Due to historically low ridership, the MBTA is proposing major service cuts as part of its Forging Ahead plan.
The proposed service cuts will affect the entire Commonwealth, including Lexington and Woburn. While we all understand that ridership has experienced significant temporary declines due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe that it is crucial to maintain our public transit systems in Massachusetts. Transit enables essential workers to get to their jobs, patients to get to medical appointments, and residents to access services, shopping, dining, and more.
Given how difficult it is to restart transit once it is decreased, I have real concerns that if these cuts are implemented, we may lose services for a long time to come, some possibly permanently. This is exactly the wrong direction for a time when now, more than ever, we need to transform our transportation systems to provide clean, efficient, and frequent transit to decrease our reliance on cars and fossil fuel burning modes. I want to make sure my constituents' voices are heard, so I urge you to weigh in with MassDOT on its proposal to cut our transportation systems.
Ways to be Heard
The MBTA held a listening session specifically for our area (Region 2) last week, and you can watch a recording here.
There is one more general listening session where you can provide feedback:online.
In addition to letting the MBTA know your thoughts, I would ask that you share them with me as well. Courtesy of my colleague Senator Cindy Friedman who came up with these questions, please let me know how you feel about the following:
If you want to learn more about the plan, you can view it and additional information at the MBTA's website.
Fiscal Year 2021 Budget
Last week, the House debated and passed its Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget, which had been delayed due to the pandemic. It is a budget to be proud of that increases funding for the social safety net funding to help support our most vulnerable residents, especially those hard hit by the pandemic. Among other highlights, the roughly $46 million measure, which passed overwhelmingly, contains increased funding for housing assistance, food security, community day and work programs, substance addiction services, domestic violence and sexual assault treatment & prevention, and legal assistance.
The House budget includes $301.7 million for environmental protections, a $12 million increase over last year. As House Chair of the Zero Waste Caucus, I pushed for these funds because they are critical for addressing our ongoing environmental crisis, and I am pleased to see them included in the final bill.
Additionally, in July, the Legislature and the Administration agreed to level fund Unrestricted Local Aid (UGGA) and Chapter 70 (adjusted for inflation). This budget lives up to those commitments and also includes increased investments in school transportation as well as additional school grants for remote learning. It makes targeted investments into rental and housing assistance to help combat the eviction crisis, and it renews the House’s commitment to combating homelessness.
Finally, the budget continues to dedicate substantial resources toward supporting our public higher education institutions and increases scholarship funding so that students will receive the support they need. It also contains increased funds for adult education.
I was also pleased to support an amendment offered by Judiciary Committee Chair Claire Cronin that protects access to reproductive health care for women across the Commonwealth. In light of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, it is now more important than ever that we diligently protect the rights of women in Massachusetts to make their own decisions about the health care they need.
The budget is now in conference committee with the Senate.
Economic Development Initiatives
This Wednesday, the Woburn Business Association held their annual celebration. While I was unable to attend myself, I wanted to share with you the remarks I sent, which detail some of the measures underway on Beacon Hill to support economic development and small businesses in Massachusetts. A big thank you to Executive Director Chris Kisiel and the entire WBA for letting me be a part of your evening!
I regret that I am unable to join you in person tonight, and due to some technical difficulties I am unable to join you virtually either. As we have become all too familiar with during the pandemic, flexibility is the name of the game this evening!
To begin, I want to let you know that my thoughts are with all of the small businesses and small business owners across Woburn and the Commonwealth as you struggle during these difficult times. Please know that I am looking for every opportunity to find ways to support your efforts on Beacon Hill as you work to adapt and cope. Groups like the WBA are all the more important during times of crisis, as they strengthen the business community and enable small business owners to engage in a broader dialogue at the state level to help us in the Legislature understand what specific needs you have.
I wanted to quickly update you on some legislation related to economic development that is under consideration in the Legislature. As part of a sweeping economic development bill, the House passed legislation to provide supports to small businesses and at-risk populations and make investments in affordable housing. This legislation is now in a conference committee where House and Senate members are working out differences between both bills.
The House also passed our budget last week for FY21, which, among other measures, provides funding for small business development, the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund, and $50 million for economic development including a local Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), community development financial institutions, matching grants for capital investments by small businesses, and small business technical assistance grants.
Again, thank you for all that you do to build and strengthen our community, and as always please don't hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance. It is a pleasure to serve the City of Woburn on Beacon Hill!
All my best for a successful event,