Dear Residents of the 24th Middlesex District:
I am writing to you for the first time as your new state representative. I hope that you and your family enjoyed the holiday season in December and that your 2013 is off to a good start.
As your representative, I plan to write to you from time to time (maybe once a month or so) to let you know about important developments in state government, ways in which you can get involved and other items of note.
On January 2nd, I had the distinct honor to be sworn in as the new State Representative for the 24th Middlesex District (covering a large section of Arlington, all of Belmont and North Cambridge). Many family and friends were in attendance as Governor Patrick administered the oath of office. Most special of all for me, I was able to set up a chair of the floor of the House so that my 92 year old mother, Maxine Fitzgerald Rogers, could be by my side as I took the oath of office. As many of you may have heard during my campaign, my Mom held our family together after my Dad died early in life, and so to have her there was really special. Here we are on the floor of the House.
How to Reach Me
I plan to be highly accessible as your state representative. I'm only an email or phone call away and hope that you'll get in touch should you ever want to voice an opinion, offer a suggestion or for any other reason. My email at the state house is email@example.com
(my Gmail is firstname.lastname@example.org
) and for now my phone number there is 617-722-2425. Also, you can call me on my personal cell phone number at 617-817-9395.
Office Hours. In addition to an open invitation to visit me any time at the state house (and I'd be happy to give you a tour -- it's a beautiful building), I also will hold office hours around the community where we can meet in person.
If you cannot make it to either of those times, there will be plenty of additional opportunities going forward as I will hold office hours regularly.
I am also in the process of building a website through which we can interact. It is under development and when it is ready to launch, I'll let you know about it.
This legislative session (2013-2014) promises to be one of great significance for our District and the Commonwealth as a whole.
One of the main themes which I discussed throughout my campaign was the need to modernize our transportation system, both by stabilizing its finances and bringing it into the 21st century with needed enhancements. Based on many conversations I have had with people in every corner of our communities, I know most of you share this goal. As you may have seen, Governor Patrick in his State of the State speech outlined a far reaching plan to do just that
. Our community is incredibly dependent on a vital public transportation system. Whether it be the Red Line, the many bus lines, the commuter rail in Belmont or bike paths and walking routes, as much as any part of the state, we rely heavily on our transportation network. Moreover, modernizing our transportation network may be the single most important thing we do to address climate change, quality of life and economic development. In short, solving the transportation riddle solves countless related issues. But our transportation network is buckling
under the demands of increasing ridership and a lack of investment in maintenance and modernization. While it is still early in the process, I am encouraged that the Governor has laid out an extremely ambitious plan.
One of the assets that draws so many to our communities is the strong public education offered. Our public schools are outstanding. However, their continued excellence is far from assured and in fact is under threat (see for example this recent document
relating to budgeting for Belmont public schools). State funding for schools has dropped dramatically over the last years, in part because of changes to the funding formula and in part because of the deep recession from which we are now just emerging. I am pleased that another centerpiece of the Governor's ambitious agenda is a strong commitment to our public education system
To fund the investments in the two sectors of our society identified immediately above -- education and transportation -- the Governor has called for major tax reform
, including a plan to dramatically cut the sales tax from 6.25% to 4.5% while increasing the income tax from 5.25% to 6.25%. The plan also alleviates the tax burden on those earning less by doubling the personal exemption from $4,400 to $8,800. All told, the plan raises about $1.9 Billion in revenue. I am still studying the details of the plan and also hope to hear your thoughts.
In the midst of the recession of 2008/2009, were I in the Legislature, I would never have supported any increase in taxes. In fact, even just 12-18 months ago, I would have been resistant to the idea. However, while we still have a long way to go, our state, and our part of the state particularly, is beginning to turn the corner to better times. For instance, real estate values are up significantly. Our state unemployment rate is significantly below the national average. I am pleased to report that Massachusetts now has the highest bond rating in its history, as credit markets respond favorably to significant reforms undertaken by the state. I do believe now is the time to make the needed changes to bring our transportation network into the 21st century and put our schools on a sounder financial footing. In order to make incredibly important investments in our future, we simply must have a serious conversation about finding ways to raise more revenue in an equitable manner.
To be clear, I am not endorsing at this stage all aspects of the Governor’s plan. Moreover, the particular mix of ideas the Governor has advanced frankly do not cover the full range of discussion on the topic and are only a beginning to the conversation, not an end. For instance, many in our community favor a gas tax because it will raise revenue while also acting as a disincentive to drive, thereby helping to combat climate change and traffic congestion. Other tax reforms have been discussed by a wide variety of concerned groups. Whatever approach we take, please know that I will listen to your voices carefully as I weigh the options.
There are countless other issues that I could address, as many significant pieces of legislation are under discussion. However, in the interest of keeping this communication to a reasonable length, I'll save discussion of other important matters for a future date.
So that's it for my first email to you. I hope that you find it helpful to hear directly from one of your elected officials and I look forward to a continuing dialogue as we face the challenges and explore the opportunities of the interesting times through which we are living.
Hope to see you soon,