In The Arena – My Response to Gov. Patrick’s Revenue Proposal

New Revenues, Needed Investments

The talk everywhere in the State House — in offices, hallways, and alcoves — is all about Governor Patrick’s proposal to raise $1.9 billion in revenues in order to make investments that would improve our roads, rails, and bridges and also invest in education at all levels:  pre-kindergarten, K-12, and higher education.  But before we respond to the Governor’s proposal, it’s important to ask some fundamental questions.  Do we actually need to make these investments?  Are they the right targets for new funding?  Do we need to raise revenues, or in other words, can’t we wring out enough savings through reforms to pay for what’s needed?  What effect will raising taxes have on the economy and jobs?

Do we need to make these investments? 

We need to invest in our transportation system.  Because so much of our transportation focus and funding over the past 25 years was plowed into the Big Dig, the rest of the state’s roads and bridges were poorly maintained.  We deferred maintenance for decades.  Each day, we drive over 300 structurally unsound bridges.  Moreover, the Big Dig buried our transportation agencies in debt, particularly the MBTA.  To maintain our transportation system, we need about a $1 billion in new revenues.

On education, all three levels deserve more.  Research shows that pre-K schooling yields better students, but over 30,000 can’t get early ed.  For K-12, our school districts are desperate for more state funding; the Great Recession set us back.  And with over $1 trillion in student debt throughout the country, higher education needs resources to make college more affordable for all families.

Wise investments in transportation can lead to new jobs and economic growth.  Educating more of our children will give them brighter futures and make Massachusetts more economically competitively.

Are transportation and education the right targets for new funding?

Yes, but frighteningly, there are several other important needs:  clean and waste water infrastructure;  health care for legal, non-citizens that the federal government won’t pay for; pensions and retiree health care, given our lower than expected investment returns for those trust funds; and the impending liabilities and costs associated with the state drug lab scandal.  All together, these needs amount to over $1 billion as well.

Do we need to raise new revenues; why can’t we wring out enough savings through reforms to pay for what’s needed?

Before we can ask citizens to pay more taxes and fund more government, we need to ensure that we making good decisions with your tax dollars, and demonstrate that we have crafted and implemented reforms that make government as efficient, effective, and transparent as possible.

Over the past several years, we have accomplished this.  We will continue to look for more savings, of course, but the legislature and governor have already initiated all the big reforms that were available, which have yielded billions in savings, and will yield billions more.

  • Over $500 million in transportation spending starting in 2009 by streamlining transportation departments, eliminating duplicative management, and reducing health and pension benefits for transportation employees;
  • Over $5 billion from a series of pension reforms in 2008 and 2011; and
  • $100 million by streamlining the state’s economic development agencies in 2010.

Going forward in the health care arena, we expect that the cost cutting reform law we passed last year will save families $2,000 annually (and small businesses up to $15,000 per employee) over the next 15 years.  Moreover, we expect to pass OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits) reform this session, which will save taxpayers $15 – $20 billion over the next three decades.

I welcome your thoughts on other big-dollar savings ideas that we can implement.

What effect will raising taxes have on the economy and jobs?

As stewards of taxpayer dollars, we in the legislature understand the essential balance between taxing citizens to invest in areas where government has a clear role, and allowing citizens (and businesses) to retain more money and spend it the way they want.  Ultimately, public and private should be making smart investments.  Government should invest, for example, in transportation, education, water infrastructure, and a temporary safety net for citizens.  Government should not, on the other hand, tax so much as to unwarrantedly hinder individual and business investment in such areas such as R&D, new products, inventions, necessary services, and sound real estate developments, among other spending choices.

Investments in transportation and education generate a good return for taxpayers in terms of economic growth, job opportunities, quality of life, and long-term sustainability.  In macroeconomic terms, the multiplier effect for spending in both these areas is positive.  Many tax cuts, in contrast, have negative multiplier effects.

More specifically, perhaps we can all agree that the public and the private sector can invest together to help the more than 200,000 unemployed Massachusetts citizens obtain the skills they need to apply to the more than 120,000 job openings in the Commonwealth.

Having addressed the major questions about whether new revenues are needed, we can now turn to how much revenue is needed, and how best to raise it.  Here again, I welcome your input.  Options being actively discussed at the State House include: removing income and corporate tax deductions; increased business taxes, a progressive carbon tax (which I authored); a gas tax increase; open road tolling; removing sales tax exemptions on candy and soda; raising sales taxes on tobacco, guns, and ammunition; and income tax increases.

We’ll be debating these investments and revenues over the next few months, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts so that together, we can make the right decisions.

 

 

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State Representative Tom Conroy Appointed House Chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development

February 12, 2013

Boston – State Representative Tom Conroy of Wayland was appointed co-chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development by Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo yesterday.  State Senator Dan Wolf (D-Harwich) is the other co-chair of the Joint Committee.

“I am honored by this appointment, and very grateful that Speaker DeLeo has placed his trust in me in this important role.  Since joining the legislature, I have worked on several issues within this committee’s jurisdiction, including wages, labor rights, workforce training, the business environment in Massachusetts, private sector interests, and job growth.  I look forward to working with labor unions and the business community on these matters during the next two years.”

During the last legislative session of 2011-2012, Rep. Conroy was vice-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.  As such, he helped shape the landmark health care cost containment and quality improvement bill that became law in August 2012.

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Thank You

Six years ago, with experience in the public, private, and non-profit sectors, I decided to run for elected office to represent the citizens of Lincoln, Sudbury, and Wayland in the Massachusetts legislature.  Public service is my passion.  I want to enhance the public’s trust in elected officials and government.  I want to use my abilities to strengthen our economy, help create new jobs, and preserve the American dream for generations to come.

Earlier this year, I entered the Democratic primary race for U.S. Senate for these same reasons, confident that my broad background prepared me for all aspects of this job, certain that I could better represent the values and aspirations of Massachusetts voters than a conservative Republican, and sure that I could offer practical solutions to the economic challenges facing the people of Massachusetts and our great nation.

Indeed, I have offered a five-point jobs plan that would put people back to work and strengthen our economy by investing in infrastructure, creating clean energy jobs, and bringing the high tech and manufacturing industries together.  Scott Brown has not offered any jobs plan.

The Campaign

As you may know, I spent this past summer walking 650 miles throughout the great state of Massachusetts, talking with thousands of voters, learning about their challenges and their hopes.  I began “traditional campaigning” in September, just as Elizabeth Warren entered the race.

Through October and November, I delivered a strong and clear message about who I am, why I was running, and why I could win.  I continued to learn about the concerns and hopes of voters throughout Massachusetts. Your stories, ideas and suggestions inspired me.  Your generous contributions of time, talent and treasure empowered our team to continue efforts to win back the US Senate seat for the future of Massachusetts.

However, after much reflection, it is clear that, while support for my candidacy has been generous, we could not run the kind of campaign we needed to run throughout next year.

With deep gratitude and a still strong commitment to a winning path forward for all, I am withdrawing from the race for U.S. Senate.

Thank you

I would like to thank all those who supported me throughout my candidacy:  donors, campaign staff, volunteers, friends, and family.  Your contributions gave life to this campaign.  Your encouragement provided me energy.  Your wisdom gave this campaign strength.  And I want to thank particularly the campaign team that dedicated so much of their time, enthusiasm, intellect and faith in me.  I am forever grateful and indebted to all of you.

Next Steps

I remain a dedicated public servant, honored and privileged to represent the 40,000 people of Lincoln, Sudbury, and Wayland.  I will continue to serve my third term through the end of 2012.  As in the past, my focus will be on helping citizens in the district obtain assistance from their state government, introducing and supporting bills that constituents would like to become laws, voting in the interests of Lincoln, Sudbury, and Wayland, and offering leadership by example.  I will continue working to implement ideas from my recent jobs plan.  As vice-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, I will also be working to lower health care costs and improve the quality of health care services.  There is an enormous amount of work to be done right here in Massachusetts, and that will be my focus going forward.

I will seek re-election as state representative in the newly configured 13th Middlesex district.  My passion for public service remains strong and true.  It is the motivating force in my professional life and I hope to continue serving the people of this great Commonwealth in the years to come.

I already face competition in this race for re-election, and I ask for your support in my effort, so that I may continue to serve you, all the people of the 13th Middlesex district, and the citizens of our Commonwealth.  www.reptomconroy.org

Again, I am very grateful for your help this year, and hope we can continue to work together in the years to come.

Cheers,

Tom

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