Gov. Deval Patrick and independent Timothy Cahill ratcheted up criticism Wednesday of their GOP rival in the governor's race, Charles Baker, for his role in Big Dig financing decisions that Patrick said were made to mislead the public.
After a news conference on the State House steps, Patrick told reporters that Baker helped develop and support a "flawed" Big Dig financing plan that he said has led to a loss of public confidence in state government.
"That whole financing scheme was about misleading the public, about not telling the public the truth," Patrick said.
Patrick also said financing plans and cost overruns for the $15 billion transportation project have curtailed other infrastructure projects and job creation efforts.
"He developed and supported the financing schemes for the Big Dig and that financing scheme starved other projects and other jobs all around the commonwealth," he said.
Baker was the state's budget chief from 1994 to 1998, under the Weld and Cellucci administrations, a period during which major financing decisions for the transportation project were made. He has said that he was part of a group of people who made Big Dig financing decisions and that the plan was effective.
"I wasn't there long enough to play a central role in the Big Dig," Baker said. "I was there to create a financing plan to deal with the federal shortfall and I did that, working again with the Clinton administration and the Legislature and others."
Cahill, the state treasurer, said Baker's plan has cost taxpayers "hundreds of millions of dollars in interest." Cahill, during his own news conference on the State House steps, said Baker was in a position to have stopped the plan if he thought it was faulty.
"As (budget chief) you have your hands or fingertips on every single spending bill, every single appropriation, every debt offering that comes through," Cahill said.
A Baker spokesman said that the Patrick administration and Cahill are using the same type of financing tool — borrowing against expected federal money to support the road and bridge repair program.
"Patrick would rather talk about something from 15 years ago than talk about his support for higher taxes, higher spending and lack of reform which has led to the real eroding of the public's trust," Baker spokesman Rick Gorka said. "Patrick has refused to take responsibility for anything, so it's not surprising he's once again passing the blame."
Patrick called himself a supporter of the Big Dig, but said "I think it was a better project at $5 billion than at $15 billion."
The governor would not answer questions about whether former Big Dig head Matthew Amorello deserved any blame for the project's cost overruns.
Amorello, who is facing drunken driving charges, was appointed in 2002 to lead the Turnpike Authority. He resigned under pressure from then-Gov. Mitt Romney in 2006 after a Big Dig tunnel ceiling collapse killed a Boston woman.
This program aired on August 11, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.