Mass. Business Leaders: Investing in Massachusetts is Good Economics

Business leaders say that the proposed new tax levels are vital to decreasing the  achievement gap and building a pool of well-educated workers capable of competing in a global economy.

As businesspeople, we seek a strong return for our investments...Nobody loves taxes, but this is less a tax and more of “I would love it if we were growing homegrown talent to fill high-opportunity jobs, and I think we as a community need to come together to improve early education for that.”an investment.

Leading economists estimate a 10-16%return on investing in high-quality early education”

from Boston.com – A group of 87 local business leaders have come out in support of Governor Deval Patrick’s early education plan, and the taxes tied to it —which they say are necessary investments to ensure a well-educated workforce.

The announcement, made in a public letter on Tuesday, came as the governor prepared to meet with business leaders and economists on Wednesday to discuss the state’s economy and his fiscal year 2014 budget. Earlier this month, a group of 57 economists also wrote a letter supporting Patrick’s budget, which would fund new transportation and education programs partly by raising the income tax and rewriting portions of the corporate tax code.

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Aron Goldman’s Conference Report on the “Criminal Justice and Gun Control” panel

Despite steeply declining violent crime rates, the prison population and spending on incarceration are increasing at an alarming rate, according to a report released today by MassINCand Community Resources for Justice and covered in today’s Boston Globe.

Attendees of our conference yesterday actually got a sneak peek of the next day’s news: CRJ Executive Director John Larivee previewed the report at yesterday’s Progressive Mass Policy Conference, citing common sense reforms like alternative sentencing, drug courts, and increased re-entry support, and that have shown results in other states. (see John’s presentation, here)

Panelists also included Cassandra Bensahih from EPOCA, who gave a first-hand perspective on the vicious cycle of criminal justice in MA (see photo); and Jake Sullivan, Boston Mayor Menino’s Liaison for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, who explained how two major bills before the US Senate — universal background checks and an assault weapons ban — represent an historic opportunity for gun control.  Today, Mayors from around Massachusetts joined Mayor Menino in demanding a plan.

The message was clear: Let’s stop warehousing people and building prisons, and instead invest in our future.

Thank you to all three panelists and a highly engaged audience. We look forward to seeing these conversations develop among local PM chapters!
Aron Goldman

Find other presentations and information at the 2013 Conference resource page.

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Photos from our 2013 Policy Conference

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David Sloane’s Take on the Education Panel

Naturally, the Education panel started punctually: moderator Suzanne Lee, former teacher, former principal, and current candidate for Boston City Council proclaimed, “Once a teacher, always a teacher. We start on time.” Lee introduced our panel of experts – Lisa Guisbond of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing,  Diana Lam of Conservatory Lab Charter School, Paul Toner of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, and Susan Naimark, author of The Education of a White Parent.

Lisa Guisbond gave a broad overview of real education reform, rejecting what historian Diane Ravitch has called the “corporate approach that does not answer the needs of a diverse, democratic society.  In particular, Guisbond attacked high stakes testing which has dominated the debate and showed that, while disparities in test scores between whites and African-Americans have declined, disparities in test scores between poor and affluent students are increasing.

Paul Toner pointed to the role that strong unions play in superior education results, citing Massachusetts as just one example, and made a strong case for involving teachers in forward-looking reforms.  Diana Lam shared her perspective as an educational leader (superintendent of the Providence schools), and Susan Naimark provided unique insight as a parent whose activism led to several terms on the Boston School Committee.

As you might expect, there was lively discussion about testing, but also on the need to close the still substantial education achievement gap, with adequate funding and addressing systemic poverty and income inequality.

 – David Sloane

Were you at our Education Panel at the conference? Share your perspectives in the comments!

Find other presentations and information at the 2013 Conference resource page.

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“Substantial new revenue:” Do it once, do it right

Why is the Our Communities campaign focused on “substantial” new revenue? (you’ve seen it in our call scripts and messaging)

Because we do not want just another temporary fix to repair just the latest in a series of fiscal crisis. We want to re-invest in our communities, not just plug the leaks after a decade of tax cuts and budget cuts.

The Governor explained during a press conference recently:

“Though we are asking people to pay a little bit more, we are assuring people they will get a lot more,” Patrick told reporters after huddling for about an hour with more than a dozen Massachusetts business leaders and economists supportive of his plan to generate new revenue through a series of tax reforms and rate changes.

“There’s also a consensus here that the $1.9 billion we have proposed is the right number for transportation and education and we should try as much as possible to land there,” he said.

In other words, if we are to restore a decade plus of tough budget cuts, address our transportation needs and make the investments in education that we need to, we need around $2 Billion. Anything short of that will still leave services and infrastructure scrambling for funding.

Devastating Budget Cuts 

But as noted (from the same article) below, the House is set to release a much smaller proposal, which the Speaker says is slated for transportation, only.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo has committed to finding a new revenue stream to support investments in transportation and infrastructure [no education], but as spring arrives he has yet to produce a plan or settle on a revenue number that he says [will] be smaller than Patrick’s.

This smaller revenue package means those budget cuts will remain unrestored, and no investment spending on education and infrastructure. And this is why we want you to contact your legislators and give them backbone to ask for substantial new revenue, raised fairly. It is a critical moment; please call today and urge your networks to do the same. If we do it right, once and for all, we won’t need to revisit taxes again for quite a while. But if we don’t do enough, then we’ll need to keep coming back to find new revenue.

Let’s do it once; let’s do it right.

“We are unlikely as a state government to go back to the people any time soon to ask for additional tax increases. I just think this is it for a time,” said Patrick.

Quotes from: Gov. Patrick defends $1.9B price as right for new taxes - News – Quincy, MA – The Patriot Ledger – http://s.shr.lc/15x2rdc

Find out more and start organizing in your community: http://progressivemass.nationbuilder.com/campaign_for_our_communities

 

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Don’t let anti-tax conservatives steal the moment.

In an interview with The Patch,* re-freshman Senator Mike Barrett reveals that opponents to progressive new revenue to fund our communities (e.g., Act to Invest, the Governor’s Proposal) have outnumbered supporters in calls to his office: “in January we heard from 28 constituents against the Governor’s proposals and 10 in favor.” (by the way, Senator Barrett’s contact info: Phone:617-722-1572 – Fax:617-626-0898 – Mike.Barrett@masenate.gov)

Massachusetts total state and local taxes is actually less than the national average.

ACTUALLY — total state and local taxes  in MA is slightly below the national average (see Mass Budget).

We know that when people learn about what progressively raised, substantial revenue does for our communities — and the damage caused by 10+years of budget cuts – voters actually support it.

But we need to make sure that message reaches your legislators. Please, call now. Already called recently? Motivate a friend to call. We have resources and organizing help available, so reach out to tell us you’re ready to start organizing for your community.

Find your state rep and state senator

progma.us/whoismylegislator – then call!

Suggested Script:

Hi, my name is ____ from  ___.  I’m asking [legislator] to support raising substantial new revenue in a fair way to invest in our community’s many pressing needs.

Both the Governor’s revenue proposal and “An Act to Invest in our Communities” in the Legislature are examples of how we can raise substantial revenue while holding down increases for low- and middle-income families.

Will [you/the legislator] be supporting these or similar plans?

Thanks for your time [and support]!

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Let Our Voices Be Heard

It’s hard to believe that, in 2013, we have to be reminded that voting is a right, not a privilege. It’s even harder to believe that Beacon Hill may pass up an opportunity to make voting more accessible.

Right now, your legislators are considering legislation that could fundamentally change voting in Massachusetts – or, they could pass up an opportunity to revitalize our democracy in favor of the status quo.

You and I know that a healthy, vibrant democracy is one where everybody participates –and when more people vote, the progressive voice for change gets louder. That’s why we are calling on Beacon Hill to pass legislation allowing Election Day Registration (EDR) and early voting

Learn more about the issue and then sign our petition to your legislators about the importance of EDR and early voting.

Election day registration alone has been shown to increase voter participation 10 percent, and the citizens most likely to get the opportunity to vote using Election Day registration are people who recently moved, middle and low-income voters, new citizens, and young people.

Year after year, more states pass us by, currently, 32 states have some form of early voting and 8 states allow same day registration. Every year we wait, our democracy suffers.

Tell your legislators to stand up for democracy and support EDR and early voting.

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What Do Massachusetts and Kazakhstan Have In Common?

The Patrick Administration has estimated that, if current criminal justice policies are not changed dramatically, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will have to spend $2 billion over the next ten years, to build 10,000 new prison units.  We already have one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world – on par with French Guiana and Kazakhstan.  There are so few resources, and so many barriers to successful re-entry, that most prisoners released from DYS, county jails, and prison recidivate within 3 years.

Other states – including New York, Washington and Texas – have overhauled their criminal justice systems using practices that are proven effective, and so reduced their prison populations that they have closed entire prisons, saving taxpayers billions of dollars.

What reforms make sense?

Hear John Larivee of Community Resources for Justice and Cassandra BensahihEPOCA at our Policy Conference.

Register now while there is still space.

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Making Sense of Beacon Hill

Ever wonder what actually goes on at the State House –- or how your elected representatives vote on the issues you care about?

Unfortunately, much of what actually goes on is rather opaque. Each legislative session, thousands of bills are filed and assigned to a committee. But, many never have a hearing. And, committee meetings are not open to the public –- nor are committee votes recorded.

And even when a bill is not relegated to “study” –- where bills go to die -– they may never receive an up or down vote.  Leadership plays the key role in determining which legislation actually moves forward — and which dies by running out the clock.

And bills that do come up for a vote?  The vast majority are voice-voted, which means there is no roll call –- no actual record of where your particular elected official stood.

From time to time, a roll call vote is requested an elected official and leadership accedes. But most of the time, legislators say they are under tremendous pressure not to “buck leadership” and their colleagues in making such demands. And  – roll call votes are not organized in a convenient or easily accessible way.

Let’s say you learned that a roll call vote had been taken on an issue of importance to you.  How would you know how your elected official had voted?

Many online news services like Beacon Hill Roll Call report the votes from a given week –- but they don’t archive these so if you miss the vote you’re interested in, you’re out of luck.

Or, suppose someone from a neighboring district is now running for higher office and you want to know how they voted?  Well, the process of finding out is so complicated – involving several different sources in malegislature.gov that your head would spin just hearing about it

Progressive Massachusetts believes that government functions best and residents have the highest possible confidence in their representatives when the work of the legislature is fully transparent -– and easily accessible to the public.

And that is why, today, we are publishing a record of key roll call votes taken in the last legislative session (2011-2012).  And we will be tracking, compiling and publishing future roll call votes this legislative session.

Check out how your representative -– or any other representative, for that matter, actually voted:

Make your own judgment about how progressive you think they are.

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Want to VOTE in April’s US Senate Primary

The Primary, for the US Senate Special Election, is NEXT MONTH — April 30.

It is your first opportunity to vote Ed Markey for US Senate — if you are registered to vote by April 10, Wednesday.

Have you recently moved? Did you turn 18 recently? Register before April 10! 

Remember, you must be either a registered Democrat OR unenrolled/”independent” in order to vote for Ed Markey on April 30, on the Democratic primary ballot. If you are registered, say, as a Green Party member, you will NOT be able to vote on April 30 – unless you change your affiliation by April 10! 

You can download voter registration forms, print them out, and mail or drop them off to your town hall. Do it now — don’t let it slip your mind!

from MA Sec. of State: The Massachusetts Mail-In Voter Registration Form can be used to register to vote in Massachusetts, to update registration information due to a change of name, make a change of address, or to register with a political party. Note: After filling out this form, you must print it, sign it and send it to your local election official.

Download the Forms:

For registering to vote in other states, please use the National Voter Registration Form.

Interested in doing a voter registration drive? Connect with Progressive Mass!

Don’t forget to ask the high school students in your life — are they (or their friends) 18? Are they registered to vote? 

More resources at our Ed Markey campaign page:progressivemass.com/markey

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