Health costs

The Mass. Taxpayers Foundation recently recommended that local officials be given the power to design their own health plans without having to negotiate with the unions, and that state retirees use Medicare for their primary health care coverage. Do you support these proposals?

Democrat

No, I cannot support these proposals. They are clearly tailored to the interests of local municipalities and not to employees.

It seems one-sided that local officials are able to custom-design their own health plans, while regular employees have to accept perhaps an entirely different plan.

Health care negotiations must be done in good faith.

Republican

Yes. I publicly endorsed the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation proposals.

Spiraling health care costs are crippling our local governments and impose an unacceptable burden on businesses and families. In Millis, one businessperson told me her health insurance costs increased nearly 40% in one year!

In New York City (where nothing is cheaper than in Massachusetts), an individual can purchase basic health insurance that is less expensive than anything available in Massachusetts. If they can do that in New York, we certainly can do it in Massachusetts.

It's wrong not to give consumers more choice in health care coverages. And it's expensive. If elected, I will make proposals to create more consumer choice and reduce the cost of basic health care insurance.

I also will work to give towns the tools and incentives for fiscally prudent management of town government to reduce needless expense and preserve core local services.

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State pensions

The foundation also proposed changes in state and municipal pensions, such as increasing the retirement age and capping annual pensions at $100,000. Do you agree?

Democrat

I cannot agree with this proposal. It seems hypocritical to mandate a pension cap at $100,000 while working for the state and locality when there is no cap in private industry.

However, as a state representative, I'd be open to looking at similar proposals to determine if there is enough support in the communities.

Republican

Yes. When I endorsed the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation pension reform proposals, I also issued a position paper on my website proposing even more extensive reform of our public pension system: it is morally wrong and fiscally unsustainable for taxpayers to provide public employees with better compensation, benefits and pensions than taxpayers can afford for themselves and their own families. We need to recalibrate public pensions to more closely match most private sector pensions and benefits.

For example, if elected, I will propose two key reforms in addition to the reforms suggested by MTF:

(1) We need to change the public pension system from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan for non-vested employees, similar to the retirement savings plans that most private sector employees have.

(2) We should consolidate the dozens of separate local, county, authority and state pension plans into a single state pension system administered by the state treasurer to eliminate duplicate management costs and waste and to improve accountability.

I think it is important for legislators to treat themselves the same way they treat others. For this reason, if Massachusetts adopts the reforms and moves to a defined contribution plan, I will voluntarily give up my public pension benefits and join the defined contribution plan.

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MCAS

Do you believe in keeping the requirement that a student must pass the MCAS or an MCAS-like test in order to graduate from high school?

Democrat

I am not in favor of keeping the requirement that a student must pass the MCAS in order to graduate from high school.

It seems that all too often, teachers are forced to teach to pre-determined MCAS standards and are missing the core classes. As a former electrical engineer, I particularly understand the importance of science and math.

Having spoken with a number of teachers across the area, most are in agreement that MCAS should not take as much of a role in the educational process as it does today. Some even feel that we are compartmentalizing subjects while placing too much emphasis on "MCAS Teaching Philosophies."

Republican

Yes. I support MCAS and opposed watering down the MCAS standards when the Patrick administration changed our education standards from state controlled to federally controlled last month.

I am a strong supporter of education reform and focusing on students and the learning process. In my view, education is a core state government function and nothing else much matters if we fail to give our children a good education.

MCAS standards were part of the bipartisan education reform in Massachusetts and provided a measure of accountability for school systems. The union bosses oppose MCAS, but I choose to stand on the side of the students, parents, and teachers in advocating for education choices that are effective and accountable.

I advocate for increasing the length of the school day, partly to avoid "latch-key kids" who are home while their parents are working and partly to create more educational opportunities for children and adults.

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Public records

Should the state Legislature be exempt from the state's public records law?

Democrat

No, I do not believe that the state Legislature should be exempt from the state's public records law. I strongly believe in uniformity and transparency.

Why should the state Legislature be held to a different standard?

Republican

No. We need more transparent, open, and accountable government in Massachusetts. That's especially true in the Legislature where the last three Speakers have been indicted.

We have so little political competition and accountability in Massachusetts that incumbent legislators can be (and have been) arrested for crimes and still manage to keep their jobs. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and we need a lot more sunlight in the State House.

In addition to the Public Records law, I also believe the Legislature should be subject to the Open Meeting law, just as town governments are, to foster full and free debate on issues of public policy in a public forum.

If elected, I will advocate for greater use of the Internet to improve government transparency and accountability.

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Party leadership

Cite any votes (if an incumbent) or positions (if a challenger or newcomer) you have taken that disagree with the stance taken by your party's legislative leadership.

Democrat

Unfortunately, I have to disagree with some members of the leadership of the Democratic Party on the gaming issue.

After living in Plainville for so many years, the home of Plainridge Racecourse, it has become evident that some members on Beacon Hill refuse to recognize an opportunity for some real revenue in the heart of Massachusetts.

While I understand fully both arguments, I wholeheartedly agree that taking small steps to revitalize the gaming industry is essential to help get the Commonwealth back on its feet.

Slot machines would be a great opportunity and addition to Plainridge and other tracks across the state. Our friends and neighbors would have secure jobs, and we would be able to gain some ground with out-of-state casinos that continually take our business.

While the Democratic Party has tried in good faith to compromise on this issue, all I see is a win-win situation for gaming parlors in the Commonwealth.

Republican

I will be an independent voice and vote on Beacon Hill if elected and accountable only to the people and not to special interests, union bosses or political parties.

I am a Republican with Libertarian leanings, so I believe we should keep government out of the bedroom as well as the boardroom.

We need more freedom, not less, in Massachusetts and America.

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Endorsements

Will you make public any questionnaires you fill out in pursuit of the endorsement of unions or other groups?

Democrat

Yes, I will make public any questionnaire I fill out in the interest of endorsements. As I said before, I believe in the values of honesty and transparency.

I'm not going to bend in any fashion to receive the endorsements of any groups to which I apply.

Republican

Yes. I do not accept PAC or special interest money. I have pledged to oppose any tax increases, because I believe we have plenty of money in our state government if we spend it wisely, cut waste, and encourage government to work smarter.

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Legislative audit

Should the Legislature be subject to a full audit?

Democrat

While I strongly believe in knowing the exact details of expenditures within the legislation, there is an inherent flaw in this question: Who's going to pay for the audit?

Is this cost going to trickle down to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth?

As it stands, it seems a fruitless, useless expense. The Massachusetts Legislature must be held to the same criteria as local governments according to Massachusetts General Law.

If there were to be an automatic audit completed every year that costs taxpayers money, I would have to vote against it.

If, however, there was a reason for an audit, I would have to wholeheartedly agree that an audit should be performed.

Republican

It'd be a good start. I think the entire state government should be subject to a full audit.

I believe that we can save more than $1 billion by eliminating waste and fraud in state government and even more savings by improving state government processes, abolishing the Pacheco bill to encourage more cost-effective provision of services, making better use of the Internet, and eliminating state laws and contracts that require taxpayers to pay more than market value for goods and services.

The political monopoly has no incentive to reduce wasteful spending, since it most directly benefits them and their special interests. If elected, I will propose reforms to cut waste without hurting core services.

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Formal sessions

Is the Legislature holding enough full formal sessions?

Democrat

The Massachusetts Legislature is not holding enough formal sessions in the State House.

Our constituents expect that we take a hard look at every issue as we ought to be their full-time state representatives. It is my understanding that hearings are hurried through and may take as little time as minutes.

As state representative, I would make sure that my No. 1 priority is to dedicate my time to each issue and vote in the best interest of my district, regardless of political party.

To have some hearings rushed through sends a bad message to the folks we represent.

Republican

Formal sessions only occur on a part-time basis, with every Friday off and most summers off. I will support rules changes in the House to encourage more of the people's business to be done in formal session, in the open rather than behind closed doors, with full debate.

Can you imagine going to town meeting and three or four people emerge from a back room and announce what will be done on each proposal? That's how our Legislature works now and it hasn't served us well.

If these reforms are adopted, which will require more formal sessions, I would support more formal sessions. We need more democracy in Massachusetts.

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Term limits

Should there be term limits for the jobs of House Speaker and Senate President?

Democrat

I strongly believe that the policy of 'term limits' should be reviewed.

Members of the Legislature vote for the House Speaker and Senate President because they believe in their effectiveness to accomplish various tasks. Leadership also controls the majority including key committees and appointments.

However, setting term limits will provide the opportunity for more ideas and opportunities to help solve impending issues in the Commonwealth. Some leaders also possess better negotiation skills than others.

Republican

Yes. And for legislators. When legislators tell me they have served for 20 years, I ask them what they will accomplish in the next 2 years that they haven't accomplished in the last 20.

We don't need legislators to have power for its own sake. We need legislators to hold public office to get something done. I support the citizen legislator form of government, where people serve and then return to the community to give someone else a chance.

I worked as a house painter in college. My foreman always told me to "remember the forgets." When I asked him what he meant, he replied, "Get in, get fast, get good, get lost." It's good advice for politics as well as paint.

I have pledged to serve no more than three terms in the House. I am going there to accomplish something, to get Massachusetts working again, and not just to take up space.

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Responses gathered through e.thePeople