This week, members of the House of Representatives will submit their recommendations for the FY'13 budget for legislative consideration. This will mark the beginning of a nearly three-month long process of establishing a budget for our Commonwealth for next year.
I, for one, hope that the legislative process reflects the shared priorities of Massachusetts residents instead of its usual focus on the wants and aspirations of Beacon Hill politicians.
For example, I hope legislators opt to hold the line on new taxes and that they work hard to reduce state spending in FY'13. This should always be the top priority for the budget.
I also hope the state budget will place greater emphasis on economic development and jobs. So far, the only substantial economic development proposal debated by the Legislature this session has been expanded casino gaming. Regardless of your stance on this issue, I think most would agree that expanded gaming alone will not solve our economic woes. There are more pieces to the puzzle that are waiting to fall into place, if only our elected officials would choose to focus on them.
For example, I believe our elected officials need to do more to promote local aid in support of our communities. Our cities and towns are struggling as they see less state aid, declining property values and increases in foreclosures. This forces increases in property taxes, which our residents can't afford to pay. This cycle needs to stop, and there is no better time than now to start the process.
Likewise, I believe our elected officials need to place greater emphasis on efficient investment and management of capital improvement projects. On average, road, bridge and transit projects take 7-10 years to build in Massachusetts. That's nearly a decade worth of bills our citizens shouldn't be forced to swallow. We need to do better, and the budget is the right place to factor in reforms.
Unfortunately, what is more likely is that the budget and the amendments legislators seek to add to it will be the subject of priorities that make sense to the General Court but not the general public. Our elected officials tend to focus on things like banning plastic bags from grocery stores, pushing for same day voting registration, supporting carbon tax on MA small businesses, and establishing in-state tuition for adolescent children of illegal immigrants.
Let's hope that 2012 is the beginning of a turn to a new direction and that we start to get away from the faulty priorities of the past. It's time to look forward and to focus on the basics of what people in Massachusetts want and need to get back on track.
Candidate for State Senate
Middlesex and Worceter