On Beacon Hill, it's been a week of jockeying between Gov. Deval Patrick and lawmakers in the House. They're more than a billion dollars apart in funding transportation improvements, but could a compromise be brewing in the state Senate.
Senate President Therese Murray, who spoke Thursday before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, is accustomed to weekly closed-door meetings with Patrick and House Speaker Robert DeLeo.
But as these three leaders publicly talk about solving the state's transportation problems, they haven't met privately for weeks. Murray was asked if she had spoken to the Governor recently.
"I have not," she said. "We've had our staffs go back and forth. It was three weeks Monday."
Politics seem to have kept Patrick, Murray and DeLeo apart, just like their dollar figures to fund transportation.
This week the House approved $500 million, while Patrick hasn't budged from his $1 billion-plus plan, and promises to veto the House bill. This difference has led to a political war of words, starting with Patrick.
“I think you have to be careful when you speak and the language and the rhetoric that you use when you want to move things ahead,” Murray said.
Having said that, Murray took aim at the Governor's more expensive transportation plan, while addressing the Greater Boston Chamber.
“The administration’s plan, in addition to raising the income tax, eliminates 44 tax exemptions that will have deep and biting effects on people in every community across the commonwealth," Murray said. "The Legislature is confident that there are other ways to move forward.”
And the way forward may be in the senate, where Murray is behind an $800 million plan, still shy of the Governor's stated compromise of splitting the difference and landing at $1.2 billion.
“I think we’ll be able to talk to the House about getting where we are and hopefully we’ll have a conference committee that will be short," she said. "And when it goes to the governor, he will not veto it.”
The Senate is scheduled to begin debate on their plan on Saturday. It’s expected to pass. And then Patrick will find himself in an interesting situation – settle for much less money than he wanted or risk getting no money at all.