Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility House passes ‘emergency preamble’ bill calling for increased funding for road, bridge improvements - Baltimore Independent

House passes ‘emergency preamble’ bill calling for increased funding for road, bridge improvements

A Massachusetts bill calling for $350 million in bonding for municipal road and bridge improvements has passed the House after a string of recent meetings related to the legislation.

In January, Gov. Charlie Baker presented the legislature with House Bill 4358, which set the borrowing amount at $200 million. The House Committee on Ways and Means on March 30 adopted a substitution, House Bill 4638, which increased the borrowing to $350 million.

As outlined in the legislation, the bonds will be funneled to municipalities through grants via Massachusetts’ Chapter 90 program. It functions as a mechanism to provide municipalities with an annual funding source for improvements to and investments in local transportation networks.

“These grants reach each of our 351 cities and towns directly, continuing the strong tradition of partnership between the commonwealth and local communities,” Baker wrote in a memo attached to the original bill.

Both iterations of the bill carried an “emergency preamble” clause that notes the high-priority nature of the spending proposal.

The preamble reads, “The deferred operation of this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is to finance improvements to the commonwealth’s transportation system; therefore, it is hereby declared to be an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public convenience.”

In the memo, Baker said, “Swift passage of this legislation will ensure that the commonwealth’s roads and bridges can be kept in or moved toward a state of good repair. Accordingly, I urge you to enact this legislation promptly.”

Early in the week, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets took written testimony on HB 4358 and forwarded it on to the House Ways and Means Committee with a favorable vote.

At the joint committee meeting, held March 28, members of the panel reviewed the testimony, which came from multiple state agencies and trade organizations.

The Massachusetts Municipal Association was among the organizations offering the testimony. In it, the organization implored state officials to increase Chapter 90 funding contributions as inflationary pressures increase.

“The reality is that the purchasing power of the Chapter 90 program has been substantially diminished since fiscal 2012, due to several factors, primarily construction inflation,” wrote Geoffrey Beckwith, executive director and CEO of the MMA.

Beckwith added, “If Chapter 90 remains at $200 million for fiscal 2023, the real, inflation-adjusted, level of state support for local road projects would drop by 42.6% percent, to an inflation-adjusted $117 million in fiscal 2023.”

Construction Industries of Massachusetts, a trade association representing the heavy and highway construction industry, was another entity within the state that called on increased funding into Chapter 90.

“CIM remains strongly supportive of a multi-year Chapter 90 authorization bill with an annual inflationary increase,” wrote John Pourbaix Jr., executive director of CIM. “A multi-year authorization would allow communities to make long-term investment plans and would allow contractors to better develop their own business plans.”

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Highway Division also weighed in on the legislation and called on lawmakers to pass it promptly.

“Due to the seasonality of roadway construction, it is crucial that this legislation is passed promptly, so that our communities may begin to plan and implement their investments for the year,” wrote Jonathan Gulliver, highway administrator with MDOT.

This article was originally posted on House passes ‘emergency preamble’ bill calling for increased funding for road, bridge improvements

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