As local residents are undoubtedly aware, the governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, has been making a push to outsource the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) system. This has resulted in considerable controversy, not only from concerned citizens who use the MBTA system daily, but also from industry safety experts and city and state economists.
Many critics of the move allege that Governor Baker is pushing for full privatization and outsourcing without taking full account of the needs of local citizens—or of the harm that such privatization can do, not only to the state’s mass transit system, but to its bottom line as well.
Possible Exemption from the Pacheco Law
Governor Baker has introduced a measure that will allow a newly privatized and outsourced MBTA to claim formal and legal exemption from the so called Pacheco Law. This is the law that requires that certain rigorous and clearly defined standards must be met when considering whether to allow the privatization of public services that the state has hitherto been fiscally responsible for. In a word, Baker wishes to drop the MBTA from the state’s long list of responsibilities and hand it over to a private company to oversee.
Is There An Upside To Privatization?
Some readers may be wondering if there is an upside to privatization. The main advantage is economic: it certainly costs less to keep a privatized MBTA running, as it mitigates the rising maintenance and infrastructure spending. Critics of the bill allege that this is because the company doesn’t have to pay as much out for employee salaries, pensions, and benefits. However, other economic authorities in the state will counter these charges by the reasoned proposition that the management of MBTA is best handled as a profit making business. They point to the long-term and dangerous deficits being run up by the mass transit system. If the state was removed as the final authority in the matter, the MBTA might be run far more efficiently, with more attention being paid to customer satisfaction.
The Conflict Is Ongoing
As of the summer of 2015, the conflict remains ongoing. Governor Baker has issued several press releases, as well as several more public interviews, in which he has continued to deride the effectiveness of the Pacheco Law. While a long term resolution has yet to be reached, Governor Baker’s crusade for privatization is likely to continue far into the foreseeable future.