Republican gubernatorial candidates Charlie Baker is being called to account for his role in Big Dig spending when he was the chief finance officer for the Weld and Cellucci administrations.
The project, while greatly improving both the appearance and accessibility of Boston's central business district and nearby airport, was completed at many times its projected cost. Baker needs to talk about what went right, and what went wrong, during his tenure as secretary of administration and finance.
At the same time, however, it appears Baker's opponent, incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick, has failed to heed some of the lessons that should have been taken from that most expensive public-works project in U.S. history.
First there was the prevailing-wage requirement which mandated that labor costs on the Big Dig exceed those that would have been obtained had the work been open to unrestricted competitive bidding.
Just last week, with the backing of the Patrick administration, the UMass Building Authority board approved a "project labor agreement" that will apply to the rehab of its Boston campus. It requires contractors to use union labor in exchange for an agreement by those unions not to strike while work is underway.
The administration says the agreement will guarantee high-quality work and prevent delays caused by labor disputes. But Baker asserts the deal could add $100 million to the cost of the project and flies in the face of Patrick's promises to reform the way public construction projects are managed. We share his concerns.
Then later in the week came the announcement that the state would use $20 million in federal stimulus money to begin construction of a new commuter rail line to New Bedford and Fall River. The problem: The state has no idea where it's going to get the money to finish the project whose total cost is estimated — today — at $1.5 billion.
We agree with state Treasurer Tim Cahill, an independent candidate for governor: "Massachusetts should be prepared to lay the last track before we lay the first."