BOSTON (AP) — The state Senate, meeting in a rare Saturday session, approved a transportation financing overhaul bill that would pump more dollars into the state’s aging and debt-ridden transportation system.
Senators voted 30-5 to pass the bill, which calls for about $500 million in new taxes, after considering dozens of amendments during nearly 10 hours of debate. The bill likely will now go to a conference committee to resolve differences with a House version approved earlier in the week.
The measure was approved Monday by the House in the face of a veto threat from Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, who criticized it as insufficient to deal with the state’s long-term transportation needs.
But Patrick has called the Senate version a step in the right direction because it dedicates more revenue to transportation.
Senators considered more than 100 proposed amendments to the bill. Among those that failed was a move by the tiny Republican caucus to strip out the $500 million in proposed new taxes and increase funds available for transportation through administrative reforms and other revenue sources, including future casino licenses.
The state should not “tax first, ask questions later,” Senate Republican Leader Bruce Tarr said.
Senate President Therese Murray asked court officers to clear the Senate gallery of spectators after the debate was briefly disrupted by about two dozen protesters opposed to new taxes. Many in the group went to the Statehouse after attending a Boston Common tea party rally featuring anti-tax activist Grover Nordquist.
“I don’t understand why there isn’t tremendous outrage” over the new taxes, said Ed Purtz, of Salem, who was among those evicted from the gallery.
Senators approved an amendment that would prod the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority into selling naming rights for subway and commuter rail stations, a move that backers said could generate another $20 million in revenue for the cash-strapped agency.