MMA letter to House Bonding Committee calls for quick action on Ch. 90 ‘terms bill,’ reaffirms case for $300M funding level

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The Honorable Antonio F.D. Cabral, Chairman
The Honorable Thomas A. Golden, Jr., Vice Chairman
House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets
State House, Boston

Dear Chairman Cabral, Vice Chairman Golden and Distinguished Committee Members,

On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association respectfully requests that you give a favorable report to H. 3488, An Act Providing the Terms of Certain Bonds to Finance Improvements to the Commonwealth’s Transportation System. H. 3488 is urgently needed to allow the immediate issuance of state bonds to support Chapter 18 of the Acts of 2013, the $300 million Chapter 90 bond bill to provide vital funds to cities and towns, so that the communities of Massachusetts can move forward with essential projects to maintain and improve the local roadways that our citizens use every day.

As you know, last week the Patrick Administration announced plans to release only half of the funds that cities and towns are due pursuant to the Chapter 90 program. We believe that the plans to withhold $150 million in Chapter 90 funds will create significant problems for municipalities, and we have called on the Governor to release the full $300 million in Chapter 90 funds that are due to cities and towns to maintain and repair local roads this year. The Legislature voted unanimously to fund the Chapter 90 local roads program at $300 million, reflecting the great importance that Chapter 90 commands in maintaining and rebuilding our vital transportation infrastructure. Communities should receive all of their $300 million, so that the work of rebuilding and restoring our local roads, bridges and infrastructure can begin now, and make full use of the remainder of the 2013 construction season.

We are grateful to you and all of the members of the House and Senate for voting to bring the Chapter 90 program up to $300 million a year, a much-needed 50 percent increase, and we are very disappointed with the Administration’s decision to release only half of the funds that are due to cities and towns, leaving communities without a timetable or full commitment to distribute the remaining $150 million this year. This will delay important projects and road repairs in every community, and drive up costs in the long run.

Cities and towns are responsible for maintaining, repairing and rebuilding nearly 90 percent of the roadways in Massachusetts, and adequate funding for Chapter 90 is necessary to ensure that these local transportation needs are met. Cities and towns use their Chapter 90 funds to provide safe roads that are essential for economic growth, commerce and everyday living. H. 3488 will allow the Commonwealth to issue the bonds necessary to support the $300 million authorized by Chapter 18 of the Acts of 2013.

Unfortunately, the Administration’s announcement last week would actually reduce Chapter 90 distributions by $50 million below last year’s level, a 25 percent cut, instead of committing to funding the $100 million increase that the Legislature and local officials know is necessary. We have respectfully urged the Governor to fully fund Chapter 90 and follow the intent of the Legislature.

Chapter 90 improves the quality and safety of our roads – full funding is needed to bring local roads up to a state of good repair, the standard for ensuring well-maintained roads in good condition.

Chapter 90 sends new tax dollars back home where they belong – citizens and businesses will be paying higher taxes to fund transportation improvements, and Chapter 90 is the one program that will provide taxpayers in every single community with a share of their investment.

Chapter 90 is affordable – the Legislature is on the verge of enacting a comprehensive transportation revenue package, there is enough revenue in the House and Senate transportation finance bills, and it is the Legislature’s clear intent to use the new revenue to fund Chapter 90 at $300 million.

Chapter 90 ensures regional equity – the Chapter 90 program is the most effective and efficient way to ensure regional equity and access to increased transportation tax revenues because cities and towns receive their funds through a tried-and-true formula that shares revenues in a fair way in every corner of the Commonwealth.

Chapter 90 protects communities and local taxpayers – under Proposition 2 1/2, cities and towns can’t increase local funding to repair roads unless they cut other important services such as public safety and local schools, or pass a tax override, which increases local reliance on the already overburdened property tax.

Chapter 90 strengthens the Massachusetts economy – all experts and stakeholders agree that investing in transportation is essential for our state’s economic growth and competitiveness, and Chapter 90 builds economic progress in every community, which is good for every resident, taxpayer, and business owner in the state.

Chapter 90 creates construction jobs now – cities and towns face such a backlog of need that every new dollar for Chapter 90 will immediately result in visible and necessary repair projects on local roads all across Massachusetts, creating high-quality construction jobs for the middle class.

Chapter 90 saves taxpayers money – investing more in Chapter 90 funding to improve the quality of local roads will actually save taxpayers millions of dollars a year because, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, once a local road is in a state of good repair, every dollar invested for maintenance will save 6 to 10 dollars in avoided repair costs that become necessary to rebuild the road when it fails due to a lack of maintenance.

The bottom line is clear: cities and towns disagree with the Administration’s decision to cut back on Chapter 90 funding instead of committing now to the full $300 million that the Legislature and local officials know is necessary. We ask the Governor to release all of the Chapter 90 funds because the program is a necessary, affordable and money-saving way to improve the quality and safety of our roads, build our economy, create jobs, protect local taxpayers, ensure equity across the state, and return new tax dollars to every single community.

In the meantime, H. 3488 is essential to allow the Chapter 90 program to move forward immediately, before we lose any more days in the construction season.

Thank you very much for your strong support for Chapter 90, and for your leadership in enacting Chapter 18 of the Acts of 2013, to provide a record level of Chapter 90 funds for cities and towns.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey C. Beckwith
Executive Director, MMA