House, Senate must settle billions in transportation spending

STATE HOUSE — The Massachusetts Senate passed a multi-billion dollar transportation bond bill Thursday evening, setting up election-year negotiations with the House on the final version of legislation replete with pet projects and policy directives.

In rapid succession, the Senate considered an avalanche of amendments that mostly earmarked project funds under the borrowing bill (S 2023/ H 3882), which hit the Senate floor with a $13.15 billion price tag. Out of 237 amendments, the Senate adopted 55, rejected 114 while 67 were withdrawn.

An attempt by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr to attach a policy rider repealing a 1993 law that restricts privatization by state agencies was ruled outside the scope of the bill and never got a vote.

Another Republican attempt to exempt funding in the bond bill from the law – sometimes called the Pacheco Law – went down on a 6-31 vote as Sens. Michael Barrett (D-Lexington) and Brian Joyce (D-Milton) voted with the four-member minority.

“What the minority party would like to do with the offering of this amendment is to eliminate that standard, so you could privatize if you’re in the executive branch and you’re running the executive branch, and you’ve got some friends out there in the private contractor world and you want to hand out some contracts, you can go back to what they were doing,” Sen. Marc Pacheco said. He said, “You could go back to the days when people are riding around in limousines and all being charged to the taxpayers.”

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