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Priorities
Long-Term Priorities
 
Senator Ben Downing’s top priority is helping to create jobs and economic opportunity throughout western Massachusetts. He recognizes the role of government is to create an environment in which business can grow and prosper.  
 
Senator Downing believes state government should invest wisely in key public infrastructure: broadband; roads, bridges and rail; and public education at all grade levels while also addressing healthcare costs and transitioning to an economy built around energy efficiency and clean energy.  
 
For too long, economic prosperity in Massachusetts has been concentrated in the greater Boston area amongst upper income earners. Senator Downing believes that in order for Massachusetts to thrive opportunity has to be accessible in all corners of the Commonwealth, and government incentives, programs and services must be accessible to everyone.  Therefore, his focus is on delivering economic development incentives to Gateway Cities and their surrounding regions, and targeting assistance to the middle class and working poor.

2015-2016 Legislative Session - The Massachusetts Legislature operates on a two-year legislative cycle. The House and Senate closed formal debate at midnight on July 31st, 2016. Both branches continue to meet informally to pass matters of local importance.

Throughout the 2015-2016 session, Senator Downing was able to advance many of his top legislative priorities, including: 

Earned Income Tax Credit: Building on the progress of the previous session's minimum wage increase, Downing filed legislation to increase the state's match of the Federal EITC to help keep more money in the pockets of working families. The EITC, widely regarded as one of the most effective government programs at lifting families out of poverty, is a tax break for the lowest paid workers in the state. Downing's bill was adapted as an amendment to the Senate's Fiscal 2016 budget and eventually signed into law, in part, raising the state's match by 50%.

Solar Net Metering:
A conference committee led by Downing in the Senate crafted a compromise bill which increased the private and public net metering caps by 3% each and established a new net metering credit value of 60% of full retail for projects installed after the state reaches its established goal of 1600MW of solar capacity, while grandfathering existing projects at the original rate for 25 years.

Renewable Energy Procurement:
Conference committee negotiations resulted in a bill that directs utilities to procure 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind and about 1,200 megawatts of clean energy generation which can be from hydropower generation, new Class I RPS eligible resources, or both. Additionally, the legislation requires the Department of Energy Resources to consider setting appropriate targets for electric distribution companies to procure cost-effective energy storage systems to be achieved by Jan. 1, 2020.

Transgender Equal Rights: Finishing the job of the Transgender Anti-Discrimination legislation Downing filed in 2010, the legislature enacted a bill to ensure the rights of transgender individuals in public acomodations.


 

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