BOSTON (AP) -- Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said Monday that unless lawmakers move soon on legislation to bail out the cash-strapped MBTA, he expected agency officials to begin drawing up plans for additional service cuts on the Boston-area transit system.
The measure includes a $51 million transfer to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority from a motor vehicle inspection fund, without which the agency could not balance its budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.
"The Legislature has assured us that they are going to take up the T fix," Patrick said Monday. "They need do so soon."
Patrick noted the July 1 deadline was approaching quickly and that contingency plans would be necessary.
"The T, meanwhile, is going to have to start preparing a plan to cut service if that action isn't taken in time," he said, prior to a regularly-scheduled Monday meeting with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray.
Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA spokesman, said Monday that staff was developing a "watch list" of bus routes that would potentially be eliminated if the legislation was not passed.
"Our only option will be service cuts if we don't have the revenue by July 1," Pesaturo said.
The MBTA board of directors, after a sometimes contentious round of public meetings, approved on April 4 an average 23 percent fare hike and several service reductions to help close a $160 million deficit, but held off on deeper cuts in service in anticipation of the additional help from the state.
Patrick filed the MBTA legislation three days before the vote by the board, but there has been disagreement among lawmakers over whether some of the funds should also be used to help other ailing regional transit systems around the state.
A House panel has also recommended that the bill include a provision requiring the Massachusetts Port Authority to take over operation of Boston Harbor commuter ferries now run by the MBTA, but Massport officials and others have questioned the feasibility of that proposal.
Still, lawmakers have expressed confidence they can iron out the differences by the July 1 deadline.
"The Legislature has had these proposals for some while, they are thoughtful proposals and the sooner they turn to it the better for riders," Patrick said.
Pesaturo indicated that many of the bus routes on the watch list being drawn up by staff would be among the same that were included in earlier, more drastic service cut scenarios that had been outlined by the T before the final fare hike plan was adopted.