By Melanie Petrucci, Contributing Writer
Westborough – State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) appeared before Westborough’s Board of Selectmen at their June 13 meeting to discuss budget priorities. He reported that the House and the Senate have passed their budgets and they are now in conference committee to work out any issues and to come to agreement.
Eldridge said he supports raising revenues on several fronts. First, he supported requiring filmmakers to film more inside Massachusetts in order to qualify for tax credits and prevent any tax credit going out of state. Second, he supported raising deed registration and filing fees which would help those communities benefitting from the Community Preservation Act which passed in the Senate. Third, the Senate passed a regulation and tax reform for short-term rentals including Airbnb rentals which will provide for the capability of municipalities to levy a local tax. This could result in $48 to $50 million dollars for the state, Eldridge explained.
Regarding budget priorities, Eldridge reassured selectmen that local aid would be protected and this included Chapter 70 and Chapter 90 as well as prioritizing lottery aid. He also included dramatically improving public transportation access including MBTA stations, regional transit authorities, bus service, roads and bridges. In addition, he mentioned funding for vital social service safety nets, such as councils on aging and aid for those with disabilities, at-risk children, low-income persons and the homeless.
On education funding, Senator Eldridge stated, “I know this has always been a big issue in Westborough for Westborough not getting its fair share of education aid…There is something called the Foundation Budget Review Commission to look at changing different areas of state funding and specifically education to look at healthcare, special education costs, ELL student population costs and Chapter 70 and, of course, Westborough has not received its fair share of Chapter 70 so we need to reform the formula.”
He continued, “The Senate has infused $35 million dollars into the budget to address each of those areas so at the end of the day it’s just a beginning but it’s really a four- or five-year effort.”
Eldridge said another budget priority is to continue to advocate for investing in capital infrastructure projects, public transportation, water, higher education, libraries and public schools and protecting the environment with a slight increase.
The Senate Chapter 70 allocation reflects a $100,000 increase which is $80,000 over the House budget and the Governor’s proposal. He is optimistic to get that higher figure when the budget is final.
The board thanked Eldridge for his presentation and efforts toward increasing Chapter 70 funding. Selectman Ian Johnson inquired about any updates on the Mass. Pike’s changes after the removal of the toll booths. Eldridge did not know the final timeline but will report back and he informed them that the whole Westborough delegation strongly supported not raising toll fees.