Man speaking into microphone as three other people sitting next to him look on

Mount Washington Select Board Member Jim Lovejoy (second from right), chair of the MMA Policy Committee on Public Works, Transportation and Public Utilities discusses transportation funding during the MMA Annual Business Meeting on Jan. 25 in Boston. Also pictured (l-r) are Lexington Town Manager Jim Malloy, MMA Legislative Director John Robertson and MMA Legislative Analyst Ariela Lovett.

The MMA membership on Jan. 25 overwhelmingly endorsed two policy resolutions – on the issues of local aid and the state’s transportation challenges – as well as an update to the association’s standing policy on transportation.

The resolutions send an important message to state leaders about municipal priorities and will guide the MMA’s work in the year ahead.

Revenue sharing
The Resolution Ensuring a Strong and Enduring Fiscal Partnership Between Cities and Towns and the Commonwealth in Fiscal 2021 and Beyond was developed by the MMA’s Fiscal Policy Committee.

With slower tax growth in the forecast for the coming fiscal year, state officials face a tough task in crafting a spending plan that covers the basics and fully funds new commitments, such as the Student Opportunity Act. With this in mind, municipal leaders are detailing revenue-sharing priorities.

The resolution calls for:
• An increase in unrestricted municipal aid at the same rate as the growth in state tax collections
• An increase in Chapter 70 consistent with the Student Opportunity Act, and a meaningful amount of new minimum aid per student
• A commission to study the fiscal health of rural schools
• Continued implementation of Chapter 70 equity standards
• Reform of charter school finance law
• Full funding of the Special Education Circuit Breaker and school transportation reimbursements
• Full funding for payments-in-lieu-of-taxes, “smart growth” reimbursements, library aid, anti-gang grants, innovation and regionalization grants, and other effective programs
• A local aid resolution by March 1
• A multiyear transportation bond bill with $300 million per year for Chapter 90
• A state capital plan for MassWorks, transportation, high-speed internet, drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and environmental, housing and other capital grants
• Reform of rules governing post-employment benefits
• New local-option revenue flexibility

Transportation
The Resolution Supporting a Local-State-Federal Partnership to Address the Commonwealth’s Transportation System Needs and Challenges was proposed by the MMA Policy Committee on Public Works, Transportation and Public Utilities.

The state’s transportation system faces historic challenges, including road congestion, inadequate public transportation services, deteriorating roads and bridges, and vulnerability to the effects of climate change. Without increased investments in transportation infrastructure, population and job growth will stagnate.

The MMA resolution calls for:
• Bold transportation finance legislation, with a meaningful revenue component that is raised fairly and distributed equitably
• Prioritizing the maintenance of 30,000 miles of municipal roads and bridges, with a multiyear authorization for Chapter 90 of at least $300 million annually, indexed to grow with inflation
• Renewed funding for state grant programs for local transportation projects
• Implementation of the recommendations of the culvert and small bridge working group
• A study of policies to address road congestion
• A gas tax increase to fund transportation system improvements, with funds being distributed equitably across the state
• Making the transportation system more resilient to severe weather and transitioning to clean energy technologies
• State participation in the regional Transportation Climate Initiative

Policy update
For more than 20 years, MMA members have been adopting policy resolutions annually to articulate clear goals and priorities for the coming year. The association’s standing policies, meanwhile, serve as a broader framework to identify major principles to support strong communities and an effective local-state partnership. In short, the policies reflect long-range thinking in multiple policy areas.

Some policies, however, need to be updated to reflect new emerging frameworks. Going forward, the MMA’s five policy committees will be recommending policy updates to align them with MMA positions and to reflect changes in statutes and regulatory structures. Kicking off this process is the MMA Policy Committee on Public Works, Transportation and Public Utilities, which proposed a standing policy update in the area of transportation – a recommendation that was adopted by the MMA membership.

The policy calls for an integrated statewide transportation plan that’s multimodal in its approach and ensures regional equity in all aspects of financing and infrastructure development. The policy is then organized in sections on assets and infrastructure, finance, and transportation policy and environmental impacts. The Chapter 90 local road and bridge program is clearly identified as a priority, along with climate resiliency and greater adoption of cleaner energy sources.

Resolution and policy development
The two resolutions and the policy update were developed over the summer and fall by MMA policy committees comprising local officials from across the state, and they were endorsed in November by the MMA Board of Directors.

Some 300 officials representing their individual municipalities voted on the resolutions at the MMA’s Annual Business Meeting in Boston.

While discussion was welcomed during the Annual Business Meeting, the policy committees that drafted the resolutions also solicited member comments for a four-week period prior to the meeting.

The full resolutions and the association’s updated standing policies can be found at www.mma.org under Advocacy.

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