New MBTA General Manager Phil Eng looks on at his first Board of Directors meeting Wednesday, April 19, 2023, the first meeting held in-person in several months. Photo by Chris Lisinski | State House News Service

A business-backed group wants the state legislature to resolve a projected funding gap at the MBTA this year, saying the high stakes include Boston’s recovery from pandemic impacts and the safety and reliability of the heavily-used transit system.

MBTA officials this week approved a $3 billion fiscal 2025 budget that invests heavily in labor to help remedy service problems while also draining agency savings, leaving it with a roughly $700 million projected budget gap for fiscal 2026.

“Without assured funding for FY 2026, the MBTA is left to determine how long it can commit to resource intensive investments in staffing, safety, and services versus when it needs to pivot to cuts to balance a budget gap in the hundreds of millions,” the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation said as it released a new bulletin on the T’s challenges. “If the MBTA were to adopt the staffing reductions and service and maintenance cuts used to close past budget gaps, the T’s nascent turnaround, now in its early stage, would abruptly end and any hard-won credibility with employers, riders, and the FTA would vanish.”

There are only seven weeks remaining for formal sessions this year and Democratic legislative leaders and the Healey administration have not signaled any plans to address fiscal 2026 MBTA solutions during that timeframe. Gov. Maura Healey has named a task force to explore transportation funding options, and the T is on track for an uncertain amount of new state support in the fiscal 2025 state budget accord that is due in two weeks.

MTF recommended that the state commit to using the House’s proposed $293 million in income surtax spending for the MBTA in fiscal 2025 as a baseline for fiscal 2026, and shift $75 million in fiscal 2025 capital spending for “climate resilient tracks and stations” to operating budget support in fiscal 2026. Also, to reduce the T’s use of federal matching funds in its operating budget from $191 million in fiscal 2025 to no more than $100 million in fiscal 2026, MTF recommended appropriating at least $100 million from the Education and Transportation Innovation and Capital Fund to the MBTA for pay-go capital spending.

Recommending more transparency at the T about personnel and budgeting, MTF in its report also portrayed the Federal Transit Administration as a wildcard. The T has already been forced to scale back service due to FTA safety and staffing concerns and the FTA is awaiting a T analysis that “will document the number of personnel required to provide full services safely and reliably,” according to MTF.

“Should the MBTA abandon the hiring initiatives to meet its stated workforce analysis headcount because it lacks sufficient resources, it should be expected that the FTA will intervene and direct the MBTA to reduce services, as it has in the past, to levels that it believes the MBTA can support,” the report said.

MTF to Beacon Hill: Solve MBTA ‘Fiscal Fiasco’ This Year

by State House News Service time to read: 2 min