Therese Murray Takes Jabs At Deval Patrick’s Transportation Plan

Senate President Therese Murray and Governor Deval Patrick have not spoken personally in three weeks.

Photo by Office of Governor Patrick, on Flickr

Photo by Office of Governor Patrick, on Flickr

The back and forth between legislative leaders and Governor Deval Patrick, over the best long-term transportation funding solution for the state, continues after Senate President Therese Murray made it a point to derail the governor’s proposal during a speech at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Thursday.

During her introduction at the gathering, Murray thanked her Senate colleagues for showing face—24 of them in all—and quipped that the elected officials had enough numbers in the room to pass a joint transportation bill she has been pushing through the State House. “Looks like we have a majority to pass the transportation bill—all those in favor?,” Murray said.

Earlier in the week, the House of Representatives voted in favor of a $500 million transportation bond bill, crafted jointly with Senate leaders, which would raise tobacco, business, and gas taxes in order to fund the state’s transit woes and close the gap over a five-year period while putting in place benchmarks for revenues, savings, and reforms for the Department of Transportation and MBTA.

Riders that frequent the MBTA have rallied against the plan, however, calling it inadequate for not providing a better long-term solution for the T’s troubles. The legislature’s plan also conflicts with Patrick’s proposal to raise the income tax in order to pump more than $1 billion into the state for both transportation and education reform.

But Murray insisted on Thursday that the Senate and House proposal was more than enough to get the job done and keep the system going. “Our number one priority in creating the Transportation Financing Framework was to determine what the actual operating gap is in our transportation system—or what is the real, immediate need—and how can we address this while also allowing for infrastructure investments and future expansion,” she said.

Murray said the plan holds the MBTA and MassDOT accountable for “delivering savings or revenue and working toward contributing the same share of their budget.” Murray went on to say that the Patrick administration’s proposal “… will have deep and biting effects on people in every community across the Commonwealth,” because it would raise the income tax and eliminate 44 tax exemptions for constituents. “For many in the Commonwealth, their paycheck is spent long before they even bring it home, and raising the income tax will affect the ability of low and middle-income individuals to make ends meets. Now is not the time for us to make their paychecks even smaller, or to threaten their ability to provide for their families.”

In an interview following her speech at the Chamber breakfast, Murray told WBZ reporters that she hadn’t personally spoken to Patrick in more than three weeks.She also said the legislature was stung by public remarks made by the governor about the conflict between the two parties.  The Senate is scheduled to continue discussion on the transportation bond bill on Thursday, and convene for a special meeting on Saturday to hammer out the final details of the proposed bond bill.

In previous interviews, Patrick said while he is willing to find a common ground with the legislature, if the current bill lands on his desk, he plans to veto it. “The problem is you are asking people everywhere in the Commonwealth to pay, and not actually delivering anything for them at home. The reason that I think that is bad politics is, at that level the legislature is going to be back here in a few years and … everybody [is] going to say ‘What happened? You just asked us for $500 million, and I don’t see any change,’” Patrick said.