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Massachusetts legislative leaders revealing transport plan

By Bob Salsberg
The Associated Press

4/2/2013

BOSTON — House and Senate leaders were set to unveil a transportation finance plan on Tuesday that they said would solve a massive funding gap and provide sufficient revenue to pay for future investments in the state's transportation system.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray will be joined by the heads of the Legislature's Ways and Means and transportation committees for a midmorning announcement at the Statehouse.

The plan will identify "specific areas of agreement" between the House and Senate, according to an advisory issued by the two branches. The plan also would require transportation agencies to implement reforms, but no further details were immediately given.

The joint agreement between the two branches is unusual because the House and Senate generally take up budgetary matters separately before reconciling differences later in the process. The state's new fiscal year starts July 1.

Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick has already proposed a series of tax reforms he says will raise nearly $2 billion for transportation as well as new education initiatives. His plan calls for hiking the state income tax from 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent, while also lowering the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent.

DeLeo has said publicly that he would prefer a "substantially" smaller tax package.

In a report delivered to Patrick earlier this year, state transportation officials detailed a chronically underfunded system that is heavily in debt from the Boston's massive Big Dig highway project and other past commitments.

The report said the state needed to raise an additional $1 billion per year in operating funds to maintain and modernize the system.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has said it needs more than $100 million in new state funding to avoid another round of fare hikes or service cuts on the MBTA later this year.


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