By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Westborough – Transportation, roads, jobs, and Boston possibly hosting the 20124 Olympics were just some of the issues addressed by local pols at the Corridor Nine Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast held Jan. 29 at the Doubletree Hotel. Over 200 members of the chamber attended the annual breakfast, which featured a panel of local state senators and representatives – all Democrats – discussing the pressing issues facing the commonwealth.
Mark Donahue, of Fletcher Tilton PC, moderated a discussion that included state senators Harriette Chandler, D – Worcester, who is also the Senate’s new majority whip; Michael Moore, D-Millbury, Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton; and state representatives Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston, and Danielle Gregoire, D-Marlborough.
Donahue started off the discussion by asking the legislators their thoughts on whether there would be another push to reinstate an automatic gas tax (which was repealed by voters in last November’s election), now that gas prices have fallen so significantly in past weeks.
Eldridge noted that he had voted to keep that automatic tax increase because those monies were needed to fund infrastructure improvements in the Metrowest area.
Dykema said she also voted for the automatic increase, because of what she “heard from the region’s business leaders, who were concerned about transportation and infrastructure.”
“They need to attract young, talented employees [to the region],” she added.
The state’s budget and how it would impact those in need was a pressing concern, Chandler said in response to another question. She was not, she said, in favor of equal “across the board” cuts to each of the commonwealth’s departments.
“I am concerned about cuts to health and human services,” she added, “especially when it affects so many of our vulnerable people.”
Moore echoed those thoughts, noting that helping the state’s homeless population and the increasing opiates crisis were of particular concern to legislators.
As the discussion turned to the question of how to bring more jobs to the area, Eldridge said he has “a pretty healthy skepticism” when it came to municipalities offering tax incentives to companies looking to locate to particular communities.
In his experience, he added, it was not those tax incentives but rather an educated workforce and available transportation that were more critical in the decision making process.
And if those companies did receive tax breaks, they needed to be held accountable, he said, for creating promised jobs.
“Transportation between [the region’s] towns is very poor,” Chandler added. “We need to be able to get from one place to another very quickly.”
When asked if they supported Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, the panelists reaction was lukewarm.
“I’m not terribly excited about it,” Chandler said.
Some infrastructure changes would result if Boston were selected, she said, but she still worried that it would turn into another “Big Dig.”
“At the end of the day it is the federal government’s responsibility for putting in the infrastructure,” Gregoire added. “But we don’t need money that should be going to central and western Mass. going to Boston.”