“I will protect local aid for my townsâ€ is a constant refrain from State Representatives on Beacon Hill, and Democrat Jennifer Benson is no exception. However, a look into the voting record and actions of the Democrat incumbent reveals the truth. The record doesnâ€™t match the rhetoric.
As a freshman State Representative, one of Jennifer Bensonâ€™s first votes was to turn over emergency â€œ9C cutsâ€ power to the Governor. Rather than battle to protect local aid for her towns and force deep reforms in state government to fill the budget gap, Ms. Benson joined Democrat leadership in a party-line vote that turned over her legislative duty and responsibility to the Governor. Once granted this power, Governor Deval Patrick cut $128 million from lottery aid and additional assistance to towns.
Early this year, Benson refused to sign-on to a bipartisan â€œLocal Aid Resolutionâ€ that would have level-funded Local Aid while providing specific minimum numbers to towns and cities so local officials could move forward with reliable numbers for budget planning. Democrat leadership, whom Benson voted with 94% of the time, used their single-party procedural power to prevent the â€œLocal Aid Resolutionâ€ from being introduced and openly debated on the House Floor.
Later this Spring, Benson voted against her towns several times. First, she voted to kill an amendment that would have provided a gas tax exemption for municipalities. She voted with Democrat leadership to kill an amendment that would have restored $273 million in local aid cuts. Benson also voted to kill an amendment to requiring that 50% of any revenue surpluses be allocated to local aid. Killing controversial legislation with a vote to send it to â€˜studyâ€™ is a common practice employed by the Democrat super-majority in order to avoid open and honest debate on the House Floor.
In another move that shows support for union interests at the expense of town budgets, Representative Benson stood by while Democrat and union leadership went behind closed doors and removed the most important aspect of the â€œMunicpal Reliefâ€ bill. Design plan authority is a crucial provision that will give municipalities the same tools the state has to set co-pays and deductibles on healthcare plans, without union approval. This common-sense reform will provide real and immediate relief to town budgets and bring union benefits more in line with those received by non-union and private-sector employees. The watered down “Municipal Relief” bill without the design plan authority provision was passed by Democrats as “the best they could do”. Without design plan authority, the Municipal Relief bill was a missed opportunity that is short on real relief for towns.
Commenting on Representative Bensonâ€™s poor record of support for local aid and other measures to help her towns weather the current economic crisis, Republican challenger Kurt Hayes said, â€œVoters need to made aware of Jennifer Benson’s complete voting record and actions when it comes to protecting the interests of her towns and constituents. As demonstrated, the record doesn’t support the rhetoric.”
Continuing, Hayes said, “I support a Local Aid Resolution that sets minimum local aid numbers early in the year so towns can begin their budget planning with reliable numbers. I fully support giving towns the tools needed to help deal with budget pressure on property taxes and provide real municipal relief. I have pledged my support to the Massachusetts Municipal Association effort to give towns the same design plan authority the state has for health care benefits. Implementing these common-sense changes will require standing up to union leadership, the same union leaders that are now filling voterâ€™s mailboxes with postcard mailings in support of my opponent, Jennifer Benson. I am beholden only to my constituents and my towns, not the special interests determined to stop at nothing to protect the status quo on Beacon Hill. We need balance in the State House to end the back-room deals and to ensure open, honest debate on the important and controversial issues we face as we work on the much-needed Massachusetts turn-around.â€
Kurt Hayes is the Republican candidate for State Representative of the 37th Middlesex district. The district is comprised of the towns of Lunenburg, Shirley, Harvard, Boxborough, and portions of Lancaster and Acton. The campaign website is KurtHayes.com.
Noted roll call votes:
- 9C cut power to Governor, roll call 09-003
- Gas tax exemption for municipalities, roll call 10-357
- Kill amendment to restore $273 million in local aid cuts, roll-call 10-382
- Kill amendment requiring 50 % of any revenue surpluses go to local aid, roll-call 10-385
- Municipal Relief package without design plan authority provision, roll call 10-441