Governor Deval Patrick vows to veto $500m transportation plan pushed by lawmakers

Governor Deval Patrick said today that he would veto the $500 million transportation finance bill proposed by State House legislators earlier this week.

The bill, which would use gas, tobacco, and business-related taxes to increase funding for transportation needs, was significantly more modest than a proposal Patrick made in January that called for major investments in new transportation projects.

Patrick said that if legislators make no changes to the bill and pass it in a vote on Monday, he would not approve it.

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“If it comes to me in the current form … I’m going to have to veto it,” Patrick said. “That’s not a surprise.”

In a 35-minute press conference, Patrick provided a long list of his objections to legislator’s bill, saying that he believes their plan will prompt steep MBTA fare increases in coming years, decaying roads and bridges, and a diminished quality of public transit throughout the region.

“This is a return to an old way of doing business,” Patrick said. “It’s the same short-term fiscal shell game that got us the Big Dig and the mess that followed.”

“From what we can tell, everybody pays more and gets less,” Patrick said. He said later, “I cannot support another effort to kick the can down the road.”

Patrick said he was not certain that there would be enough votes in the House and Senate to prevent legislators from overruling his veto.

But, he said, he’s hoping there will an opportunity for more compromise in coming days.

Responding to Patrick’s comments, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo held firm. The House-Senate plan, he said, would create less of a financial burden on the middle class and prevent a downgrade of the state’s credit rating.

“I think arithmetic will show that our plan is more responsive to the needs of the middle class,” DeLeo said. “It’s not the House and the Senate plan that’s talking about the increase in the income tax.”

DeLeo said he could not say whether the legislature would have enough votes to override a veto by the governor.

“We’ll see Monday when we debate,” DeLeo said.

DeLeo added that he disagrees with Patrick’s pronouncement that the legislators’ funding plan would prompt steeper MBTA fare hikes.

“There’s no need to raise fares,” DeLeo said. “I can’t say forever, no one could ever say forever… This plan provides for sufficient revenue to address the issue at the T. There’s some $500 million in this plan, I believe the T’s shortfall is somewhere around $125 million. I think that adds up.”

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