So Much For That

You have to help me with something. Because I’m confused. I swear it was just a few weeks ago that Gov. Deval Patrick was entertaining the idea of folding the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, the MBTA, and other agencies into one super bureaucracy that would oversee all matters relating to bridges, roads, and public transportation.

It happened, right? I’m not crazy, am I? OK, fine, I am crazy, but I still remember writing about it.

So what’s this business about Patrick and the legislature talking about giving the next executive director of the Mass Pike a raise? How do you schedule a raise for a job you just said will no longer exist?

The proposed pay bump, as it’s outlined in today’s Herald, would take the executive director’s annual salary from $140,000 to a much healthier $190,000. That’s a 36 percent increase. (I know because I did the math.)

Now, I’m not sure about you, but it’s hard enough to get most bosses to give you a cost of living increase, let alone a 36 percent hike. But forget, for a moment, that the Mass Pike higher-ups are criminally overpaid. I need someone to explain to me why they’re going to boost the executive director’s salary when Patrick just got done telling us that the Mass Pike needs to be reconfigured in order to eliminate budgetary waste.

A spokesman for the authority said that an executive is still needed to shepherd the Pike through a tumultuous transition that could end in the agency’s demise.

“The search remains ongoing and necessary,” spokesman Mac Daniel said. “It will take time to both make any long-term changes as well as deal with important Turnpike issues, including the savings plan, the toll increase . . . and moving toward a new toll collection system.”

Here’s an idea for Daniel’s boss, the governor: How about creating that “superagency” you just promised us? How about appointing someone to run it, someone who could do what Daniel is talking about — someone to “shepherd” Mass Pike from the mismanaged organization it’s long been into extinction? And how about we pay that guy (or woman) the salary the legislature and the governor would pay the new Mass. Pike director?

But, uh, maybe we could go easy on the raise. $190,000 for someone who has yet to be named or, you know, actually prove he can do the job sounds … it sounds…what’s the phrase I’m looking for? Oh yeah: Totally $#@! absurd.

“This seems to be sending the wrong message about reform,” said House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading). “This person gets a salary that’s higher than the state highway commissioner for overseeing a fraction of the lane miles. If anything, you’d think it would be the other way around.”

Yup. You’d think that, and you’d think some other stuff, too. And, apparently, you’d be wrong.