495 Partnership Hears Spilka's Agenda for the State
Wednesday morning, June 15, Framingham State University’s McCarthy Center was a gathering spot for community leaders and legislators under the auspices of the 495 Partnership. The keynote speech was delivered by the Senate Presidents, Ashland’s Karen Spilka.
Introduced by, Chuck Dwyer, director of commercial banking at Middlesex Savings Bank, who also serves as private sector co-chair of the 495 MetroWest partnerships Board of Directors, who noted that Spilka is “no stranger to the 495 Metro West partnership. He outlined her continuous rise through the legislature and said she had been a strong supporter of the Partnership from its inception.
Spilka said, “There's nothing more important to talk about this morning than one of our region's key issues, transportation equity. Two of my top priorities when it comes to transportation projects are sustainability and regional equity. And that's why I'm proud to say that after a 15-year campaign...this entire region, will finally get an improved interchange where  meets with the Pike between Hopkinton and Westborough.
“This $466 million investment in our region will lead to a substantial decrease in bottlenecks...resulting clearly in economic benefits and less time spent in traffic which is always good.
“I'm proud to report that concerning the Allston I-90 multimodal project...when this was first presented, part of the funding for that project was considered to be an increase in tolls. That was a no go....No way was that going to happen and I told the Governor and Secretary of Transportation to not even bother presenting that to the legislature.
“There's a lot still to be figured out. But we will continue to monitor the project because it will have such an enormous impact on our region. If this project goes forward, there must be two commuter rail tracks that remain open at all times. The final highway design should include six lanes [the same as the current highway], and...from day one ...they have to have strong and consistent mitigation for Metro West and Central Mass residents so that we can continue to use the Pike and the commuter rail quickly and safely to navigate back and forth... It can't be tacked on at the end. It has to be built in from the beginning...,” said Spilka
Spilka said as commuter rail ridership returned, she would be working on more funding.
She also talked about growth and service enhancements coming to the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority, which blankets the region from Newton to Worcester with bus service.
On the other hand, Spilka, like many other legislators, expressed caution regarding the proposed East-West Rail that has been advocated to link Boston, Framingham, Worcester, and even Pittsfield. “We need to make sure that our [existing] commuter rail is protected as well,” she said. She also talked about the need for “fair” funding mechanisms.
On the personal vehicle front, Spilka said she favored even more tax-funded subsidies for electric vehicles – and support for more charging stations.
She said the Senate was committed to an all-electric MBTA bus fleet by 2030.
She also spoke with pride about working to make mail-in voting permanent in the Commonwealth.
On the contentious issue of providing any financial relief to taxpayers, Spilka said that some groups and organizations need help as does the state ‘rainy day fund,’ making it clear any kind of tax rollback or rebate was not in the cards.
She mentioned that the legislature had “invested” $900 million in housing “stability.” and efforts to reduce homelessness.
For small businesses, she said, “the Senate has prioritized workforce development so that employers in our region have access to a larger pool of local talent to hire.”
She said the Senate's budget included over 55 million for adult basic education--- and some $1.5 million “to continue our partnerships in cybersecurity,” for example with Mass Bay Community College and Framingham State University, she said.
She said one of her future priorities is making prescription medicines more affordable. For example, she talked about capping the price of insulin. And, she reiterated her support for making mental health treatment as available as other healthcare and having annual mental health checkups for individuals.