GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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April 5, 2013

City, town road funds in doubt

BOSTON — As the House quickly advanced a $500 million tax package, Gov. Deval Patrick is raising doubts about whether the amount of new revenue being pursued by legislative leaders will be sufficient to support a consensus increase in local road and bridge repair funding, and suggested House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray were trying to “position” him by jointly agreeing to the plan.

The tax proposal put forth by DeLeo and Murray raises only half of the new revenue the governor requested in his budget for transportation with new taxes on gas, tobacco and businesses, and funds none of the education initiatives Patrick sought with his $1.9 billion tax reform plan.

“I’ve been clear publicly and with the legislative leadership that I’m willing to compromise, but I do think there is such a thing as too small,” Patrick said. “We’ve got to be serious about investing in ways that give us growth, and investing in transportation and in education do that.”

The House on Wednesday took procedural votes to tee up for debate on Monday the tax plan and a related borrowing bill that would increase funding for Chapter 90 authorizing $300 million for local road and bridge repairs.

Patrick said an analysis by Transportation Secretary Richard Davey “raises some question” about whether the state can afford to boost Chapter 90 funding by $100 million with the level of new revenue proposed by legislative leaders.

In order to meet an April 1 deadline to inform municipalities of their expected level of funding, the Patrick administration sent out letters on Monday informing cities and towns how much money they would receive based on a $300 million program, but cautioned that it was contingent on sufficient revenues.

Cities and towns cannot sign contracts or agreements for construction until a Chapter 90 bond bill is approved and signed by Patrick, and the issue is being targeted by local officials, including Gloucester Public Works Director Mike Hale.

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