Baker sees MBTA privatization as “prove-it moment”

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By Andy Metzger

Granted new freedom to privatize MBTA service, Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday made no guarantees that workers would not be laid off.

“The goal here is definitely not to lay off scores and scores and scores of people,” Baker said during his monthly appearance on Boston Public Radio. Asked if he would guarantee no layoffs, Baker said, “I’m never going to guarantee anything about anything, and I shouldn’t and I won’t.”

Freeing the MBTA from the provisions of the Pacheco law, which requires a formal vetting process before outsourcing of state services, was one recommendation of a task force Baker assembled following the T’s troubles last winter.

The Senate, where Senate President Pro Tem Marc Pacheco is the statute’s chief defender, reluctantly went along with a three-year suspension at the T in the budget Baker plans to sign on Friday.

Baker said the three-year window will give the administration a chance to prove the effectiveness of privatization free from the Pacheco constraints.

“My view on this and I think this is consistent with legislative intent is this is a kind of prove-it moment for us,” Baker told co-hosts Margery Eagan and Jim Braude.

The Baker administration has discussed plans to hire a private company to handle commuter rail fare collection, privatized track work to supplement the T’s in-house operation and a private company to run late-night service with smaller vehicles.

The auditor’s office handles Pacheco law reviews, checking whether privatization will create savings and avoid a loss in service.

Deputy Auditor Gerry McDonough previously told the News Service the law is only triggered if there is job loss. “Unless there is a situation where employees are being terminated the law is not implicated,” McDonough said.

A spokesman for Auditor Suzanne Bump said if a service is privatized during the three-year window of the Pacheco law suspension and it ends after the Pacheco law is reinstated at the T, it could be extended, renewed or rebid without being considered a privatization subject to the Pacheco law.

Baker on Friday also plans to name members to a new fiscal and management control board that is expected to meet at least three times a month and assert a significant amount of authority over the MBTA.