PITTSFIELD - - On October 16th, Ben Downing, Democratic Nominee for State Senate revealed the major planks of his platform – Jobs, Education, & Healthcare. Downing, 25, a lifelong resident of Pittsfield, won the Democratic nomination on September 19th. The general election is on November 7th.
“The priorities of western Massachusetts are simple and clear. They’re based on mainstream values. Values I share.” Downing stated. “Jobs – as Senator I will work to attract and grow the jobs of a 21st century economy. Education – as Senator I will work to make our public education system second to none. Healthcare – as Senator, I will work to reduce costs, improve quality, and expand coverage.”
Downing’s specific priorities and proposals for achieving these goals are listed below.
“In the 21st century, we face a variety of challenges. Together, we can address all of them, but you need a Senator who has the Energy to Lead. In this race, I am that candidate and given the opportunity and the honor, I will be that Senator.”
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- Streamline job training efforts. Compile all workforce development grants into one pool. Allow stakeholders flexibility to respond to trends in workforce and develop employer specific programs, instead of forcing companies to fit state programs.
“To create and grow jobs, I will work to meet the needs of employers, ensure they have the workforce to expand, and facilitate their growth”
- Invest in transportation and communications infrastructure. Expand wireless and broadband service to every community in western Massachusetts. Ensure urban centers – Pittsfield and North Adams – are “connected communities,” wired for the businesses of the emerging economy. Demand Boston meet promises made when tolls were removed in late 1990s.
“As Senator I will relentlessly work to create a positive environment for business. I will promote ongoing efforts to expand wireless and broadband service, while seeking new avenues to address this persistent problem. Additionally, I will demand that Boston fund the backlog of vital transportation projects we currently have.”
- Develop public-private partnerships to increase the stock of high quality workforce housing. This housing should be located within walking distance of economic development zones or public transportation to promote smart growth and sustainable development principles.
“To recruit & retain a skilled workforce, I will promote initiatives that reinvest in our housing stock. These efforts will develop workforce housing with a combination of private and pubic funds and will be made available specifically to the employees of new business.”
- Increase incentives available to cities and towns to attract jobs from emerging industries. Give priority to workforce development proposals that are specifically aimed at emerging industries and growing clusters.
“Economic development is a competitive, team sport. The communities of western Massachusetts must have all the resources possible to leverage our built in advantages into jobs and opportunities.”
- Reduce property taxes. The best way to attract population is low property taxes, a prospering economy, and smart investments.
“The most unfair tax is the property tax. As Senator, I will work to increase aid to communities so they can keep property taxes low, provide essential services, and attract the young workforce we need for the jobs of the new technology, knowledge based-economy.”
- Implement and Support the “Berkshire Compact for Higher Education.” Stated goals of “The Compact” are (1) Make 16 years of education, or more, the norm for residents of Western Massachusetts, (2) Improve access to education, training, and lifelong learning, (3) Make western Massachusetts a competitive location of the new technology and knowledge based economy, and (4) Develop and promote a new social contract that encourages learning, earning, and civic engagement
“The Compact is a national model, which, if supported, could change the way we think and talk about education, economic development, and community. As Senator, its success will be a personal priority. That will require a commitment to funding a new science building at MCLA, to which I am wholeheartedly committed.”
- Expand early education opportunities for all. Make universal pre-Kindergarten available to all children.
“As Senator, I will support the expansion of pre-K to all. It makes sense for the child, because we raise expectations from day 1. It makes sense for the school system, because they spend less time addressing habits developed before formal schooling. And it makes sense for the taxpayer, because we save on stop-gap criminal justice, health, and welfare spending.”
- Reduce class sizes, especially in the earliest years.
“I haven’t met one teacher or parent, who isn’t concerned by the size of classes. Teachers are unable to connect with students in a meaningful manner and parents are left wondering if their child is just one among many. As your Senator, I will work to reduce class sizes by supporting efforts to recruit & retain teachers and increase funding throughout our public education system.”
- Make public higher education affordable for all through increased investment and expanded tuition tax credits.
“As Senator, I will work with the leadership of MCLA and BCC to ensure that the needs of our local students are met. I will advocate for a new science building at MCLA, to produce leaders for the technology economy, and for funds to improve infrastructure at BCC. Investing in public higher education will help stem the population loss and supply employers with the skilled workforce needed to grow the jobs and opportunities of the knowledge-based economy.”
- Ensure the successful implementation of healthcare reform. Work to find cost savings in current health care delivery system and improve quality in all areas.
“The legislature should be applauded for expanding health care coverage to hundreds of thousands who did not have it. Now the real work begins. As your Senator, I will work to ensure that the reform’s implementation is as fair, equitable, and efficient as possible.”
- Work towards single payer health care system in Massachusetts.
“While I support the newly passed health care reform, I continue to believe that the true answer to our health care crisis is a well structured and managed single payer system. Single payer removes the conflict between employment and insurance, allows for real financial accountability, and would create truly patient-centered health care.”
- Integrate information technology into the health care delivery system. Focus on efforts to find administrative efficiencies and shift from institution to patient-centered health care.
“We can take many simple, affordable steps to make our current health care system more patient centered and consumer friendly. Northern Berkshire Health’s E-Health Initiative is just one example of the truly innovative steps we can take to improve the quality of care and the patient’s experience while a part of the healthcare system.”
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“The simple fact is, that if you work hard and play by the rules, opportunities should follow. Implementing these policies and others based on the outlined principles would take important steps to ensuring that this is the case in western Massachusetts. None of these steps are easy. Their successful implementation requires a Senator who is devoted to expanding opportunity and has the Energy to Lead.”