BOSTON (CBS) – After a slow start, Governor Charlie Baker’s MBTA reform plan appears to be moving forward. Beacon Hill lawmakers seemed skeptical at first, but Baker is starting to win the support he needs.
A key element has been backing for it from House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who pointedly reiterated that support Wednesday right in the middle of the Senate’s budget debate. Baker has so far been able to give as good as he gets in this argument, without losing his cool.READ MORE: How To Get An Appointment When COVID Vaccines Open For Mass. Residents 16+
When the Governor sat down to talk with WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller, the word out of Beacon Hill was that Senate resistance to his demand for a Baker-controlled fiscal and management control board was weakening.
“I’m pleased that the Speaker showed leadership and came out in support of the riders and the taxpayers and everybody else and said he could support a control board and I’m hopeful the Senate will do the same,” Baker said.
But Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tom McGgee has claimed Baker might use that power to boost T fares.READ MORE: Vehicle Inspections Will Resume At Most Massachusetts Locations Saturday
“The way the system’s currently set up you can only raise fares every five years,” Baker said. “But the larger issue here is not about fares, the big issue here is about performance.”
And what about Baker’s move to suspend the so-called Pacheco Law restrictions on letting non-union companies handle some T projects?
“This is a political debate, people will say all kinds of things to make their point,” Baker said.
“This is not about privatizing the T, it’s not about laying off hundreds of people. It’s about ways we could get a lot more work done a lot more quickly on behalf of the riders and the taxpayers if we had a little more flexibility.”MORE NEWS: Pet Spa, Food Locker Among Amenities Added To Apartment Buildings During Pandemic
It also doesn’t hurt that Baker is enjoying sky-high job-approval ratings in recent polls. Critics of the Baker plan have been hammering away at some sketchy numbers it relies on, and the T unions have been resorting to familiar rhetoric. But the biggest factor here may be the sheer horror of what T riders went through this winter, a memory that Baker is successfully exploiting.