Monday, April 13, 2009

Pam's news.... and what's left out

BOSTON-State Representative Pam Richardson joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in passing a sweeping transportation reform package that would eliminate the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, bring down insurance and pension costs and help ensure a better future.

"This package focuses on efficiencies, cost savings and oversight," said Representative Pam Richardson (D-Framingham). "We have taken the right steps toward a stronger, more efficient transportation system."

Of great significance to Metrowest turnpike commuters was the inclusion of an amendment supported by the Metrowest Caucus which requires that toll revenues may only be used for the benefit of the roads, tunnels, and bridges on which they were collected. This provision insures that the grossly inequitable diversion of tolls collected on the Pike to pay the debt service on the Central Artery will cease and an alternative revenue stream will be identified before the July 1 scheduled toll increase.

Including this language in the reform a bill has laid the groundwork necessary to stop the toll increase scheduled for July 1. Additionally, passage of this bill is the first step in addressing the Commonwealth's long neglected transportation infrastructure needs.

"The House passed measure is historic in nature, creating structural reforms that will result in system-wide efficiencies and improved transportation service delivery," said Rep. Joseph Wagner (D-Chicopee), the co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation.
A few highlights of the transportation reform package include:

A More Efficient Structure

·The bill establishes the independent Massachusetts Transportation and Infrastructure Authority.

·The bill eliminates the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

·The Authority will be governed by a 5-member board chaired by the Governor.

·A Secretary will be appointed by the Governor and be responsible to both the Governor and the board.

·Under the Authority, there will be a Department of Transportation responsible for the following divisions: Aeronautics, Massachusetts Highways, Mass Transit, Registry of Motor Vehicles and Constituent and Municipal Services.

·The Authority will receive an annual appropriation from the Legislature.

·The Authority will maintain a separate fund, consisting of dedicated revenue streams, including turnpike, tunnel and Tobin Bridge tolls to satisfy bond obligations.
Reform

·The existing "23 and out" pension rule for MBTA employees will be eliminated.

·New MBTA employees will now have to serve at least 25 years and attain the age of 55 to qualify for retirement benefits from the MBTA.

·All current MBTA employees and new hires will be required to join the state's Group Insurance Commission.

·MBTA employees will have to decide between pension and disability if out on disability.

·Current turnpike authority employees will become members of the GIC health insurance group.

·Current Tobin Bridge employees will become members of the GIC health insurance group.

·The new Authority becomes responsible for all administrative functions creating cost-savings and efficiencies by eliminating individual, legal, accounting, management, accounting and other back office administrative activities.
Oversight

·The bill creates an Office of Performance Management to help the Authority and its constituent divisions meet benchmarks and run in a businesslike fashion.

·It also creates an Office of Taxpayer Advocacy, to function as a dedicated inspector general or ombudsman for the state system of transportation; it will be empowered to investigate reports and complaints from the general public.

·Health Transportation Compact - the Secretary will work with the Secretary of Health and Human Services to attain positive health goals as it oversees and maintains the state transportation system.

Here's what Pam didn't say in her newsletter. The above changes favors Boston residents, does not go far enough to reform outrageous salary, pension and health care benefits and it remains to be seen if billions will ever be seen. A ploy to raise the gas tax is what will come of this. The Senate has it's own version of this and will be interesting to see what comes from both houses.

No Toll Hikes without legislative approval: rejected by the majority of the House. Why not hold our Reps to account for toll hikes?

No New Tolls without Legislative approval: The majority rejected this amendment to have the reps vote for any new tolls on roads currently without tolls. Bad for those of us who want to see tolls on the roads North and South of the city.

Continue toll discount for some Boston and Chelsea residents: Bad for those who live west of the city once again. The residents of East Boston, South Boston, the North End, Chelsea and Charlestown will be the only beneficiaries of this amendment which won by 122 to 32. 17 Dems voted along with the republicans in favor of this. Pam was not one of them.

And if you didn't read or hear about this, remember a few months ago, the Pike was going to lay off 100 people, well we find out now, that there is a 18 month notice agreement in their union contract that will not allow the State to lay these people off, for 18 months. We are being held hostage by these unbelievable union contracts.

Pam's response to the outcry from the voters on unlawful voting for illegal immigrants

My position on this is: I will not support allowing illegal immigrants from voting or having drivers licenses with false social security numbers. I would also submit, all the illegal immigrants who have been convicted of non violent felonies, who sit in our jails and prisons, be immediately deported back to their country of origin.

STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATIVE PAM RICHARDSON

Clearly there are inherent challenges and issues related to having a large population of non-citizens living in our community.

For example, when a crime is committed, there is a reluctance to contact the police for help. When an employer exploits a non-citizen worker, the entire community suffers. When someone drives without fully understanding the rules of the road, everyone is at risk.

As an elected leader in Framingham I feel that the best way to take on these problems is to engage all individuals residing in our community and encourage input from everyone.

The statements I made at the Framingham Democratic Town Committee Meeting were a result of my complete frustration with the Federal Government and their inability to change Immigration Laws.

My statements were simply suggestions of possible ways to address the many issues we face. They were based upon ways in which other cities and towns across Massachusetts and Nationwide have responded to ineffective Immigration Policies.

I am 100% dedicated to serving the citizens of the 6th Middlesex District who I am privileged to represent.

I am proud of all of the work I have done to support economic development and job creation, support services for senior citizens and strengthening our public school system. These issues have been and will continue to be my highest priorities.