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Gov. Baker Unveils Legislation To Overhaul MBTA

Gov. Charlie Baker unveiled legislation Wednesday aimed at overhauling Greater Boston's troubled transit system, proposing the creation of a fiscal control board — mostly appointed by Baker — to oversee MBTA operations and finances for the next three years.

The bill, which also calls for lifting the cap on fare increases and auditing the T's retirement fund, closely follows recommendations made by a special advisory panel Baker created back in February after a series of severe snowstorms crippled the transit system.

Baker said in a statement Wednesday that the proposed legislation is needed to avoid a repeat of the winter's operational woes.

"The T failed its stress test this winter when we needed it most, exposing the deep operational problems and lack of planning," Baker said. "We simply cannot afford a repeat."

If the bill is passed, the fiscal control board would "oversee operations and finances through 2018, create capital plans, introduce reporting and audit requirements and lift procurement restrictions for the MBTA."

"It's imperative that we have more manpower focused specifically on improving the T," Baker said at press conference announcing the bill.

Three members of the proposed five-member board would be appointed by Baker, whose term ends in early 2019, with the other two referred to the governor by the Senate president and House speaker. Baker said the board members will not be paid.

Baker would also appoint a chief administrator, who Baker said will "assume the role of the general manager of the MBTA during the existence of the Fiscal Management and Control Board."

The bill proposes restructuring the MassDOT board, which currently oversees the T, by increasing the overall number of members, with a majority serving four-year terms coterminous with the governor.

The chairman and members of the MassDOT board appointed by Baker's predecessor, Deval Patrick, resigned Tuesday at Baker's request.

The proposal would lift the cap on fare hikes. A WBUR poll earlier this month found 61 percent of Boston area voters would support the MBTA raising fares if the T would "significantly improve service."

The bill would also lift procurement restrictions in an effort to speed up the T's contracting process.

With additional reporting by WBUR's Benjamin Swasey

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