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The Salvucci salvation

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Beacon Hill has been wrestling with the MBTA’s chronic budget shortfalls for a year now, and with two months left to shore up the T’s budget, legislative leaders remain at loggerheads. It’s not for lack of ideas or money: In a Globe op-ed today, former state transportation secretary Fred Salvucci solves the T’s broken budget in 750 words.

Salvucci’s roadmap for fixing the T’s fiscal woes leads straight to Massport. That’s not surprising, since policymakers are already looking to the agency to pick up MBTA ferry and Silver Line service as a way of balancing this year’s T budget, which remains $51 million out of balance, even after the passage of a package of fare hikes and service cuts. The ferry portion of that plan is currently awaiting FAA approval, and uncertainty over financing ferry service is helping drive the legislative standoff over filling that $51 million hole.

The Patrick administration sent the Legislature a bill backfilling the $51 million deficit with a package of one-time revenues, but the House diverted $5 million from those funds to the state’s regional transit agencies. The Senate abstained from voting that package out of committee, and Tom McGee, the Senate’s point man on transportation, tells the Globe today that the RTAs should wait until next year for more funds because “clearly the MBTA challenge is the most pressing right now.”

Salvucci’s op-ed bypasses the current spat between lawmakers inside the T’s core service area and those outside it by arguing that both sides need to be part of the T’s rescue. Forward-funding and T-financed capital projects are crippling the agency, he writes, “but when the proposal is to raise a tax to pay old bills primarily for Boston projects completed a decade ago, in the middle of a difficult economic period, legislators, especially from outside of the Boston metropolitan area, are understandably reluctant.”

To bridge the two sides, Salvucci calls for Massport to pump $100 million in airport garage parking fees into the T, as the first step in a bigger state-led transit rescue. The Massport parking fees would turn commonly accepted complaints about the Big Dig (a Boston transportation project paid for by statewide taxpayers and Turnpike riders) on their head: Salvucci calls Massport “the biggest single beneficiary of the Big Dig,” and says that, since the agency didn’t pay for tunnel bonds, the least it can do is pass along some of the cash it generates from cars zooming through the Ted Williams Tunnel, and into its parking garages. 

                                                                                                                                                        --PAUL MCMORROW

BEACON HILL

Rep. John Keenan of Salem is at the center of the debate over expanding the state’s bottle deposit law, the Salem News reports.

The tidings don’t look good for a bill aimed at illegal immigrants that would impose tougher penalties on unlicensed drivers and employers and landlords who knowingly hire or rent to undocumented people.

A Herald editorial knocks the Legislature’s return to policymaking in the budget -- a practice, the paper says, that stems from Beacon Hill’s closed decision-making and infrequent meetings.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Some Stoughton officials are calling for change in the representative Town Meeting because of the slow pace and high tensions during the annual meeting.

New Bedford’s mayor wants to hire a tourism director to promote the Whaling City as a destination.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

McClatchy Newspapers examine the cell phone-landline political divide in polling.

Robert Rubin foresees a post-election grand bargain on spending and taxes.

ELECTION 2012

Obama-supporting ticket-splitters may be causing bigger problems for Elizabeth Warrren than for any other Senate candidate in the country, reports the National Journal’s Ronald Brownstein.  

Charles C.W. Cooke at the National Review tries a few of Warren’s recipes from her Pow Wow Chow cookbook and declares there’s not much Cherokee ethnicity to the dishes. A Christian Science Monitor report examines what it means to be an American Indian today, while Slate tries to calculate how many Americans are at least 1/32 Native American. Meanwhile, one group of independent voters in western Massachusetts is tired of the controversy, claiming it’s a “non-issue.” Marisa DeFranco, who will likely land on the Democratic Senate ballot at this weekend’s state convention, challenges Warren to four debates. Peter Lucas, in his Lowell Sun column, says DeFranco will cause Warren problems.

Meanwhile, Scott Brown rolls out a new ad today designed to promote his bipartisan credentials.

Mormons are proud -- and worried -- about having one of their own atop the presidential ticket of a major US party, the Globe reports. New York magazine previews the many, many attacks the Obama campaign is preparing to launch at Mitt Romney. In U.S. News & World Report. Robert Schlesinger asks why the mainstream media is giving Romney a pass on big-money supporter Donald Trump’s continuing birtherism.

Keller@Large has a sit-down with Brookline psychologist Elizabeth Childs, one of the GOP contenders for Barney Frank’s seat.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Curt Schilling blames Rhode Island officials for many of the financial troubles facing his video game company, including withholding film tax credits, refusing to defer a $1.1 million loan payment, and making negative comments that sent investors fleeing, AP reports (via Lowell Sun and based on print-only interview with Providence Journal).

Foreclosures in Massachusetts hit their highest level in two years.

Major new mixed-use development is on tap for Melnea Cass Boulevard in Roxbury.

Casinos in Ohio open amid high revenue hopes, Governing reports.

Facebook officially owns the worst-performing IPO in a decade.

The much-heralded rebound in American manufacturing has been enabled by the less pleasant stagnation in manufacturing wages.

EDUCATION

The next student loan hurdle to overcome: students who drop out of college with massive debt and no degree.

HEALTH CARE

Massachusetts business groups are divided on how aggressively the state should move to rein in health care costs.

Paul Levy gives a little inside baseball on who decides how much doctors get paid.

Citing the concerns raised by Tom Brady Sr., the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay says football may be losing the dads.

TRANSPORTATION

Boston’s Southeast Expressway is ranked tenth among America’s 11 highways from hell, according to a survey by The Daily Beast. Time, meanwhile, cites a study ranking Boston as the ninth worst US city for traffic, a place where drivers waste 35 hours a year in traffic.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Robert Bryce, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, notes that renewable energy can’t run the cloud.

A teenage black bear has been spotted roaming in Plymouth, while the real buzz was generated over the weekend by the possibly unprecedented sighting of a bear on Cape Cod.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A Swampscott woman who took a train to Brockton for a dinner date with a man she just met was robbed by her date when she went to the bathroom, which makes the likelihood of a second date somewhat remote.

The Sentinel and Enterprise profiles a pilot drug court in Concord and Ayer that handles crimes committed by addicts.

MEDIA

Beat the Press has a special for graduating journalism students on the dos and don’ts of the profession, though switching careers for something better-paying and more stable is not among the dos.

WBUR goes inside the Globe Lab.

Many are freaking out over the retrenchment at the Times-Picayune because it’s a newspaper with market penetration that’s among the highest in the country, the New York Times reports.

Former House speaker Tom Finneran is leaving WRKO.

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