State Representative James Arciero, a Democrat from Westford, is facing a challenge from Westford Selectwoman Valerie A. Wormell, a Republican who said she has taken a “no new tax” pledge.
Arciero also said he has taken a hard stand against taxes, voting against every tax proposal that came before him during his two terms in the House on Beacon Hill.
The two are running in the Second Middlesex District, which covers Westford, Littleton, and parts of Chelmsford.
Wormell, 53, points to her seven years as a member of the Board of Selectmen, building consensus among differing groups to find solutions to community issues as something needed on Beacon Hill.
She said she spent more than two years on a committee working on a policy for the town to deal with old and new unaccepted roads, some of which had fallen into disrepair.
“We came up with a solution about how to fix the roads that was fair and equitable, and that we hope will become a model for the state,” she said.
Wormell said that maintaining state funding for education and local aid are a priority, and will work to make sure there are no reductions and enough funds to cover all of the programs mandated by the state.
Working to boost the local economy is also a priority.
Wormell maintains that it is not the government’s role to create jobs, “it just needs to get out of the way,” and said looking at the state tax structure and taking a “no new tax” pledge is a first step in helping companies gain confidence in the future and start hiring.
“On a state level, the best thing we can do is to offer some stability by saying there will be no new taxes so companies know what is ahead,” she said.
In order to maintain education funding and local aid, Wormell said, she will need to take a close look at the state budget to find places where money can be saved.
“You really have to go through the budget with a fine-tooth comb; that’s what we do on the municipal level every year,” she said. “We’re trained to look at every line.”
But, she said, it is difficult for someone “on the outside” to get access to the detailed state budget line items, and she hesitates to advocate for big cuts in departments before seeing those numbers.
“For instance, I have no idea how much the Department of Health spends on its advertising budget,” she said, but she wonders whether it’s too much after seeing an antibullying message aimed at middle school students that ran on television at 12:30 a.m.
“I don’t think middle schoolers are up at that hour,” she said.
Arciero, 38, also calls cutting spending a priority, and said he voted against all tax increases proposed on Beacon Hill, including the 1.25 percent increase in the sales tax that was passed by legislators.
“I was also one of only three Democrats who voted to roll back the income tax to 5 percent,” he said. The measure, while passed by voters on a ballot referendum, has not been enacted by lawmakers.
He also voted in favor of a law that restricts the use of electronic benefit transfer funds, banning their use for items such as cigarettes and alcohol, or to get tattoos.
Arciero also points to his work as a leader in state pension reform, which he said will save the state $5 billion over the next 30 years.
He said his work has made it more difficult for people who are fired from state jobs to collect large pensions, and has put a cap of $153,000 a year on the benefit.
“By no means are [state] pensions a terrible thing,” he said. “But there were abuses.”
Generating jobs is something Arciero said he will continue to make a priority.
“It’s something I get really excited about,” he said, adding his district is “bucking the trend in terms of jobs creation.”
Arciero said when he toured high technology companies along Route 110, which runs through his district, he heard transportation issues come up again and again.
“We needed transportation so these companies could attract young minds in Cambridge and Boston to make the reverse commute out here,” he said.
“These companies were running shuttles to the Alewife Station [in Cambridge] to get people to work,” Arciero said.
He said he worked with the federal government to get $75 million to improve service along the Fitchburg commuter-rail line to help bring skilled workers to the area.
“We were able to retain thousands of jobs and add 900,” Arciero said.
He also pushed for a tax credit that allowed Red Hat, a leading open-source software company, to stay in Westford and expand.
“They committed to retaining 200 jobs and adding another 100,” Arciero said.
He said he also worked with Goodrich ISR Systems and other companies in his district to provide tax credits, or help with infrastructure improvements to help create jobs.
“My district is the perfect example of the Massachusetts innovation economy at work,” Arciero said.
Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.