Transportation financing legislation approved by the House has sufficient votes to pass in the Senate, but its price tag could rise through the use of “existing funds,” Senate President Therese Murray said on Tuesday.
Murray declined to say whether the measure would draw a veto-proof majority in the Senate, adding that she expected progressive senators to work to delay its passage.
Governor Deval Patrick has blasted lawmakers for a $500 million tax increase, calling it insufficient. Patrick has stumped for a $1.9 billion increase, and also proposed using reserve funds and revenue anticipation notes to fund transportation and education priorities. On Tuesday, he said he would be willing to compromise and settle on a figure between the two, but Murray questioned the feasibility of a package in the neighborhood of $1.2 billion.
“Where does it come from?” she said.
“I think you’re going to see the Senate go a little further” than the House’s $500 million, Murray said. “But not for taxes, we’re not adding taxes, but I think we’ve found a way to get a little further down that road.”
Murray, who joined House Speaker Robert DeLeo in unveiling the $500 million legislation last week, said the “House took a good vote yesterday.”
Beacon Hill is rife with tension as Patrick and legislative leaders have accused each other of misdiagnosing the state’s needs. At issue is how to close what experts call a dangerous shortfall in the upkeep and expansion of transportation infrastructure such as roads and rail. Without agreement on additional funding, the MBTA has threatened higher fares.
“If that bill doesn’t go forward, then the T rates will go up, tolls will go up, and I don’t think anybody wants that to happen,” Murray said.
The Senate had planned to take up the House bill on Thursday, but the administration has been lobbying for a delay as it seeks to muster the votes sufficient to sustain the veto. Despite leadership efforts, the House vote was shy of the number needed to override the governor’s threatened veto. The opposition to the bill came from Republicans, whose opposition is rooted in its tax component, as well as liberal Democrats who believe the state should spend more on transportation.
Murray said on Tuesday the Senate would work through any dilatory efforts mounted by Patrick supporters.
“I understand the governor’s asked them to delay the bill as long as they can, but we’ll keep at it until we get to actually taking it up and hopefully pass it,” she said.
Asked about the margin of support for the bill in the Senate, Murray replied, “We have the votes to pass this bill.” Pressed further, she said, “I said we have the votes.”