Reps Would Like To Pull Back MBTA Privatization Authority

State House News Service | By Andy Metzger | Oct. 3, 2017
Photo of Massachusetts State HouseBoston, MA – Three lawmakers whose votes helped usher in a new era of privatization at the MBTA urged their colleagues on Monday to start rolling back outsourcing powers they granted the T two years ago.
There are just under nine months remaining in the three-year window lawmakers gave the T to privatize services without going through the ordinary vetting process mandated by a 1993 law put in place at the time as a check on Gov. William Weld’s privatization efforts. MBTA officials who have already outsourced cash handling and equipment management operations are in the process of potentially contracting out for bus maintenance at three garages.
Rep. Marjorie Decker, a Cambridge Democrat, said MBTA maintenance workers, if they are laid off due to privatization, would end up relying on state programs for assistance.
“We’re looking at people right now who will not be able to pay their mortgages, never mind not keep their kids in dance or gymnastics,” said Decker, who sits on the Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight.
The committee had a hearing Monday on legislation (H 3366) filed by Rep. Michelle DuBois, a Brockton Democrat, that would repeal the temporary suspension of the so-called Pacheco law at the T, which was permitted as part of the fiscal 2016 budget approved by the Democrat-controlled Legislature.
Under the Taxpayer Protection Act often associated with its chief proponent, Taunton Democrat Sen. Marc Pacheco, executive branch agencies must vet any privatization proposals with the state auditor to ensure they accrue cost savings and do not reduce service.
Two years ago both DuBois and Decker voted in favor of the final House budget, which included a provision to suspend the Pacheco law at the T, and in favor of a budget amendment that was the vehicle for quietly scuttling a Rep. Nick Collins proposal that would have preserved the Pacheco law at the T.
“It was my very first budget, and you always hear ‘Don’t put policy matters in the budget,’ and it was decided – not by me – to include this in the budget, as far as I’m concerned in a last-minute fashion,” DuBois told the News Service. “And being a rank-and-file member there’s really not much I can do beyond advocate to exclude that portion of the budget.”
Although voting against the budget is a “dire” step, DuBois said, “If I had to do it over again, I would have voted no.”
Collins, who also voted for the fiscal 2016 budget, testified in favor of DuBois’s bill Monday. The bill has two dozen co-sponsors, all Democrats.
Gov. Charlie Baker, whose first few months in office were overwhelmed by snow and cold that caused breakdowns and delays at the T, advocated for exempting the MBTA from the Pacheco law and the House ultimately elected to suspend the law at the T for five years. The final budget negotiated between the House and Senate suspended the Pacheco law for about three years ending July 1, 2018.
The Boston Carmen’s Union, the T’s biggest union, was able to shield most of its members from privatization by agreeing to a contract last December that the T said would save the system $80 million over the next four years.

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