On Sunday morning, May 19th Senator Karen Spilka was presented with the Citizen Laureate Award at the Framingham State University graduate commencement ceremony. The award, given annually to an individual who has consistently supported the University, was awarded to Spilka in recognition of her advocacy on behalf of the MetroWest region. President Flanagan praised Spilka for her leadership in advancing public transportation and strengthening public higher education in the Commonwealth.
Accepting the award, she remarked on the importance of the University in her career. “In my many years as a MetroWest resident and legislator, I have had a long and extremely rewarding relationship with Framingham State University – we are truly partners in advancing higher education,” Spilka said. “FSU is a prime example of what makes my work as a public servant worthwhile: the opportunity to invest resources, creativity and new ideas into an institution that prepares the next generation for the challenges you will face in the 21st century.”
Later in the day Spilka addressed the thousands of students, faculty, families and friends gathered for Framingham State’s 174th undergraduate commencement ceremony to offer the formal Greetings Commonwealth of Massachusetts and introduce U. S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, the commencement speaker.
Spilka said of Warren: “Elizabeth Warren’s hope is our hope – America’s hope – that we remain the land of unequaled opportunity, – that each of you will able to use your unique talents in the service of our country and our economy without being crippled by student debt and an increasingly unfair playing field – and that we will build a better tomorrow for ourselves and our children”
By Sen. Karen Spilka/Guest Columnist
The MetroWest Daily News
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Competing in the global economy requires a 21st century transportation system. Our quality of life and economic vitality hinge on having adequate public transportation and infrastructure systems. Last month, the Senate took action to address these critical needs by passing An Act Relative to Transportation Finance. We took care not to overburden residents and I am pleased to say that I was successful in securing a number of provisions that strengthened the bill by increasing equity, promoting efficiency, and protecting taxpayers.
Our bill dedicates more than $830 million of new and redirected funds to our transportation system, solving the immediate and long-term structural deficits at the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Metropolitan Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). It also increases revenue to provide at least $100 million annually for the next five years for other critical investments including education, worker training, and human service programs.
For too long, certain populations have had to pay a heavy price to finance transportation projects that benefit the entire state. Luckily, the final bill included three of my amendments to ease this burden and increase protections for commuters using I-90 and the Tobin Bridge. The bill requires the DOT and MBTA to increase efficiency by setting firm benchmarks for their operating budgets, pushing these agencies to save money and improve performance. An amendment I filed makes it clear that the DOT cannot raise tolls to meet these financial requirements – it will prevent them from looking to our wallets to fund their budgets.
In the past, I’ve fought to protect commuters by requiring toll dollars to be used for projects on the road they are collected on – and nowhere else. One of my top priorities during our debate was preserving these protections. I led the charge to remove language that would have directed toll dollars collected on the Turnpike to fund projects throughout the state.
During our debate, we found creative, new ways to fund our transportation system. One of these sources of revenue comes from an amendment I filed that gives us the chance to do what many other states already do – toll the interstate highways at our borders. Just as we are tolled going into New Hampshire, this change calls for out-of-state drivers to contribute to the maintenance of the Massachusetts roads they travel on.
Supporting a world-class transportation system is costly but necessary. Currently, this expense is magnified because we ship our buses and trains out-of-state for major repairs. My colleagues joined me in supporting an amendment requiring the DOT to find a way to fix these vehicles here in Massachusetts. We cannot be sending these opportunities out-of-state while members of our skilled workforce struggle to find quality jobs.
This bill is the first step in a larger discussion on how to support and strengthen vital public services while protecting the middle class. Strategic investments in other areas are necessary to ensure our economic stability and sustainability. To keep this dialogue going, I fought to establish a Tax Fairness Commission to examine our tax system and identify changes needed to ensure revenue is raised equitably. The Commission, which received bipartisan support, will help us continue this conversation about raising revenue fairly to meet our needs without hurting struggling individuals and businesses.
In the coming weeks, a conference committee will produce a compromise bill for final passage. In order to receive my support, it must include the provisions we secured in the Senate to protect commuters and taxpayers. Supporting our communities and making investments that spur private sector job creation have always been my top priorities. I will continue to fight for a transportation system that serves everyone.
State Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, represents the 2nd Middlesex and Norfolk district.
(BOSTON) – Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) announced today that the Senate passed legislation calling for a $100 million increase over Chapter 90 funding from last year, as part of a $300 million local transportation funding package for Fiscal Year 2014.
“Investment in our local road and bridges is essential to the lives of our residents and the economic health of our communities,” said Spilka. “This is a significant and much-needed boost for each city and town across the state and will give our partners at the local level additional resources to help accelerate these important projects.”
Communities can use Chapter 90 funds for local projects such as rebuilding or repairing roads and bridges. The rates of funding are based on a formula that factors in each community’s total road miles, population, and employment.
Below is a breakdown of the funding towns in the 2nd Middlesex and Norfolk district are set to receive under this bill:
- Ashland – $687,386 in funding, an increase of $229,129
- Framingham – $2,863,194 in funding, an increase of $954,398
- Franklin – $1,382,441 in funding, an increase of $460,814
- Holliston – $760,929 in funding, an increase of $253,643
- Hopkinton – $959,188 in funding, an increase of $319,729
- Medway – $617,259 in funding, an increase of $205,753
- Natick – $1,512,525 in funding, an increase of $504,175
The bill will now go to the Governor for his approval.
(BOSTON) – Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) has filed legislation to establish a permanent commission on the status of women in the MetroWest region.
The MetroWest Commission on the Status of Women and Girls will consist of nine persons to be appointed by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women and will conduct an ongoing study of all matters concerning women in MetroWest.
“I filed this bill to help give our female residents an opportunity to discuss, identify, and report the challenges and opportunities they face in our area,” said Spilka. “Establishing a Commission comprised of the women in our region will help us best serve the specific needs of our area and will give women throughout MetroWest a seat at the table and a stronger voice in the process.”
The Commission will operate under the umbrella of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women. Currently, there are 4 regional Commissions throughout the state studying the status of women in Berkshire County, Bristol County, Cape Cod and the Islands, and Essex County.
Under this bill, the Commission would be mandated to report their findings to the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women annually, on or before June 2, and make recommendations on how to solve the problems facing the women of MetroWest.
The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women (MCSW) is an independent state agency that was created in 1998 by the Legislature to advance women of the Commonwealth to full equality in all areas of life and to promote their rights and opportunities. The MCSW provides a permanent, effective voice for the women of Massachusetts.
(BOSTON) – Today, the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women proudly announced its 83 Unsung Heroines of 2013. These women from cities and towns across the Commonwealth were recognized for their outstanding contributions to their organizations and communities in a ceremony this afternoon at the State House.
The Unsung Heroines are women who don’t always make the news, but truly make the difference. They are the women who use their time, talent, and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of others and make a difference in their neighborhoods, cities, and towns. They are mentors, volunteers, and innovators who do what needs to be done without expectations of recognition or gratitude. These women are the glue that keeps a community together and every community has them.
Framingham resident Susan Nicholl, the first Executive Director of the MetroWest Tourism & Visitors Bureau (MWTVB), was nominated by Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) for her dedicated work marketing the MetroWest region to residents and visitors. Prior to her joining the MWTVB, Susan worked at the Institute for Nonprofit Development, where she worked with numerous nonprofits in the areas of governance, planning, marketing, and resource development. During her first year at the MWTVB, Susan has focused on developing products and services, seeking financial support, and bringing greater industry and geographic diversity to the effort.
Spilka Successful in Adding Protections for Tollpayers and Taxpayers in Transportation Finance Reform Bill
(BOSTON) – Today, as the Senate debated and passed major legislation to reform the state’s transportation finance system, Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) successfully advocated for several amendments that address the issue of transportation and taxpayer equity for residents of MetroWest and the entire Commonwealth.
“This comprehensive bill addresses our critical infrastructure and transportation needs without overburdening our residents and working families,” said Spilka. “Investing in our state’s transportation and infrastructure systems is vital to the quality of life of our residents and the economic vitality of our communities. By passing a number of the amendments I filed, we will help adequately fund these systems without unfairly burdening isolated parts of our population or requiring certain citizens to pay more because of where they live.”
(BOSTON) – As the Senate gets ready to debate critical legislation to reform the state’s transportation finance system, Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) has filed a number of amendments that address the issue of transportation and taxpayer equity for the residents of MetroWest and the entire Commonwealth.
“Investing in our state’s transportation and infrastructure systems is crucial to ensure a high quality of life for residents and to promote economic vitality in our communities for generations to come,” said Spilka. “This comprehensive bill addresses our critical infrastructure and transportation needs without over burdening our working residents and families. The amendments I filed to this bill will increase transportation and regional equity to help adequately fund our state’s highway and transportation projects without unfairly burdening isolated portions of our population or requiring certain citizens to pay more because of where they live.”
The bill sets annual revenue benchmarks that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) must meet in order to pay for part of their operating budget. One of the amendments filed by Spilka would prevent DOT from using toll increases to pay for their operating expenses.
“For too long, the greater 495/MetroWest region has been disproportionately affected by the transportation decisions of the Commonwealth,” said Spilka. “This amendment will ensure that the DOT will not be able to look to the wallets of our region’s residents and commuters to fund their operating costs.”
Another amendment filed by Spilka would remove language from the bill to keep current protections intact that ensure that funds collected at Turnpike tolls are not used to support transportation projects and upgrades outside of the region.
“The largest contribution to the maintenance of the Central Artery, which runs north-south, comes from MetroWest commuters, who travel east-west, forcing Mass Pike commuters to pay every day for a roadway they don’t use, in a direction they don’t travel,” said Spilka. “Our roadways exist for the benefit of all our citizens, yet the responsibility for paying for them is not shared equally. This amendment would make sure that the money generated by these tolls goes to fund projects and improvements to the road being tolled – not roads in other parts of the state.”
In addition, Spilka has filed an amendment that would give Massachusetts the opportunity to do what many other states already do – toll the interstate highways at the state’s borders.
“If we are going to have tolls anywhere, then we should have them in locations where visitors enter our state. By placing tolls at our borders, out-of-state drivers can contribute to the maintenance of the roads on which they are traveling,” said Spilka.
Spilka is also a co-sponsor of an amendment that calls for the placement of tolls on other major roads in the state to further increase transportation and toll equity.
To help ease the financial burden for her constituents and the region’s commuters, Spilka filed an amendment which gives a 20 percent discount to electronic toll users who live in a city or town through which any tolled road passes.
Highlights of additional amendments filed by Spilka include:
- Developing a tiered payment structure for paratransit fares, ensuring affordable access for all, especially our disabled and seniors, some of the most vulnerable transit-dependent residents;
- Requiring the DOT to study the feasibility of establishing in-state vehicle repair maintenance facilities for the state’s mass transit vehicles, which are currently maintained out-of-state, to increase economic activity and job creation related to these repairs right here in Massachusetts;
- Adding a disabled commuter representative and a community rider representative to the Regional Transit Authority Advisory Boards to increase participation, equity, and accountability by bringing more voices to the table;
- Establishing a collaborative regional transit plan to implement performance measurements for the state’s Regional Transit Authorities, ensuring services are provided in an efficient, effective, accessible way, taking into account the needs of the region and commuters; and
- Creating a Tax Fairness Commission to review and evaluate the federal, state, and local tax laws applicable to Massachusetts residents and identify recommendations and changes to achieve an equitable and adequate system of taxation.
The Senate’s transportation finance reform bill dedicates over $805 million in new funds for transportation projects and improvements by 2018. The funding is a combination of dedicated state tax revenues and non-tax revenues and savings. In addition, the bill generates between $96 million and $160 million annually in new tax revenue that can be used for other Senate priorities, including education and human services.
The Senate is set to debate the transportation reform bill tomorrow, Saturday, April 13 at 10:00 a.m.