Acton Boxborough School Committee Thursday Night

RJGreycentral-office-rjg

I just wanted to let you all know that I will be appearing before the Acton Boxborough School Committee Thursday night, February 26, at 7pm in the RJ Grey Junior High Library. We will be discussing the Chapter 70 formula, and in particular the funding assumptions regarding special education costs.

So many districts struggle with the cost of ensuring a high quality education for all students. I hope this presentation helps the Committee and the public better understand how the Commonwealth approaches school funding.

~Jen

Transportation Fix More Complicated

There’s been a lot of talk about the MBTA and our transportation system here in the Commonwealth for good reason, it has become a hardship no one should have to endure, impacting businesses and families.  The talk has now begun to focus on not necessarily solutions, but on who to blame.  The Pioneer Institute has been giving this some thought too, and although I don’t always agree with the Institute, their thoughtful response is thorough, balanced and considers both the operational and infrastructure decisions that have been made in recent history. Read it here:

http://pioneerinstitute.org/better_government/pioneer-institute-statement-on-the-mbta/

Their appraisal matches what I have been seeing and worrying about for some time.  Expanding lines and services without first fully grappling with the existing system is not an answer, it is a problem.  Governor Patrick’s funding proposal last session also focused on expansion, adding and extending lines, without first focusing on and dealing with existing issues.  The legislature has in fact been working on some of these historical issues in recent years.  First, in 2009, a reform package addressing some of the the pension system cost drivers and streamlining agencies around all of transportation and a sales tax increase dedicating new revenue to the T.  Then in 2013 the Legislature passed a bill adding $805 million in new revenue to transportation through the gas tax, tech tax and redirected fee revenues to transportation.  Well, we know how that turned out, the new taxes were repealed.  In 2014, the Legislature passed a $2.5 Billion bond bill for transportation infrastructure.  From 2009 to 2013 the MBTA’s revenue has grown, as has it’s budget.

What we still haven’t done is make up for decades of underfunding and substandard maintenance and that will take money, but it is also going to take creating a plan that reflects more than just more money and pushing for service and infrastructure expansions.  It will take a thorough assessment of needs, both operational and capital, and a larger conversation of transportation expectations for inside of 495 and the rest.  Transportation is one of the biggest and most basic things we do together, whether it is by rail or road.  It is going to take a plan that is about more than blame and increasing a line item to fix.

~Jen

Welcome to the new website!

Welcome to my new website!  I have to be honest – my website needed an update.  I wanted a way to directly reach out to you and provide more real time information.  I think this new format will allow me to do that in a seamless way, and will be easier for you to navigate and sign up for updates.

My goal has always been to be as approachable as possible, because my relationship to you is paramount.  With the addition of this blog my staff and I can reach out directly and fill you in on what is happening in Boston and the District.  Cat Bunker and Meagan Greene will also be blogging on what they are working on, whether it’s filing legislation, working with local officials or setting up briefings.  The three of us make up the 37th Middlesex District office and work for all of you.

Right now we are all working on deciding which of the 5,000+ bills that have been filed to cosponsor. We have been hearing from folks in the district on what is most important to you – thank you!  You have truly guided my decisions on what I should support.  We have until Monday to make those decisions, so keep the emails coming.  You can also search for bills by keyword, number or by filer at https://malegislature.gov/Bills/Search.

So, on this snowy day, please take a moment to check out the site.  Let us know what you would like to hear more about by emailing me at jennifer.benson@mahouse.gov, or on facebook, twitter or call 617-722-2430.  And please sign up for real time updates on the website right sidebar.

I’m looking forward to chatting soon!

Jen

Benson announces Lunenburg LAND Grant

Lunenburg Forest

LUNENBURG— Representatives Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) and Stephen DiNatale (D-Fitchburg), and Senator Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominster) announced today that the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) awarded the Town of Lunenburg a grant totaling $269, 300 through the Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity (LAND) Program.

The Town of Lunenburg will receive a LAND reimbursement for their Lane Property project. The town acquired the large wooded property to create access to existing, landlocked town forest in order to provide new outdoor recreation and forestry opportunities. The Lane Property includes over a mile of Mulpus Brook and tributaries, as well as cold water fisheries.

“This reimbursement allows Lunenburg to provide easily accessible outdoor space for residents and the region,” said Representative Benson. “By opening up properties, and providing recreational spaces we are not only protecting natural landscapes, but improving the quality of life for residents across the Commonwealth.”

“This LAND Grant will help Lunenburg to preserve our Commonwealth’s rich natural heritage for the future,” said Representative DiNatale.

“This grant will offer residents an opportunity to use and enjoy a multipurpose outdoor area, while simultaneously preserving the property. Generations to come will have the chance to enjoy the land’s natural beauty,” said Senator Flanagan.

The LAND Program was established in 1961 to assist municipal conservation commissions in acquiring land for natural resource protection and passive outdoor recreation purposes. To qualify for the reimbursement grants, communities must fund projects upfront and the protected open space must be open to the public.