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

This candidate hasn't responded yet; please check back later.

Independent

Yes, I do support these proposals.

Health care costs now make up 12% of the total budget of cities and towns, up from 8% as recently as 10 years ago. And, according to a study by the Rand Corporation, in the absence of policy change, these price increases will continue.

According to the Massachusetts Municipal Association, communities could save 4-6% on their annual budgets due to the ability to 'plan design.' The association argues that this $100 million can be used to protect vital municipal services and jobs.

Additionally, the group claims that the 4% local aid cut that's now expected in the fiscal 2011 state budget can only mean another round of job losses for local government. They feel that the majority of these job losses could be avoided by giving local governments plan design authority, and I'm inclined to agree with them.

For these reasons, I support further exploring the proposals of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Association.

Republican

I support plan design. Health care costs are rising and providing insurance is becoming increasingly expensive.

The intractability of some unions to accept higher co-pay, higher-deductible plans that realize savings for the budget of communities while still providing health care is a powerful support as to why we should be giving this authority to our communities.

The current failure of the public safety unions in Salem to send this even to a membership vote is a current example.

The taxpayers cannot be expected to keep paying for expensive health care of city workers while struggling to deal with their own health care expenses.

The public sector should not be getting better health care then the people who are paying the tab. With reductions in local aid, this adds to the burden on communities' budgets.

Current retirees should not have their insurance pulled out from under them. If they are not paying part of the premium for a private plan, then gradually making a change to where they are sharing part of that expense should be made.

New retirees should be given a choice of either purchasing insurance through a state pool at reduced cost, some of which the state pays, or using Medicare. This allows those who are retiring to make a choice on both their coverage and the cost they must bear.

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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

This candidate hasn't responded yet; please check back later.

Independent

Capping annual pensions at $100,000, yes.

Raising the retirement age, we'd have to hear a great deal of testimony to make a good decision on that one.

Republican

I support a pension cap under the current system the state has.

$100,000 is far more then most residents of the Commonwealth will retire with on an annual basis, and the pensions are also taxpayer-supported.

I would prefer to see our pension system move to a contributory system, such as a 401(k), similar to the private sector. This takes the expense away from being totally taxpayer-shouldered and puts public sector workers on the same system that private sector workers must use.

I am not in support of increasing the retirement age past 67. Where do we put the ceiling where we require people to work into their golden years?

If an individual chooses to work into their 70s and can find employers who will hire them, I applaud them for their work ethic.

Many people start working in their teens; my first job was at age 17, then 50 years in the work force would seem sufficient to me to require them to collect retirement benefits.

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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

This candidate hasn't responded yet; please check back later.

Independent

Yes, but being a teacher (and having proctored a few of these exams), I have a few opinions on the subject.

Specifically, it's important to allow some students more time to take the test, and in some cases even to have someone help explain the questions to them.

Republican

Absolutely. It is vitally important that we ensure that Massachusetts students meet minimum educational standards to graduate high school.

The increasingly competitive global economy makes it incumbent on us to make sure our students are ready to face the challenges of our world either by going into the work force directly from high school, pursuing education through a trade school, or going on to college.

Without basic knowledge and skills to learn, they will be at a severe disadvantage against not only people from other states who may come here, but those from other countries seeking to work in Massachusetts.

Our children are our most valuable asset and the future leaders of not only Massachusetts, but of the United States. We cannot, and should not, jeopardize their future or our own by setting low standards.

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Public records

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

Democrat

This candidate hasn't responded yet; please check back later.

Republican

No. The continuing erosion of confidence in our state government is due in part to the lack of transparency.

If the Legislature is able to hide what they are doing from public records law and by using closed-door meetings, this erosion will continue.

As a citizen, my first question would be, "What are they hiding?"

As a candidate, my first statement is, "We are there to serve the people, and the people as our employers have a right to know."

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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

This candidate hasn't responded yet; please check back later.

Independent

For me, the main concern is not any particular vote, but rather communicating more effectively with people in the district through annual reports that go to every household in the district.

The reports from my office will include breakdowns of increases and decreases in spending and revenue, as well as information on progress in areas such as infrastructure and green energy.

With every household in the district getting these high-quality annual reports, we'll have one more method of communication between the government and the people, which can lead to a great deal of cooperation and good, productive work.

Republican

It is a bit difficult to answer this question. Given that there are only 5 Republican senators out of 40 currently in the Legislature, the votes I have available to me show that I would have agreed with them on the legislation that has been voted on.

When it comes to voting on legislation, I will vote in a manner that follows the beliefs I hold or that the people I am tasked to represent want based on their input.

The votes I have studied so far have been anti-tax increase, health care related bills, and bills that would have an effect on small businesses.

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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

This candidate hasn't responded yet; please check back later.

Independent

Sure, it seems axiomatic that any candidate would do so.

Republican

Yes, I will be happy to make those public via my website. Look for them to be posted in the coming weeks.

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Legislative audit

Should the Legislature be subject to a full audit?

Democrat

This candidate hasn't responded yet; please check back later.

Independent

Yes, this might help in creating some real transparency.

Republican

Yes. The Legislature, in fact all departments of state government, should be subject to an audit. An important step to getting spending under control is to find where waste may be occurring and how the people's money is being spent to run Beacon Hill.

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Formal sessions

Is the Legislature holding enough full formal sessions?

Democrat

This candidate hasn't responded yet; please check back later.

Independent

Yes, they are. I don't think that the problem is not holding enough sessions. To me, it's the quality of those sessions, not the quantity that counts.

More interesting to me is exploring the idea of annual reports, and the potential they have for giving the people the information they need to make the right decisions. This is something we might do through local newspapers.

Republican

The current situation our state is in and the fact the Senate ended the formal session on July 31 instead of continuing to work on bills that are needed to help the people of the Commonwealth is inappropriate.

Why do they need a five-month paid vacation when so many people are out of work?

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Term limits

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

Democrat

This candidate hasn't responded yet; please check back later.

Independent

That might be a good idea, but then again, there are other, more effective areas that we might focus on instead, such as a list of responses to the economic crisis.

Republican

There should. The Speaker and Senate President are able to control a great deal of what goes on in the two houses.

It is quite important that this leadership be changed to prevent a single person from controlling legislation that may be guided by personal agendas.

Changes in leadership is a healthy evolution that needs to happen.

There is also the need to have new ideas and a new vision for the direction of Massachusetts guiding both houses.

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Responses gathered through e.thePeople