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MWDN: Human services advocates meet in Framingham for annual legislative breakfast

April 12, 2010

April 12, 2010
By Paul Crocetti, The MetroWest Daily News

FRAMINGHAM — Faced with choosing where to make cuts in the state budget, local legislators yesterday pledged support for human services in front of a large group of the very people who benefit from the funding.

Human services agencies have endured large cuts in recent years, legislators told a group at the Plymouth Church that included the profession’s employees and people with disabilities.

Although lawmakers will have to slash local aid this year, they cannot cut from human services again, said state Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick.

Yesterday’s event is a priority for Linsky, he told the crowd of a couple hundred people at the eighth annual legislative breakfast hosted by the MetroWest Human Service Advocacy Coalition.

“It puts a human face on line-items,” Linsky said. “I mean this with all sincerity – I’m in a room full of heroes.”

State Rep. Danielle Gregoire, D-Marlborough, said she has been working with other legislators to find savings in order to stop cutting direct care providers.

“We need to stop hurting the most vulnerable people in the commonwealth,” Gregoire said, receiving applause.

Living independently is important for all residents, said state Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland.

“(The large group) sends us legislators a loud and clear message of your needs,” Spilka said.

The MetroWest delegation puts “human services first,” said Eric Masi, president and CEO of Wayside Youth & Family Support Network.

State Rep. Alice Peisch, D-Wellesley, said that human services is at the top of her priority list.

“We are faced with an extraordinarily difficult fiscal situation,” Peisch said. “I don’t want to hold out unreasonable hope.”

William Taylor, president and CEO of Advocates, asked legislators not to forget human services employees in the budget.

“Never have I been more proud to call them my colleagues,” Taylor said.

Legislators also discussed the possibility of expanded gambling, after Peter Cook, senior minister of Plymouth Church, asked if they could look to other forms of economic development besides slot machines.

“It’s a tax on those who can least afford it,” Cook said.

In an ideal world, legislators would not be talking about gambling, but jobs – especially in the construction trade – are in short supply, Linsky said. Money from the state lottery is already helping to support the budget, he added.

“I wish we could be pure but we can’t be pure. It’s already happening,” Linsky said. “Does it prey on the vulnerable? Unfortunately, absolutely, and I don’t feel good about it.”

For the majority of people, gambling is a recreational act, Peisch said.

Spilka pointed to an economic development reform bill passed by the state senate on Thursday. The reform should save money and create jobs, she said.

Legislators asked for “no” votes on any ballot initiatives that would cut the income or sales taxes. If passed, the state would face a huge revenue shortfall, lawmakers said.

“We will have to cut tremendously if that happens,” Spilka said.

(Paul Crocetti can be reached at 508-490-7453 or pcrocett@cnc.com.)

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