NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. - A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll this fall asked 1,000 Americans to answer an open-ended question: What do we want the new President to do? While some of the answers certainly must be developed and funded at the national level, that same question could easily apply to everyone elected or re-elected on November 6th. For my part, as a State Senator, let me explain how I'm working to respond to the public opinions expressed as priorities for action in the national poll.
Working Together Across Party Lines - One of the greatest obstacles to addressing the serious economic issues facing the nation is the partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C. Bipartisanship and a record of working with Democrats was one of Sen. Scott Brown's strongest assets, and the reason why many voters in our area supported his re-election. I publicly commended Sen. Brown for his bi-partisan stance at an Eagle Scout ceremony in Millville earlier this year. Throughout my time in public office, I have worked across party lines to find solutions to problems facing the Commonwealth. Two recent examples are my leadership in passing bipartisan legislation to contain rising health care costs and to promote more coordination of care which was supported by every Senate Republican as well as thoughtful House Republicans. Another case of bipartisanship was the sponsorship and passage of legislation to promote safety in our communities by increasing penalties for unlicensed drivers. I worked closely with Sen. Bruce Tarr, the Senate Republican Leader, on this measure, and Rep. John Fernandes partnered with Rep. George Peterson, the Assistant House Republican Leader. I've also co-sponsored a number of bills with area House Republican Reps. Peterson, Ryan Fattman, Kevin Kuros, Peter Durant, and Paul Frost. This bi-partisanship must continue on Beacon Hill and, hopefully will return to Capitol Hill in Washington as well.
Restoring the Economy - Clearly, preventing the federal fiscal cliff and restoring our national economy must be a priority for the President and Congress. However, it must continue to be at the top of the Massachusetts agenda as well. My priority throughout the current term, and into the next, has been to help put people back to work and promote economic development. I have visited a number of small and medium-sized businesses in the Worcester-Norfolk district to learn from employers and their employees what we can do to help job growth. Three important initiatives to help create good jobs in the region included my efforts in: securing a $2.1 million grant to connect IPG Photonics with the Webster Sewage Treatment Plant and a state tax credit of $1.9 million which will enable the company to hire at least 175 additional workers; obtaining a $1 million MassWorks grant to restore grade crossing for the Grafton & Upton Railroad in Milford and Hopedale that already attracted a new business to the former Draper facility; and advocating for a $220,721 investment tax credit for Classic Envelope, Inc. which moved its manufacturing operation to the old Haywood-Schuster Mill at 120 Gilboa Street in Douglas retaining its current 76 employees and adding another 40 new full-time jobs.
Honoring Our Veterans - In the words of President George Washington, "A nation that does not care for its soldiers will cease to exist as a nation." Massachusetts has the most extensive package of benefits to welcome home our returning veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan and other regions of conflict. I was pleased to be a co-sponsor of two provisions in our most recently past "Valor Act," which will encourage state contracts to be awarded to disabled veteran-owned small businesses and allow communities to offer property tax work-off opportunities for our veterans. I also worked with U.S. Marine Captain Tim Harvey of Blackstone to promote awareness of our state veterans' Welcome Home Bonus program. We must continue to find ways to honor our returning veterans, and those of earlier wars, to keep faith with those who put their lives on the line for our freedom.
Relieving Student Debt - Clearly, one of the Legislature's priorities for the coming term will be to help students and their families to better afford a college education which is a key to successful jobs in the 21st Century workforce. We must restore the subsidy of public higher education at all levels to keep a college education within the grasp of the middle class. More high school students should have access to Advanced Placement courses in math, science and the language arts in order to reduce the cost of college. In the current term, I have supported funding for expanding the Advanced Placement program as well as an appropriation of $5 million for the Workforce Training Trust Fund and will continue to support this effort. In addition, I am proposing increases in the state scholarship program, enhancement of the John and Abigail Adams Scholarships to cover, at least partially, the cost of student fees especially for students majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics where there is a strongly potential for employment following graduation.
Keeping the American Dream Alive - The core components of the "American Dream" involve a good job, home ownership, and college education. The Legislature and I have promoted economic development and prudently managed state government through the "Great Recession," so that tax dollars are more efficiently utilized. In several major pieces of legislation - health reform, the jobs bill, and state finance reform - we have established performance standards to make state government work better for those it serves. The Legislature has also approved several initiatives to reduce mortgage foreclosures and preserve home ownership. Massachusetts needs to continue to promote economic development to create jobs for our citizens, support job training and education to help people of all ages gain the skills needed for the 21st Century workforce, and develop initiatives to help people stay in their homes as they get back on their feet while the state and nation continue on the long, slow path to economic recovery.
Our first Governor, John Winthrop, told his fellow Puritans that Massachusetts was "a city on a hill," a beacon to others by working together to improve the lives of everyone in our society. Throughout its long history, this state has been a positive example to our sister states in a wide array of progressive initiatives. As we honor Governor Winthrop's vision, we look forward to continuing this proud tradition in the new legislative term and beyond.
Senator Richard T. Moore represents fourteen towns in South Central Massachusetts in the Massachusetts State Senate.