By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Westborough – The town's state legislators met with the Board of Selectmen at the board's Jan. 22 meeting to discuss a number of issues ranging from Gov. Deval Patrick's proposed fiscal year 2014 budget, sales versus personal taxes, funding formulas and gun safety control measures.
The pols – state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, state Rep. Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston, state Rep. Matthew Beaton, R-Shrewsbury and state Rep. Danielle Gregoire, D-Marlborough – all offered their thoughts? regarding Patrick's budget proposal. The governor is proposing raising the state's income tax by one percent to 6.25 percent and lowering the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent. Monies raised from the income tax increase would then be used for transportation upgrades and education.
“I support the governor's plan and how he wants to do it,” Eldridge said. “It's a progressive tax plan.”
Dykema added that she has heard from her constituents that transportation and education were important to them. Transportation, in particular, she noted was critical to enhancing economic development in the region.
As the lone Republican legislator present at the meeting, Beaton said he was in favor of the reduction in the sales tax.
“But I have concerns with the overall plan,” he added. “I think it's the wrong decision now for our fragile economy.”
Gregoire cautioned that the budgetary process was just in its initial stages.
“The governor's plan is just a plan right now,” she said. “The House and Senate will come up with their own plans too.”
One issue that is on the minds of the officials, town and state alike, is the fate of the Westborough State Hospital. Dykema told the selectmen that “good progress” has been made with the state's Division of Capital Asset Management on a plan that would see the state sell the property to the town. One question still unresolved, she said, is potentially moving a Division of Youth Services facility currently located on the property.
Gun control legislation was also discussed at the meeting. Board of Selectmen Chair Leigh Emery noted she is a licensed gun owner. She asked the legislators their opinion on new mandates Patrick is proposing.
Beaton said he was “pleasantly surprised” during recent meetings he has attended on Beacon Hill that the focus has been more on the issue of making schools safer and improving mental health services.
Massachusetts already has strict gun control laws, he added.
“We need to have a national conversation,” he said. “The rest of the country needs to catch up to where we are.”
Selectman Denny Drewry agreed.
“We'se fooled if we don's think we have good gun control [in Massachusetts],” he added. “This is a lot more than just gun control.”