February 2015
Vol 10 Issue 1
denise in garden
Denise Provost
Somerville Stateside
Contact Information

Representative Denise Provost
State House, Room 473B
Boston, MA 02133


Office phone number is: 617-722-2263

Fax number is: 617-722-2837  

Email address is: denise.provost@mahouse.gov.  


I look forward to hearing from you.  



Please spread the word about what's going on in state government and in Somerville - forward this newsletter to a friend, colleague, or neighbor.

Staff Change  


If you haven't been in touch with my office lately, you may not yet know that I have a new legislative aide. The able and amiable Jordan Neerhof can be reached at jordan.neerhof@mahouse.gov 


Contact him at 617-722-2263 for information, constituent services, or other matters.


In This Issue
Staff Change
Term Limits for the Speaker
Governor's Budget Cuts
Alternatives for a Balanced Budget
More MBTA News and Analysis
Events and Activities
Job Opportunities
Quick Links
Join our Mailing List!

House Rules - Term Limits for the Speaker

 Some of you have asked me how I voted. If you haven't, you probably don't know; I don't think the vote has been widely reported. So, here it is: I was one of eleven Democrats who voted, on January 29 of this year, to keep the 8 year term limit for Speaker of the House.


All the Republicans voted for the 8 year term limit, too, but I wonder about their motives. The Minority Leader has no term limit, and the gentleman in that position has had it since 2002, and was just re-elected to it. Oh, the ins and outs of State House politics.


The Governor's Budget Cuts - Transportation on the Chopping Block

 As many readers know, Massachusetts has been facing a large - if somewhat indeterminate - budget deficit. Problems with the Health Connector website, the cost of health care (including MassHealth and state-subsidized insurance for low income people), and certain shortfalls in fees and grants have all contributed to the red ink. Unlike the federal government, our state can't operate in deficit, but must balance its budget.

Governor Baker is authorized by law to make certain unilateral cuts to balance the budget (called "9C cuts", after the applicable section of law).  These are mid-year cuts, for our current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2015 (Governor Baker has not yet offered a proposed budget for FY 2016.) other proposed cuts for FY 2015 had to come to the legislature for approval.

When Governor Baker's budget cut bill came before the House, on January, I voted against it. Among its damaging cuts a $14 million reduction to the MBTA budget. Even after only one blizzard (at that point), I could not approve of cutting the MBTA, the nation's oldest transit system, with its legacy of debt and its unrealistic, inadequate funding formula.

Three snowstorms later, I feel even more confident that I took the right vote.


Alternatives for a Balanced Budget

While Governor Baker was cutting services, another little-noticed cut was taking place. An 'automatic' decrease in the income tax rate, by .05%, came into effect on Jan. 1 of this year. Is it a small cut? Well, it's going to save my family a whopping $22.50 this year.


But its aggregate effect has been to wipe out $70 million in revenues for this second half of FY 2015 - at the same time that we're cutting services to the bone. So, I filed an amendment to the budget cut bill, to restore the income tax rate that we were paying in the first half of this fiscal year. Sadly, my amendment was ruled beyond the scope of the bill before us.


Gov. Baker says Massachusetts doesn't have a revenue problem, but a spending problem. That's not what I'm hearing from constituents - quite the opposite. No one has contacted me to say how great it will be to have an additional $25 (or so) to spend this year. These mid-year spending cuts, coinciding with the cut in the income tax rate, remind me of 18th century medicine - we're applying leeches to a bleeding patient.


More MBTA News and Analysis

 The good news first: on February 18, the MBTA and MassDOT released their service restoration plan, which is expected to include re-opened the "B" line on the Green Line, and Quincy service on the Red Line by Monday. MBTA stresses that reduced train counts, due to our brutal winter storms, will result in longer wait times and crowding in the short term. For a complete timeline of service restoration, visit: www.mbta.com/winter/


Reflecting on our recent transit woes, I've been remembering that in November, 2014, the Somerville Chamber of Commerce presented MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott with an achievement award for her work.  On January 5, 2015, Dr. Scott came to Somerville to celebrate a federal New Starts grant of $1 billion, given for the Green Line Extension (GLX) project - a grant made possible, in part, by the gas tax increase which some of us in the legislature had long been fighting for, and finally won in 2013. I started to think that maybe my big transit funding battles were over.


In the last week, though, I've received scores of emails complaining about how poorly our state has done in providing for decent transportation infrastructure. I've heard Governor Baker - among others - blame Dr. Scott, and the MBTA in general, for recent breakdowns in service. The suggested responses have ranged from the cautious (study the problem) to the draconian (place MBTA in receivership; reorganize it to put it under the direct control of Governor Baker.)


There's been a lot of interesting discussion outside state government. For a sampling this recent issue of Commonwealth Magazine is devoted to the subject of MBTA, its funding, and its future:



For those interested in learning more about the roots of the MBTA's woes, the group Transportation for Massachusetts (T4MA) has released a useful set of primers:

  1. Maxed Out - A 2011 report reviews years of underfunding transportation, and makes recommendations; arguing that, with its burden of debt, the system "lacks the revenue to maintain its current condition, let alone meet future needs.
  2. The Next MassDOT -This January 2015 report was written for the incoming Baker administration to use in managing our state's transportation system to promote economic growth. It recommends continuing reforms and efficiencies; expanding  transportation choices, and closing the funding gap.
  3. Keeping on Track - Released last week, this report tracks the results of the Transportation Finance Act of 2013, concluding that, despite improvements, the revenue raised is still not sufficient to meet transportation needs and support our economy.
Events & Activities

In Somerville, there are a variety of events scheduled next week to consider the city's proposed new zoning, the future of Union Square, and the redesign of Lincoln Park. The City of Somerville website should have the specifics.


For those of us still smarting over last fall's casino referendum, the Emerson College will host a panel discussion, with national political experts on Monday, February 23, (6:00-8:00 pm) in the Charles Beard Room (80 Boylston St., Boston). There will be stimulating postmortem on Question 3, the statewide ballot referendum to repeal the Massachusetts Gaming laws. For more information about this Emerson College Communication Studies event, please contact Owen Eagan at owen_eagan@emerson.edu


On Wednesday, March 4th at 7:00 PM, a Design Public Hearing will be held by MassDOT to discuss the proposed improvements project under the "Safe Routes to School" program for Somerville's Healey School, in its Cafeteria (5 Meacham Street, Somerville, MA.) Under review are proposed pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements. If you have any questions, contact the Project Manager, David Shedd, at 857-368-9329 or by email at David.Shedd@state.ma.us


On Wednesday, April 1st, the Mystic River Watershed Association will launch their fourth annual Herring Monitoring Program. The data collected through his volunteer program is used to estimate the total herring run size in the Mystic River and is shared with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries to help inform trends across the State. Volunteer herring monitors are needed to count fish for a ten minute slot at the DCR Upper Mystic Lake Dam in Medford. Training will be held on Saturday, March 21st from 10am until noon at the Medford Boat Club. All herring monitors MUST REGISTER for this training (if you can't make it on March 21st they will find another date to train you. If you have participated as a herring monitor in the past and would like to participate again in 2015 please register as well.) See link for more details.


Save this date! The Maple Syrup Boil Down Festival will be Saturday, March 7th, from 10-2pm at the Community Growing Center (22 Vinal Avenue.) The Boil Down is a yearly event for the Maple Syrup Project; locally tapped maple sap is boiled on a brick. Celebrate urban agriculture with live music, taste tests, prizes, and more. If you are interested in being a volunteer at the Boil Down, email kalimah@groundworksomerville.org for more information!


Job Opportunities

There will be a Municipal Service Police Officer and MBTA Transit Police Officer examination held on Saturday, April 25, 2015.  Click on the link to the Examination Announcement for a detailed description of the application procedures and specific minimum entrance requirements. Applicants can apply on-line at: www.mass.gov/civilservice.


If you have any questions please contact Ken Gavin at (617) 878-9750 or kgavin@hrd.state.ma.us.