Next week, Governor Baker’s economic development bill will begin to emerge from the Legislature now that versions of his original bill have passed both branches of the legislature and are headed for a conference committee. Those who follow transportation policy trends will be watching for the outcome of the value capture amendment, sponsored by Representative Bill Straus, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation. The amendment is in the House version of the bill, but not the Senate’s.
Massachusetts has recently published its first comprehensive capital investment plan, demonstrating that, while the program is robust, not all projects have the funding to match their level of support. To make up the difference, the Commonwealth has begun to team up with local governments, and has shown increased support for local infrastructure.
Cities and towns have been helping with portions of state sponsored projects for years with respect to the design of projects and in recommendations of the Metropolitan Planning Organizations. Local involvement in and support for regional projects was a factor in the legislatively mandated recommendations of the Project Selection Advisory Council that are now being implemented. And, when the MBTA was first created in 1964, the local assessment formula was based in part on service to the city or town. So, the idea of state and local government working together on regional projects is not new.
Straus’s amendment would permit (not require) cities and towns, with the agreement of the Department of Transportation, to capture increases in assessed values resulting from an infrastructure investment and devote some or all of that growth to the costs of the infrastructure. A similar, locally oriented program, is already in place. Together, these complement other tools that permit cities, towns and others to contribute to the costs of regional projects.
These are tools, not weapons, and should be seen as such. Straus’s amendment is a recognition that transportation is, at its core, a local issue and is, to most, very personal. Someday soon, the concept of a local contribution to major projects will be common in Massachusetts. Value capture is a tool for the times and will be very welcome when the local match requirement arrives.