Baker seeks uniform funding for local road projects in next year’s budget

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But Geoff Beckwith, executive director and chief executive of the municipal association, said little or no federal infrastructure law money could be spent on routine maintenance and repair of local roads supported by the state program. Federal money, he said, is usually for larger, complex projects that affect more than one community.

Local communities want state leaders to increase annual program funding to $300 million to offset inflation costs and keep roads in better condition so they don’t need repairs costlier later, he said.

Baker’s proposed $200 million allotment is one-third of what the municipal association estimates it costs cities and towns to keep their 30,000 miles of roads in good condition each year and fell short the 40% increase in construction costs since 2012.

“It costs 10 times more to fix a failed road than to keep it in good condition,” Beckwith said.

The association also wants state leaders to end the practice of funding the program on an annual basis and instead allocate payments that can be spent over multiple years. The change would allow communities to plan road projects in advance instead of having to wait each year for lawmakers to finalize the budget before they can sign contracts with construction companies, Beckwith said.

State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump also criticized Baker’s spending proposal for local roads. In October, she urged Baker and state lawmakers to increase the amount of funding to $300 million and called for more support for communities in western Massachusetts, which has more rural areas.

In a statement, Bump said she hopes the legislature will provide more funding for local roads.

“It’s very disappointing. Honestly, given our positive earnings and documented need for increased local roadside assistance, it’s incomprehensible,” she said. “Rural communities have fallen behind in basic road maintenance and are not even able to compete for many subsidy programs because they lack engineering and planning staff.”

The offices of House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate Speaker Karen Spilka did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.

Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, the town association’s new president, asked Baker about her plans to seek a 2.7% increase in local aid in next year’s budget. The proposed increase fell short of expectations, according to Fuller, who described the plan as “the worst news.”

Communities face rising inflation and state law limits municipal property tax increases, she said.

“Many of us were expecting a higher number given the growth in state revenues over the past few years,” Fuller said.

Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito announced plans for the $31.5 million local aid boost when she spoke to the city group on Friday.

Baker said that during years when state revenues were lower than expected, his administration did not cut local aid amounts.

“The deal was the deal and we honored it when it didn’t work out for us,” he said.

His administration could review local aid funding, Baker said, if state revenue exceeds expectations.


Laura Crimeldi can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.

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