It can be difficult to keep track of all the issues up on Beacon Hill. Oftentimes, important votes are not even recorded — or they're scheduled on very short notice. And old voting records can be hard to dig up, too. Plus, the legislature has a habit of working behind closed doors and cramming everything in at very the end of a session. Fortunately, I've been paying close attention, and now, I can break it all down for you...
Although much of what follows is negative and depressing, I am really hopeful about the future of our Commonwealth — because I believe that state-level government is the forum that offers the greatest potential for progressive change in our country.
By now, we all know that the MBTA is dead broke. But how did it happen? In short: Tim Toomey (and the rest of the legislature) voted to go along with a risky, "forward funding" scheme that was initially proposed by a certain Republican governor and relied on rosy projections. In addition to underfunding our public transportation system, this crazy plan also dumped billions of dollars of debt from the Central Artery/Tunnel Project (the "Big Dig") on to the books of the MBTA.
To this day, just about every dollar that is collected in fares by the MBTA goes to servicing the MBTA's $5 Billion debt.
Of course, Tim now admits that this was all a mistake. But here's the thing: experts and activists have been sounding the alarm about the transportation finance problem for many years. And yet, our State Legislature has failed to address it. This year, the problem turned into a major crisis — and the MBTA was forced to cut services and raise fares by 23%. But those painful hikes don't even begin to solve the underlying problem caused by that "forward funding" scheme — they only help the MBTA make it through to next year, when we will be in crisis mode all over again...
Meanwhile, the Commonwealth hasn't been able to pull together the necessary funds to break ground on the Green Line Extension project ("GLX"). Instead, the GLX has been delayed numerous times. And get this: there is actually a federal program called "New Starts" that is meant to help states pay for public transportation projects in densely populated areas like Cambridge and Somerville. This program is capable of delivering over $500 million to help us complete the GLX — however, the Federal Transit Administration has made it clear that the fiscal outlook of the MBTA does not merit confidence, and they recently warned us that "considerable progress" must be made before they will contemplate a final approval.
As your new State Representative, I will be your advocate on public transportation issues such as these — and together, we will work to ensure that the MBTA is fully funded
How Do We Fund the MBTA?
Clearly, we need to raise additional revenue to support the operation, maintenance, and expansion of our public transportation system. To do this, I favor a progressive plan that asks the very wealthy — along with the big corporations and the large financial institutions — to pay their fair share of taxes.
I do not support a gas tax, a parking space tax, a miles-traveled fee, or any other tax that would fall on the backs of working people.
When it comes to financing our vital public services, I am skeptical of rhetoric that says "all options are on the table." In practice, this often means that middle-class working people are asked to foot the lion's share of the bill. When I am on the floor of the State House, I will insist that we raise revenue by collecting more from those who have actually benefited from the economic tumult of the past decade.
In the end, I would be willing to consider any reasonable proposal (if the negotiating process is fair). But too often, entrenched Democrats start by accepting the talking points of fiscal conservatives. As your new State Representative, I am not going to take that approach.
Medicare For All
Most nations in the industrialized world enjoy single-payer healthcare systems. These systems produce better medical outcomes at reduced cost. Here in United States, such a system does not seem politically possible on the national level at the time being...
However, such a system is possible on the state-level. In fact, the state of Vermont recently adopted a single-payer system, and they're moving forward with it right now.
In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the state Democratic Party platform has included support for single-payer healthcare — however, the Democrats in our legislature recently rejected a single-payer proposal following a $51,000,000.00 lobbying effort from the healthcare industry.
Lots of politicians say they support single-payer — but I am not a politician, and as your new State Representative, I will not rest until single-payer becomes a reality for our Commonwealth. One more thing about single-payer: legal scholars agree that it is perfectly Constitutional.
Reproductive rights are truly inalienable rights, but for too long, people in positions of authority saw it fit to deny these rights to women.
It took years of advocacy and struggle for women to finally attain a modicum of control over their own bodies. And while our society has come a long way in the past few decades, the sad truth is that the struggle continues to this day. It is with this understanding that I pledge my unequivocal support to the right to choose for all women.
Up on Beacon Hill, progressive legislators in the House are holding on to a slim pro-choice majority.
Unfortunately, Tim Toomey has never been a reliable vote in favor of Reproductive Rights — so he isn't considered part of that pro-choice majority. As your new State Representative, I will work to ensure that all women have access to quality medical care and the freedom to make their own reproductive choices.
In the wake of the dreadful Citizens United decision, an unprecedented movement has formed to challenge the influence of money in politics. I have been deeply involved with that movement from the very start.
To reclaim our government from the corporate interests, we first want to pass a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United and establish that "corporations are not people and money is not speech." If we succeed in doing that, then then final piece of our plan is to institute a system of publicly-funded Clean Elections. For many of us involved in this effort, a system of Clean Elections is the ultimate goal...
But it turns out, the people of Massachusetts were actually way ahead of everyone on this one!
When given the opportunity, we went to the polls and voted (by a 2-to-1 margin) to enact a system of Clean Elections. In fact, 72% of voters in our district supported this innovative ballot initiative. It was a remarkable accomplishment for our system of democracy. But it did not last for very long.
In a move that the Boston Phoenix actually called "a grotesque manipulation of the democratic process", Tim Toomey voted to kill Clean Elections. For his "arrogant" vote, the Phoenix added Tim Toomey's name to their "Roster of Shame".
Right now, states such as Maine and Connecticut employ their own versions of Clean Elections. But in Massachusetts, the plan that we voted into law is no longer in effect. Perhaps this explains why Massachusetts ranks lowest in the nation for contested state-level elections (with up to two-thirds of all state legislators running unopposed in any given season).
Lots of politicians promise to clean up government — in the future, after the next election — but I am not a politician — and our campaign is working to provide you with the opportunity to clean up government right now. Will you chip in $0.00 to help our cause?
I am always collecting new material for this Issues page, but I spend most of my free time listening to the concerns of voters like you. If you have a specific question regarding my position on any issue, please drop me a line. Alternatively, you can have your views included in our campaign simply by writing about them on The People's Blog. Thanks! ~~Mike Connolly