Governor Deval Patrick's proposal for $1.9 billion in tax increases to fund much-needed infrastructure improvements and educational programs is definitely ambitious and it is a given that there will be give-and-take in the Legislature. For House Speaker Robert DeLeo to describe the proposal as "fantasy land" is disappointing, however, as it indicates a close-minded attitude toward a serious effort to address real needs.
Mr. DeLeo admitted to a "poor choice of words" when asked about his remarks by Eagle reporter Adam Poulisse last week when the speaker was in the Berkshires to accept the annual "Irish" Person of the Year at the 12th annual Robert "Bees" Prendergast St. Patrick's Reception, a benefit for Hillcrest Educational Centers. The sentiment behind the words, however, seemed genuine. Boston is generally good at something Washington is terrible at -- finding a meaningful compromise that all, including taxpayers, can live with -- but finding that compromise doesn't begin without an automatic dismissal of the governor's plan. That is a recipe for Washington-style paralysis.
The speaker's receptiveness to considering transportation financing separately from the budget as a whole is encouraging, however. For too many years, the transportation budget has been reduced to maintaining the status quo at best, and this year's proposal by the governor involves investing in crumbling infrastructure and necessary highway and rail projects, with the Berkshires due for its fair share. A proposal this complex and this important for both the short- and long-term merits more detailed consideration than past transportation budgets.
To take it a step further, the Chapter 90 highway funding budget should be addressed separately from the overall transportation budget. As three Berkshire highway chiefs explained during an editorial board meeting with The Eagle late last month, when Chapter 90 funding gets caught up in the complexities of the overall budget and is delayed until August, the road work repair and construction season has been all but squandered. Berkshire communities not only need this revenue desperately, they need it when there is still time to use it before the bad weather hits.