Friday, November 12, 1999
Representatives frustrated by absence of budget approval
Town representatives and state legislators shared their mutual frustration with the delays caused by the absence of an approved state budget at the semi-annual MAGIC (Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Cooperation) legislative breakfast on October 20.
Education needs stressed
Educational programs and funding have top priority for both town and state people. Lexington representative Jay Kaufman reminded the group that Massachusetts still ranks 42nd to 44th, nationally, in terms of state commitment to education and that the state is facing the expiration of educational reform measures without plans for the future. It was agreed that funding, as well as planning, was a problem needing resolution, particularly with regard to town reimbursement for special education expenses (SPED). State Senator Pam Resor said, "We need financial help for SPED now. We are being asked to foot the full SPED bill, which is unrealistic," and there was across-the-board agreement with her. Representative Pat Wolrath (Stow) concurred, "The SPED issue has to be resolved."
School building assistance money has also become a critical issue in towns, such as Hudson, where buildings erected in the '60s are beginning to fall apart. For that reason, town officials saw maintenance of the state reimbursement of the school building program as a very important issue. (Carlisle's rate was 60 percent.) Employees at the state school building assistance bureau had recently quit over the issue of whether new earthquake standards should be mandated and this shake-up was expected to impact communities seeking relief for school construction.
"The focus on the central artery project is debilitating," according to one state legislator. This situation is augmented by the fact that there can be no bidding on anything until the state budget process is completed. Selectman Gordon Feldman of Bedford called the mandate to apply federal highway standards to local construction "the highway equivalent of a $600 toilet seat." He pointed out that there needed to be better oversight of the flow of highway dollars. Carlisle selectman Vivian Chaput wanted a re-evaulation of standards which are presently so restrictive that towns can't meet them without spending local funds. For example, because the state had been unwilling to grant a waiver and the Department of Transportation had been unresponsive to local initiatives to redraw the process for getting a waiver, work on Route 62 in Concord took about the same amount of local funding as the override that was needed for the schools It was also noted that the Department of Transportation has been imposing the stricter federal standards on state-funded projects which should not be forced to adhere to them.
Increase in Hanscom flights
When Shuttle America began commercial flights out of Hanscom Field in September, neighboring towns were unsuccessful in getting approval for an injunction to stop the flights. Shuttle America's initial four flights out and four flights in a day are increasing to ten flights in and ten flights out daily this week, with attendant strain on local roads accessing Hanscom. One of the state representatives explained, "We have a serious transportation situation on our hands," and urged MAGIC members to begin building alliances to address the Hanscom issue. One representative pointed out that only trains, such as the proposed high-speed line to New York, would relieve the demand for air travel.
Those in attendance at the MAGIC meeting voiced unilateral frustration with Mass. Highway and Massport and recognized that there is an institutional culture within these organizations and within the legislative leadership circle that believes the decision-making is theirs. Since these organizations are responsible to the governor, the best suggestion for impacting the transportation crisis was "to make sure that these are campaign issues." Local communities were encouraged to send individual letters of support for needed road projects, such as Crosby's Corner and the Route 2 rotary in Concord.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito