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Cities, towns reach for fiscal tools

Help communities help themselves

May 7, 2009
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ACROSS MASSACHUSETTS, it's the same miserable exercise: Communities are planning deep cuts to core services. Teachers, public safety personnel, and basic infrastructure maintenance are all at risk.

This is the reality of fiscal crises, and as a municipal official, I understand that. Local budgets rely heavily on aid from the state, and the state is in crisis too. And though I don't agree that massive local aid cuts are the right way to address the state's shortfall, I do understand that bad circumstances require tough choices.

But I don't understand why our Legislature refuses to let communities help ourselves. I don't understand why legislators won't support a local-option meals tax, or an increase to the local-option lodging tax, which would allow each city and town to decide whether these are appropriate.

I don't understand why legislators won't give municipal governments the same freedom as state government to design cost-saving healthcare plans.

I don't understand why our state legislators won't give us the tools we need to raise and save vital funds that would reduce our core service losses. And I don't understand how they will justify that at reelection time.

Stephanie O'Keeffe
Select board chairwoman
Amherst

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