On the Issues: Supporting Cities and Towns
As a former City Councilor, I know firsthand that it is at the local level where essential services are provided. Residents look to their local police and fire departments to deliver public safety, to local schools to educate their children, to public works departments to plow and maintain roads, and to libraries, parks, senior centers and public works departments to maintain a high quality of life in our communities.
During the Fiscal Year 2017 budget process I fought for additional local aid funding for our cities and towns. As a result, the communities of Abington, Braintree, Holbrook, Rockland and Quincy have all seen increases in Chapter 70 (school funding) and in general local aid.
I am a strong supporter of Chapter 90 funding, which supports local road maintenance and repair, and have advocated for a multi-year funding bill that would give greater stability and predictability to municipal leaders. This year’s Chapter 90 bill provides valuable funding at $200 million, but the single year nature of this funding restricts the range and scope of projects that municipalities can pursue, and leaves them guessing at the availability of subsequent years’ funding. I will continue to advocate for a longer-term vision in this area.
In addition, I worked closely on an economic development bill with resources and tools for cities and towns to strengthen their economic activity. The municipal modernization bill, which was crafted after gathering input from cities and towns across the state, updated out of date laws, eliminated obsolete requirements, removed unnecessary red tape and increased local independence, allowing more flexibility for municipalities to pursue policies that best fit their communities’ needs.
This legislation also gave our cities and towns additional tools for responsible budgeting, including increasing the amounts municipalities can borrow for emergencies and the amounts they can appropriate into reserve funds for unforeseen expenditures. An additional provision permits municipalities to use parking revenues for a wider array of transportation-related projects than previously allowed.
Another important law passed this year allows municipalities to repay snow removal debts over a period of three years, rather than a single year, so that densely populated areas that incurred extreme costs after severe weather can manage costs without overwhelming their local budgets.
At the end of the summer, the legislature passed an extensive economic development package with many important provisions benefitting our cities and towns. The legislation extended the Massworks Infrastructure Program which provides funding for municipal infrastructure and economic development projects. This essential program supports cities and towns with financing large projects that they feel are most important for community development. The bill also reformed incentive programs aimed at increasing housing in our communities and bringing new businesses to our downtowns by streamlining the requirements and applications for both municipalities and interested developers.
This session, I also played a role in passing legislation to increase funding for the repair of small bridges less than 20 feet, which are ineligible for federal aid due to their size. This grant program will target bridges that are at risk for closure due to safety conditions and assist municipalities with their public safety and transportation needs.
As your Senator, I will continue to policies that support our municipalities, fight for predictable local aid, and will continue my efforts to make the state more accountable to our local property taxpayers.