During this campaign, I will do my best to address any questions that you may have about the issues you want your State Representative to tackle. In this initial summary, I am presenting my views on some key topics that I have heard raised most often by voters in my travels throughout the district.
At the same time, it is important that I hear from you about how you feel about these and other issues. So, please take a moment to reach out to me with your thoughts and opinions about what you believe I should be focusing on if elected.
My general philosophy is that an efficient and effective state government is essential in keeping our Commonwealth among the best places to live, work and raise a family. Basic services that government provides include comprehensive public safety, effective public education, modern transportation networks, clean drinking water, and proper waste management.
State government also provides necessary regulation of private industries that deliver services in health care, housing, insurance, energy supplies, financial services, and much more. Yet, state government cannot be expected to do everything for everyone. There are reasonable limits to the role of government and the amount of taxes that can be assessed to support state programs and part of the job of a State Representative is to strike the correct balance.
My objective always will be to find the proper role and boundaries of state government so that we will live within our means and still provide the services that enable citizens and communities to live well and maximize their own opportunities and responsibilities.
Integrity & Independence
I am not seeking election for personal gain, power or prestige. This campaign is an opportunity for me to expand my involvement in the communities that make up the 2nd Essex District, and to offer my skills and support to citizens who are working hard to sustain and improve the quality of life here.
I am not going to be a rank and file legislator who will “go along” in order to “get along.” I have strong values developed with the guidance of my parents, teachers and mentors, and developed over a long and successful professional career. I back up my values with practical thinking and solid ethics.
If I am elected, you will have an honest, independent and accountable representative in Boston whose top priority will be the interests of the 2nd Essex District.
As we continue to emerge from the most significant economic downturn in generations, we can be thankful that Massachusetts has a vibrant economy in which state and local governments and the private sector work well together. Re-employment has increased here faster than in other states. The Legislature can assist the recovery in the next few years by increasing support for local government, supporting traditional and innovative business, funding infrastructure projects, and removing unnecessary regulations.
Still, the ultimate objective is to enable others to create good jobs that fairly reward hard work. So, state government should create incentives for a sustainable economy, but it should not exceed its role and try to be the sole investor who “picks winners and losers” in a free market. For example, it is proper that Massachusetts did not gamble taxpayers’ money to support a start-up video game company that moved to Rhode Island. I know citizens are eager to return to work and provide for themselves and their families. Government programs supporting job creation must be integrated with our goals for fair tax policy, affordable education, and necessary infrastructure improvements.
As we are growing our economy, the status and future of public education is the top priority in every community. Much of what we do in our schools is positive and productive, but limitations imposed by fiscal constraints continue to detract from the overall goal – preparing our children to be successful and productive members of our communities. Even as we close achievement gaps (consider, for example, our MCAS achievement rates), many students, parents, teachers, and administrators still experience frustration with difficult challenges that face our schools. Let’s look at this in simple terms:
First, we have a clear responsibility to ensure that school buildings and associated facilities are safe, modern, and properly equipped to make it possible for teachers to achieve their goals. Sufficient funding must be allocated and spent wisely to maintain or replace deteriorating and inadequate structures and recreational facilities.
Second, we must attract and support the right number of qualified teachers to achieve optimal class sizes and develop a modern curriculum that will prepare our children for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. We need to commit the teaching resources that good schools require, as there is no higher priority for our state’s future than educating our children and adults.
Third, we need to expand and strengthen programs at our community and state colleges. Sufficient educational options must be available to meet the needs and talents of all children. I agree with the compromise approach worked out by the House in their 2013 budget for integrated management of community college programs as a significant and positive step in the right direction. Also, it is critical that tuition and fees at our state colleges remain truly affordable.
Fourth, we need to protect every child by emphasizing principles of mutual respect and common courtesy in every aspect of the school environment. Many types of behavior qualify as bullying, but the common element necessary to solve this problem is to make it possible for everyone connected with our schools – administrators, teachers, students and parents – to speak up and help put an end to intolerance and disrespect in any form it may take. Teaching tolerance in our schools is a responsibility that we must fulfill as we create strong communities.
I have visited a number of the Councils on Aging in our communities, and I have learned how hard these groups work to maintain sufficient resources to serve the needs of senior citizens. However, I am concerned about the constant struggle by these organizations to raise even small funding amounts for their basic needs.
I intend to be a vocal advocate for additional state funding for towns and COAs, such as the Formula Grant available through the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, to provide needed resources and programs. I also will work with others to integrate our senior citizens in a direct way with more programs that serve students and young adults in our communities. It is no secret that an important element of “community” living is to have the experience and wisdom achieved with longevity handed down to younger citizens through direct contact and shared experiences with older citizens.
Our seniors have struggled and worked hard to build the framework of the American dream that we enjoy. We have a responsibility to help those seniors enjoy their golden years with dignity through access to proper health care and real community support. Let’s all work together to make this happen!
The 2nd Essex District consists predominantly of residential communities where people raise and educate their families. Therefore, most of us commute daily at least a short distance to work or school, and we travel similar distances to other places for our recreation, health care and social gatherings. Consequently, the integrity and maintenance of our highways, roads, bridges and public transportation systems are of great importance to the quality of our lives.
In the next few years, we will have the Bates Bridge, the Rocks Village Bridge, and the Whittier Bridge under repair simultaneously. I will work hard to ensure full funding and timely completion of these projects, and others like them. I also will work to find funding necessary to maintain commuter rail and bus services.
Municipal road and infrastructure projects are equally important. Under House Bill No. 04093, titled An Act Relative to Infrastructure Investment, Enhanced Competitiveness and Economic Growth in the Commonwealth, the MassWorks Infrastructure Program would supply up to $1,000,000 in grants for towns with populations of 7,000 or less (e.g., Merrimac, Groveland, West Newbury and Newbury) for road and bridge projects and economic or community development. I will focus on passage of this legislation because of its importance to our District.
I also will push for proper funding and implementation of programs for water and sewer systems, and maintenance of public buildings and parks. This is a responsibility that is basic to our quality of life, and it cannot be ignored.
The quality of the natural resources and the environment in the 2nd Essex District is a key reason we all enjoy living here. The Merrimack River, the Parker River, and their tributaries, and the Atlantic Ocean, Plum Island, and the Great Marsh, as well as the farms, parks and forests in our District, all contribute unique features to this wonderful landscape of ours.
We need to maintain our clean air, clean water, and healthy forests, fields and farms, as they are essential to our health and well-being. I am committed to using my experience and expertise in this field to ensure that state programs for protection of the environment are not compromised.
I am equally committed to ensuring that these programs are implemented fairly, with timely and even-handed permitting available for every project, ranging from large infrastructure projects to simple septic system or wetland projects proposed for single family homes.
There is no question that taxpayers should expect fair and equitable tax policies. Whether we are addressing taxes on income, sales, or capital gains, it is vital that we avoid increases in taxes unless an effort first has been made to see if spending can be reduced without harming necessary programs.
One of my priorities will be to push for close and careful implementation of the recommendations in the “Report of the Tax Expenditure Commission,” issued on April 30, 2012. That report summarizes more than $24 billion in tax expenditures (i.e., exemptions, deductions and credits) that reduce tax revenue collected in the Commonwealth. Rather than continuing these tax breaks indefinitely, we must evaluate them to confirm that they continue to serve important policy objectives.
One concern I have about certain tax credits is the ability for recipients who do not have taxable income to transfer their credits to a company in a completely different industry that was not the intended beneficiary of the tax credit. Thus, the tax break intended to encourage important policy objectives only ends up reducing the state’s tax collections, as does the large fee paid to the “broker” who helps transfer the tax credit. This kind of credit transfer and fee arrangement takes valuable tax revenue from our collections, which makes it hard to pay for essential programs and puts pressure on the state to raise other taxes and fees.
Putting It All Together
Ideally, government policies and programs can be integrated to achieve priorities like these. Here is an example of how this can work:
First, the state currently implements energy efficiency programs that reduce energy demand and issues tax credits that make solar power more affordable.
Second, lower energy demand and greater supplies of renewable energy reduce demand for power generated by nuclear material or fossil fuels, which in turn improves and offers benefits for public safety, health and the environment.
Third, money saved by municipalities and schools by reducing energy demand and generating solar power will be available to support seniors, to hire teachers, and to maintain and improve school facilities and local infrastructure.
Fourth, fully-funded programs for seniors will ensure quality of life for retired citizens, and schools with better facilities and smaller class sizes can graduate better-educated students who will continue to qualify for good colleges and jobs.
Fifth, an educated and trained work force generates growing tax revenues for state and local programs that will keep the 2nd Essex District the vibrant, wonderful community we want to sustain as a special place to live and work.
In sum, my approach to good government is making sure key programs work together.