Gov. Charlie Baker did not wait long to put his plan to accelerate investments in the MBTA into action, filing a budget bill Tuesday afternoon that would make $50 million available to the T to hire additional engineers, inspectors, consultants and bus drivers to shuttle passengers during expected night and weekend closures.
Baker earlier in the day had outlined a multi-part plan to allow for the MBTA to pursue its capital infrastructure improvement plan on a sped-up timeline. The money, the governor said, would be taken from an expected surplus in fiscal 2019, which ends on July 1.
"The need to expedite the delivery of the significant investments that are set out in the MBTA Capital Investment Plan is clear," Baker wrote in his filing letter to the Legislature. "This bill provides the MBTA with $50 million to support additional staff, contractors, and other resources necessary to expedite the completion of critical capital projects, enable proactive inspections to detect and address safety issues before they impact service, and implement enhanced maintenance procedures to ensure the reliable operations of MBTA vehicles and infrastructure."
The appropriations bill, as filed, would supplement fiscal 2019 spending, but it would be available for use through June 30, 2020.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Tuesday he was willing to work with the governor on the supplemental budget, but didn't think it would be sufficient long-term. The Winthrop Democrat called the MBTA a system "in crisis."
"This fall the House plans to debate the revenue options to fund statewide transportation investments, including funding a long term strategic investment plan for the MBTA. Pending that, we look forward to working with the Governor to enact a supplemental budget to provide a more immediate infusion of funds, but only in the context of the larger debate the long term funding of a strategic investment plan for the MBTA," DeLeo said in a statement.