This today from the Massachusetts Municipal Association -
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
TRANSPORTATION CONFERENCE COMMITTEE AGREES ON $300 MILLION FOR CHAPTER 90 IN FISCAL 2015
House & Senate to Vote on Transportation Conference Committee Report this Week
Ch. 90 Funds Should be Available Immediately After the Bill is Signed into Law
Early last night, the House-Senate conference committee reached agreement on the final version of the Legislature’s statewide transportation bond bill, and filed the compromise measure with the House Clerk. This sets up a final vote to approve the bill and send it to the Governor’s Desk this week. The House plans a vote on Wednesday, April 16, and the Senate plans a vote the next day. After that, the Governor will have 10 days to sign the bill.
Lawmakers have stated that they have written the final bill to include the so-called “terms bill” language that has usually passed as separate legislation after the Governor signs the bond bill. This is intended to eliminate the long delay between enactment of the bond bill and the official release of Chapter 90 and other transportation funds. Absent unforeseen developments, this means that the fiscal 2015 provisional Chapter 90 authorization letters will become official once the Governor signs the bond bill into law.
The sweeping 5-year $13 billion bond bill includes a $300 million Chapter 90 authorization for fiscal year 2015, matching the fiscal 2014 authorization passed last summer. In spite of the higher authorization from the Legislature, the Patrick Administration has already announced that they plan on releasing just $200 million. On April 1st, MassDOT sent provisional letters of authorization to cities and towns announcing that they plan on officially releasing $200 million after the passage of the transportation bond bill.
The release of the full $300 million Chapter 90 authorization continues to be a major issue of contention between the Legislature and the Governor, with lawmakers siding with local officials in support of releasing the full amount. The House chair of the transportation committee stated this week that the Legislature will continue to support $300 million for Chapter 90, and that the authorization would stay in place so that the current Administration or the new Governor in January could act to release the full amount.
Earlier this year, lawmakers in the House and Senate had each approved different versions of the statewide transportation bond bill that includes future funding for the vital Chapter 90 program for the maintenance and repair of local roads. The Senate bill included a $1.5 billion Chapter 90 authorization intended to provide $300 million in annual funding over the next five years, from fiscal 2015 through fiscal 2019. The House bill provided only one year of funding at $300 million for fiscal 2015. Language in the Senate bill included several new rules governing the use of Chapter 90 funds that would have reduced local flexibility to address municipal needs by imposing unnecessary and overreaching new reporting and accounting requirements. The House did not include this language.
The final compromise bill ironed out by the House and Senate conferees settled on the House’s one-year Chapter 90 authorization at $300 million, and softened the restrictions proposed by the Senate. The final bill states that a community will only be able to carry forward more than 50 percent of the allocated Chapter 90 authorization from one year to the next if the city or town submits a 5-year spending outline to MassDOT. Also, the bill includes language requiring MassDOT to provide “preliminary notice” of the Chapter 90 authorizations by March 1 of each year. This is a change from past practice in previous Chapter 90 bond bills, which included language requiring cities and towns to receive official notice of their Chapter 90 authorizations by April 1 of each year.
Clearly, municipal leaders have succeeded in convincing Representatives and Senators of the need to increase Chapter 90 funding to $300 million a year – that is a significant victory. Winning release of the full $300 million will continue to be a top priority for the MMA, and we will not cease until all of the funds flow directly to cities and towns. In addition, we will continue to monitor the state’s administration of the Chapter 90 program to secure timely notification and release of the funds to maximize planning and make full use of the construction season, and oppose any state rules to restrict local flexibility.
The MMA is continuing to analyze the details of the sweeping transportation bond bill, so please check the MMA website at www.mma.org for more information. Thank You.