Changes Will Make Statewide Transportation System Less Costly and More Efficient
BOSTON—State Representative Sánchez joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in passing a sweeping transportation reform package that would eliminate the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, bring down insurance and pension costs and align state transportation agencies to implement cost savings and efficiencies. Representative Sánchez was also successful in working with members such as Representative Malia in eliminating the transfer of the Department of Conservation and Recreation parkways and bridges to the Highway Division of the newly created Massachusetts Transportation and Infrastructure Authority.
“Residents in the district overwhelmingly opposed Governor Patrick’s and the Senate’s proposal to transfer the parkways and bridges as this would have set us back years in the progress we’ve made since the Historic Parkways Initiative”, said Rep. Sánchez. “We were successful in eliminating the transfer in the House transportation proposal so that the historic Jamaicaway and Arborway can continue to be maintained as part of the Emerald Necklace parks system, and not viewed as highways”.
In addition to protecting the DCR parks and bridges, the transportation reforms contained in the legislation will create new pension rules for new MBTA workers, eliminating the “23 and out rule,” that allowed workers to retire with 57 percent of their salary after 23 years regardless of age, put existing and future workers under the auspices of the Group Insurance Commission (GIC), which will lower healthcare costs and create a more efficient structure.
Now that the House has passed transformation reform, the House and Senate will have to reconcile their two different proposals before sending a final package to the Governor for his approval.
A few highlights of the House transportation reform package include:
A More Efficient Structure
- The bill establishes the independent Massachusetts Transportation and Infrastructure Authority.
- The bill eliminates the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.
- The Authority will be governed by a 5-member board chaired by the Governor.
- A Secretary will be appointed by the Governor and be responsible to both the Governor and the board.
- Under the Authority, there will be a Department of Transportation responsible for the following divisions: Aeronautics, Massachusetts Highways, Mass Transit, Registry of Motor Vehicles and Constituent and Municipal Services.
- The Authority will receive an annual appropriation from the Legislature.
- The Authority will maintain a separate fund, consisting of dedicated revenue streams, including turnpike, tunnel and Tobin Bridge tolls to satisfy bond obligations.
- The existing “23 and out” pension rule for MBTA employees will be eliminated.
- New MBTA employees will now have to serve at least 25 years and attain the age of 55 to qualify for retirement benefits from the MBTA.
- All current MBTA employees and new hires will be required to join the state’s Group Insurance Commission.
- MBTA employees will have to decide between pension and disability if out on disability.
- Current turnpike authority employees will become members of the GIC health insurance group.
- Current Tobin Bridge employees will become members of the GIC health insurance group.
- The new Authority becomes responsible for all administrative functions creating cost-savings and efficiencies by eliminating individual, legal, accounting, management, accounting and other back office administrative activities.
- The bill creates an Office of Performance Management to help the Authority and its constituent divisions meet benchmarks and run in a businesslike fashion.
- It also creates an Office of Taxpayer Advocacy, to function as a dedicated inspector general or ombudsman for the state system of transportation; it will be empowered to investigate reports and complaints from the general public.
- Health Transportation Compact – the Secretary will work with the Secretary of Health and Human Services to attain positive health goals as it oversees and maintains the state transportation system.