Chapter 90 funding level still unresolved

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Legislative leaders have joined local officials in calling for the administration to release the full $300 million in Chapter 90 local road and bridge funding, but the governor says he remains “skeptical” that there’s sufficient revenue to do so.

In May, the Legislature unanimously passed and the governor signed a one-year, $300 million Chapter 90 bond bill for fiscal 2014, but as the construction season ticks away the administration has released just two-thirds of that funding.

The administration released $150 million on May 31 and another $50 million on July 30, but the result is a level-funding of the program, rather than the $100 million increase the Legislature intended and local officials were expecting.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo publicly called on the governor to release the remaining $100 million, adding that the transportation revenue package passed by the Legislature this summer “supports the $300 million in revenue for Chapter 90 funding.”

Senate President Therese Murray concurred, saying she is “extremely disappointed” with the governor’s decision to withhold $100 million in Chapter 90 funds.

“By providing our communities with this increase in resources,” she said, “we are supporting necessary infrastructure investments, improving the economy and putting people back to work.”

Despite the Legislature’s position, however, decisions about how much Chapter 90 funding to release are ultimately the domain of the governor’s office.

On July 31, the MMA sent a letter to the governor and issued a statement asking him to immediately release the full $300 million. Local officials will also carry this message to the administration at the Sept. 10 meeting of the Local Government Advisory Commission.

In the statement, the MMA said: “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, and the recently enacted tax package fully funds this commitment.”

Because the transportation finance package was considerably smaller than he had proposed in the spring, the governor said his administration continues to assess multiple transportation priorities. He told the State House News Service, however, that the release of additional Chapter 90 funding this year is unlikely.

“I’m skeptical that we will be able to,” he said, “given the fact the transportation finance bill was smaller than what we need.”

A multi-year transportation bond bill, which includes funding for a $300 million per year Chapter 90 program, is before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation and is expected to be taken up in the fall.

Download spreadsheet showing difference between $200 million and $300 million Chapter 90 funding level for each city and town (148K Excel)
Written by MMA Senior Legislative Analyst Tom Philbin