTA Red Line

Photo: Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

House Democrats finally want to crack open the money spigot to float the beleaguered MBTA, with Speaker Ron Mariano calling for a record $555 million increase in the transit agency's state funding.

Why it matters: This is the first time in years Democrats in charge of spending on Beacon Hill have proactively sought greater funding for the T.

  • For years, former Gov. Charlie Baker's administration assured lawmakers the T could, and should, get by on its own revenue and limited additional funding.
  • Much of the tax revenue brought in by the new income surtax must be dedicated to transportation. That gives lawmakers more leeway to spend on the T.

What they're saying: Mariano attributed the change of heart to faith in new management at the T after years of Baker appointees.

  • "[MBTA general manager Phillip Eng] is a train guy. He can walk the tracks without getting electrocuted," Mariano said at the State House yesterday.

What's new: A year into her term, Gov. Maura Healey also wants to dedicate more taxpayers dollars to hire needed workers and get the T back to operating at levels not seen since well before the pandemic.

  • The money would go to immediate staffing, maintenance and service needs.

Yes, but: Democrats' infusion of tax dollars might not be enough to right the ship at the T.

  • Chronic budget shortfalls have plagued the agency and have been exacerbated by plummeting ridership numbers during and after the pandemic.

Democratic House leaders haven't indicated they intend to maintain the high level of funding for the T beyond this year's hiring and maintenance spree.

  • That leaves the long-term future of the T in doubt because the factors behind the budget gaps could persist or get even worse.

What's next: The real future of the T's finances might be decided next year when Healey and lawmakers take up a transportation bond bill that will likely focus on long-term solutions for the agency.

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