Andi Mullin is the Director of the Campaign for Our Communities. Previously, Andi was the Director of Legislation and Governmental Affairs at the Massachusetts Nurses Association, a labor union and professional association representing 23,000 nurses and health care professionals across Massachusetts. At the MNA, Andi successfully designed and implemented a legislative and communications campaign focused on reducing violence against nurses and other hospital workers. That campaign resulted in the passage of a bill in 2010 that increased penalties for those convicted of such assaults. Andi also served on the Steering Committee of the successful NO on Question 1 (2006) and NO on Question 3 (2008) ballot campaigns, which defeated two different anti-tax measures.
Prior to her work at the MNA, Andi was the Legislative Agent for AFSCME Council 93, a labor union representing 35,000 public sector employees throughout Massachusetts and northern New England. In that position, she chaired the 2002 Stop the Cuts Coalition, which helped to pass a $1.2 billion progressive tax package that included a provision that increased taxes on capital gains. She also chaired a coalition of public sector unions that fought a package of anti-union legislation pushed by then newly-elected Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. That coalition successfully defeated each of then-Governor Romney's proposals.
Andi can be reached at Andi@ourcommunities.org, or at 617/878-8316.
Postings by: Andi
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Over the last several weeks, Massachusetts voters have sent in almost 10,000 postcards to their elected officials calling for raising substantial new revenue to invest in education and transportation. Click the below links to see what these voters have mailed to their legislators.
Have you called your legislator yet to express your support for new revenue? Call your legislator TODAY and tell them that you support raising substantial new revenue a way that protects low - and middle-income families and seniors from big increases! Call 617/722-2000 and ask for your legislator by name.
Click here to see a letter from Massachusetts Economists'
This Boston Globe article, which ran in Saturday's business section, does an excellent job of describing exactly how state and local budget cuts slow down the economy. The article talks about Billy's Cafe in Fall River, a restaurant popular with the city's police officers. But since 2000, Fall River has lost more than $18 million in local aid annually, and in 2009 the city was forced to lay off 25% of its police officers. Billy's Cafe, in turn, lost much of its repeat business and the restaurant is now closing on December 31st.
Last Monday evening (November 12th) I started noticing all these Facebook posts from my friends in Worcester claiming that they had no water. It seemed unlikely to me that everyone I knew in Worcester was without water, but as it turns out, that was precisely the case. A 30-inch water main broke on Monday afternoon and the city was forced to shut off the water to the entire community.
In the midst of the big national story on Tuesday's election results, there is a much more local - and revealing - story that played itself out in races for the Massachusetts state legislature. You may recall that I wrote in this space after the primary election in September about the victory of Democrat Mary Keefe in the 15th Worcester district. Keefe ran in a hotly contested primary election for an open House seat as an unapologetic supporter of "An Act to Invest in Our Communities," which would raise $1.4 billion in new revenue in a way that holds down increases for low- and middle-income families. Despite being attacked relentlessly by every other candidate in the race, Keefe won her primary by 9 points.
When I woke up yesterday morning my power was out, so I called NStar from my bed to report it. An actual human being answered the phone. I am not kidding - a real person, with a Boston accent! I was so astonished I almost fell out of bed.
The Boston Globe reports today that Newton Mayor Setti Warren is proposing an $11.4 million tax increase for the city of Newton. Warren says the money is needed to build a new fire station, fix streets and sidewalks, and hire more teachers and police officers. Voters in Newton will be faced with a choice between increasing their property taxes to pay for basic services or absorbing dramatic cuts to education, infrastructure and public safety.
The Vision Project is an undertaking of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. Its goal is to achieve national leadership in public higher education, and their newly-released report is chock-full of fascinating data. In addition, they've created a pretty snazzy video about the importance of public higher education to the Commonwealth's economic future.
One of the exciting stories to come out of the Massachusetts primary election last week was the victory of Mary Keefe (pictured at right) in the 15th Worcester district. This was a hotly contested primary election to replace former Representative Vincent Pedone, with five Democrats vying for the nomination. Of those five only one, Mary Keefe, ran as an unapologetic supporter of "An Act to Invest in Our Communities," which would raise $1.4 billion in new revenue in a way that holds down increases for low- and middle-income families.
I imagine many of you watching Governor Deval Patrick's speech at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night felt as I did - full of pride at all we've accomplished in Massachusetts. The Governor was right to talk about how we've invested in our communities and our residents, and we have the results to show for it, including the best public schools in the nation.
Back in April I wrote about a plan at some public California colleges to charge students a premium over and above their tuition and fees to get into the specific courses they need to graduate. Now word comes courtesy of the New York Times of an equally crazy California financing scheme, this time for K-12 education. While it is perfectly normal for school districts to issue bonds - in other words, borrow money - to build new schools, what's happening in California is anything but normal. Some districts are borrowing on terms that allow them to avoid paying back any portion of the loan for at least 20 years, but they're paying huge interest rates for that delay. For example, the Poway Unified District in San Diego County borrowed $105 million in 2011. They won't have to start paying back that debt until 2033, but by the time they're finished paying it off, they will have paid $877 million in interest on that loan! This makes some of the variable rate mortgages taken out by individuals during the housing boom look like great deals!
On August 14th, the Lee, MA School Committee passed a resolution in support of raising new revenue to invest in our communities. School Committee member Kathy Hall was the lead sponsor of the resolution, which passed 5-1. Since 2008, Lee has lost 36% of its general local aid, aid that could have been used for critical local services like police, fire, libraries and road repair. Lee resident Neil Clarke spearheaded the effort to talk with the School Committee about alternatives to continued budget cuts. Congratulations both to Neil and to the Lee School Committee!
There is a lot of talk these days about tax fairness, about progressive taxes and regressive taxes. What does this all mean, and how do these issues affect Massachusetts?
That definition of insanity has become a cliché, but it is all that comes to mind when I hear from supposedly learned and thoughtful people that what Massachusetts needs is MORE tax cuts!
Even as it seems like Massachusetts and other states are limping out of the recession and moving toward fiscally healthier budgets, a new report paints a much more pessimistic view of the financial challenges facing states. The report, covered in this New York Times story, looked specifically at six large states other than Massachusetts, but the challenges facing those six states sound awfully familiar.
For very good reasons, folks are talking these days about Massachusetts' transportation funding crisis. But don't be fooled. While transportation is the funding crisis of the moment, there are a wide variety of other areas of state spending that are also approaching a crisis point.
Think that tax cuts will save you money? Think again. Tax cuts result in state budget cuts, which will actually result in higher costs for you. How does this work? Let's start by looking at public higher education in Massachusetts.
Ever wonder what "budget cuts" to a city or town really mean? A recent article in the Springfield Republican helps to clarify. Here is a list of the cuts to services that Springfield, MA will have to implement this year to balance their budget:
On June 19th, the Natick Board of Selectmen passed a resolution in support of raising new revenue to invest in our communities. The resolution was sponsored by Chairman Paul Joseph and Selectman Joshua Ostruff. Since 2008, Natick has lost over $1.8 million in general local aid, aid that could have been used for critical local services like police, fire, libraries and road repair. Natick resident and Progressive Mass activist Betsy Boggia spearheaded the effort in Natick. Congratulations both to Betsy and to the Natick Board of Selectmen!
On Thursday, June 14th the School Committee of the Town of Stoneham unanimously passed a resolution calling on the state legislature and Governor to support legislation that would raise significant new revenue for locally-provided services while doing so in a way that would protect low- and middle-income families and seniors from big increases. The School Committee joined the Board of Selectmen in Stoneham, which had passed a similar resolution just two days earlier.
Stoneham has lost almost $1.8 million - or 36% - of their local aid over the last four years due to state budget cuts. This has obviously hurt services throughout Stoneham - including the schools. We need to raise new revenue and invest in our communities if Massachusetts is to remain a great place to live, work and raise a family. Congratulations to the Stone School Committee for recognizing that!
On June 12 the Stoneham Board of Selectman voted 4-0 with one abstention to pass a resolution calling on the Governor and the State Legislature to support tax reform that raises substantial new revenue while protecting low- and middle-income families and seniors from big increases. It's not surprising that Stoneham's local elected officials support new revenue. Over the past four years, Stoneham has lost almost $1.8 million - or 36% - of their local aid funding. For a small community like Stoneham, that kind of cut is devastating.
The resolution was sponsored by Stoneham Selectman Richard Gregorio, while Stoneham resident and activist Martha Panther Buckley organized a group of residents in support of the resolution. The Campaign for Our Communities congratulates both the Stoneham Board of Selectmen and Martha Panther Buckley for their commitment to making sure that Stoneham remains a great place to live, work and raise a family!
Today, the Springfield Republican reports that the City of Springfield has been forced to lay off 11 City employees and will also stop collecting trash at all multi-family apartment complexes and commercial properties. There are no details on the 11 workers losing their jobs - who they are, where they work, or what the impact will be on city services. We can easily imagine, however, the immediate impact on these workers - loss of income and health insurance for themselves and their families, along with terrible anxiety about the future. I think we can all agree that there is no scenario in which MORE unemployment is good for Springfield.
As for trash collection, large apartment complexes and businesses will now have to foot the bill themselves for hauling away the rubbish. These costs will, of course, be passed along to the tenants in the apartment buildings and to the customers of the businesses. This is also not good for Springfield's residents or the City's economy.
Why is this happening? Because over the past four years, Springfield has lost over $23 million - or 40% - of its local aid. The beleaguered Springfield City Council is just making the best decisions it can given the lousy hand of cards it's been dealt.
Two days ago I wrote about the Worcester City Council's struggle to find additional monies so as to avoid having 91 elementary school classes with over 25 students. Both the Worcester and Springfield City Councils have passed resolutions calling on the state legislature and the Governor to pass legislation that raises substantial new revenue so that they can stop having to make these terrible choices. That's a step in the right direction.
But it looks like it's not going to happen quickly enough to help the 11 workers who are about to lose their jobs, or the tenants whose rent is going up to pay for trash collection, or the Worcester children who are going to have to compete with 27 or 28 other students for their teacher's attention.
We need to invest in cities like Springfield and Worcester if they are to be great places to live with vibrant economies. We need to invest in all of our communities if Massachusetts is to remain economically competitive. These relentless budget cuts only hurt us all.
It's no wonder that on May 15th the Worcester City Council passed a resolution in support of raising substantial new state revenue to invest in our communities. According to a recent article, the City Council is desperately trying to find some additional money to reduce the number of elementary school classrooms with more than 25 students. Without more funding, there will be 91 elementary school classes in Worcester next year with 26-29 students.
These are the difficult choices that municipal officials are grappling with as aid to local communities has been cut year after year. Worcester - and every other city and town in the state - needs good schools to thrive. But more than that, the entire Massachusetts economy needs good schools. It's clear that our economic future lies in a well-educated workforce. That's what makes growing, vibrant companies that provide good jobs want to set up shop here. Massachusetts is incredibly well positioned to take advantage of this economic reality, but not if we are going to continue to cut locally-provided services like education.
I hope the Worcester City Council finds some money to lower some of those class sizes next year. But more than that, I hope that other communities join Worcester in recognizing that the real solution to the problem is new state revenue.
On May 22nd the Lynn City Council passed a resolution calling for the Governor and the State Legislature to support tax reform that raises substantial new revenue while protecting low- and middle-income families and seniors from big increases. The Mass Senior Action Council led the charge to organize in Lynn, advocated for the resolution with City Councilors, and attended the hearing to show support (see picture at right).
On May 15th both the Lawrence and Worcester City Councils passed resolutions calling for the Governor and the State Legislature to support tax reform that raises substantial new revenue while protecting low- and middle-income families and seniors from big increases.
I remember the six months leading up to my 16th birthday. I absolutely could not wait to get my driver's license - I was beside myself with excitement. I think I woke my dad up at 6:00 a.m. that May 26th and tormented him mercilessly until he took me to the RMV to take my written test. Once I had the permit, the true harassment of my poor father really began. Every day after school, every weekend, there I was asking, "Can we go driving Dad, can we?!" After I finished driver's ed at school, I nagged endlessly until he took me for my road test. As I recall, we just showed up the day I was ready for my road test. I think we waited 15 minutes for an examiner once we got there, as there were numerous other long-suffering parents with eager 16 year olds who had also arrived at the crack of dawn.
This story is brought to us by Sondra Peskoe (pictured at right) from the Massachusetts Policy and Organizing Leadership Academy and ONE Massachusetts.
On April 23rd, the Brockton City Council unanimously passed a resolution asking the Governor and state legislature to consider implementing tax reform legislation that raises significant new revenue while protecting low and middle-income families and seniors from big increases. Such revenue is needed to invest in the locally-provided services that are so important to a city like Brockton.
The resolution was sponsored by Councilor Robert Sullivan (pictured at right). Members of the coalition supporting the Campaign for Our Communities have been talking with Brockton City Councilors about this important initiative for several weeks. The Coalition for Social Justice took the lead in Brockton and received critical support from members of the Brockton Education Association (an MTA affiliate), the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, and SEIU Local 888.
Congratulations to all of those who worked so hard on this effort, and congratulations to the members of the Brockton City Council, who clearly understand the need for more revenue to invest in our communities!
Next week, the Massachusetts House of Representatives will debate the state's FY'13 budget. The House Ways & Means proposal, which was released last week, will serve as the blueprint for next week's debate. Already, many legislators and advocates are distraught about a cut in funding to anti-gang initiatives. (Read about these cuts here).
I am reminded of similar expressions of dismay in February, right after Governor Deval Patrick released his budget. The Governor fully funded the anti-gang initiatives, but cut $1.5 million from a program that provided hot meals to low-income seniors. (I wrote about that funding cut here). The House Ways & Means budget restored funding for the meals program, but then cut the anti-gang initiatives.
What's going on here? It would be easy to conclude that the Governor doesn't care about seniors and the House leadership doesn't care about young people, but nothing could be further from the truth. Governor Patrick, House Speaker Bob DeLeo and Senate President Terry Murray all care deeply about these programs.
The real problem is that our political leaders are being forced into these impossible choices because of the state's chronic revenue deficit. The state is simply not raising enough revenue to support the kinds of programs that make our communities safe and prosperous places to live. Until we address that revenue deficit, we will continue to face these kinds of unworkable choices. We should not be pitting young people against seniors, or hot meals against youth programming.
There is an alternative to this madness! We need to raise significant new revenue to invest in our communities, and we need to do so in a way that protects low and middle income families and seniors from big increases. That's a lot more sensible than the choices we are being forced to make now.
On April 9th the Arlington Board of Selectmen voted unanimously in support of a resolution that calls on the Governor and State Legislature to ". . . improve the quality of life of Massachusetts residents by passing legislation that raises substantial new revenue while holding down increases for low and middle income individuals and families." The Arlington resolution correctly points out that the less aid the Town of Arlington gets from the state, the more the town has raise property taxes to fund the schools, the public library, the infrastructure maintenance and all of the other services that make Arlington such a wonderful community.
Brought to the attention of the Selectmen by Arlington resident Michael Brown, the resolution was sponsored by Board of Selectmen Chair Clarissa Rowe (pictured at right). Arlington is just the latest community to call on the state legislature and the Governor to invest in our communities. Congratulations to this forward-thinking Board of Selectmen!
NPR's Morning Edition did a story today about Santa Monica College, a community college in Santa Monica, CA. Since 2008, the College has been forced to eliminate over 1,000 classes in basic subjects like English and Math because of state budget cuts. The College's proposed solution? So-called "self funded" classes, or classes that the College will offer at quadruple the price of the regular community college classes! The students at Santa Monica College are fighting this plan, and it's not even clear that it is legal under CA law, but the reality is that this is what it has come to for public higher education in California. It's easy to be outraged at an administration that has come up with this crazy scheme, but it's also important to recognize that these college administrators have few viable options remaining.
Think this can't happen in Massachusetts? Think again. Over the last 11 years, state aid to public higher education in the Commonwealth has been cut by 32%. Everyone agrees that keeping higher education within reach of our residents is the only way to strengthen our economy and to prepare our workforce for the jobs of the future. And yet year after year the Governor and legislature are forced to cut public higher education because of inadequate revenue.
If we want to avoid wacky solutions like the one proposed by Santa Monica College, we must invest in higher education and in our communities. We cannot cut our way to greatness.
On March 28th, the Boston City Council unanimously passed a resolution asking the Governor and state legislature to implement tax reform that raises significant new revenue while protecting low and middle-income families and seniors from big increases. Such revenue is needed to invest in the locally-provided services that make Boston a world class city.
The week of March 19th was a big week for the Campaign for our Communities! On the 19th, the Cambridge and Springfield City Councils each voted unanimously in favor of resolutions supporting raising revenue to invest in our communities, and on March 22nd, the New Bedford City Council did the same.
In April of 2011, the Easthampton City Council passed a resolution supporting "An Act to Invest in Our Communities," the model legislation endorsed by the Campaign for our Communities (see story here). "An Act to Invest" would raise $1.4 billion for state and local services in Massachusetts, and do so in a way that holds down tax increases for low and middle income families.
It's not hard to see why Easthampton so clearly understands the need for more state revenue for the local services that we all depend upon. In just one example of the effect of budget cuts, Easthampton has had to close their City Hall on Fridays because they can longer afford to keep it open. Local aid to Easthampton has been cut by over $1.3 million - or 36% - over the last four years. Small cities like Easthampton really feel the impact of the Commonwealth's ongoing revenue deficit. City Councilor Andrea Burns (pictured at right), who sponsored the resolution, starkly laid out the alternatives to "An Act to Invest in Our Communities" - raising property taxes, or even further cutting local services. "An Act to Invest" provides a much more sensible option.
Congratulations to Councilor Andrea Burns and to the Easthampton City Council for being so ahead of the curve!
On February 29th the Campaign for Our Communities held its first Endorsers meeting of 2012. Dozens of organizations supporting the Campaign attended and learned about our campaign plan, heard about the Campaign's messaging, and honed their skills at municipal lobbying. The Campaign gets bigger every week as more and more organizations and individuals in Massachusetts realize that we must invest in our communities if we are to have a strong economy and a good quality of life for our residents. Thanks to all who attended!
To get involved in the campaign please contact Andi Mullin, Campaign Director, at Andi@ourcommunities.org or at 617/878-8316.
On February 13th, the Fall River City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting more investment in our communities! Sponsored by Councilor Eric Poulin, the resolution outlined the need for the Commonwealth to raise more revenue to support critical services in Fall River, services that enhance the quality of life for all of Fall River's residents.
Last month, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick released a proposed FY'13 budget that included a $1.5 million cut to a program that provides hot meals to low-income senior citizens (read about this here).
Have we really stooped to taking food out of the mouths of our older citizens?
Sadly, these are precisely the kinds of terrible choices that are being forced on Governor Patrick and the state legislature by the state's persistent revenue deficit. The Administration itself calls this a "hard choice among bad choices." The final state budget may end up reversing this cut, but that only means some other critical program will end up on the chopping block.
We can do better than this. We can raise enough revenue so that we can live in the kind of state in which we all want to live, one where we take care of vulnerable people, where we support a vibrant economy, and where we invest in our communities.
In a press conference this week, Senate President Terry Murray admitted that there had to be some kind of long-term funding solution for the T, beyond the drastic fare increases and service reductions that are presently on the table.
House Speaker Bob DeLeo, in an interview with WCVB's "On the Road" which is scheduled to air on Sunday morning, acknowledged that the T has a long term funding problem that the legislature will have to address, if not this year, then next year.
Boston Mayor Tom Menino sent a letter to the state legislature, calling draconian fare hikes and service cuts only a "one year band aid" solution. Despite how painful the T's proposals to increase fares and reduce services are, the Mayor correctly points out that they will resolve the problem for only one year! Next year, the T will be back in the same situation!
They are all exactly right.
And it's not just about the T. It's about the entire Commonwealth, from transportation to human services, from K-12 education to higher education, from aid to local communities to funding for state hospitals. We need a long term solution to this chronic revenue deficit that is decreasing our quality of life and hampering our economic recovery. We need tax reform that raises significant revenue, but does so in a way that protects lower and middle income people.
The CFOC is kicking into high gear and we want to bring you up to date on our latest tactics as well as our long term plans. At this meeting, we will provide information about how you and your organization can plug in and move the campaign forward in your local community. Please don't miss this important meeting!
The potential closure of Taunton State is a tragedy born of inadequate state revenues. Over the past twenty years, inpatient services for the mentally ill have become more and more scarce. The private sector has closed down these services because they're not profitable, and now the state is closing these services because of inadequate revenue.
The good folks of Taunton and the surrounding communities had the right idea in showing up at this event to support this hospital. They know that closing this facility is bad for patients, bad for the local economy, and bad for their community.
The painful truth is that until the state raises more revenue - and does so in a way that holds down increases for low and middle income families - the shut down of state services like Taunton Hospital will only become more and more common.
Reading the MBTA's information booklet on the proposed fare increases and service reductions is incredibly enlightening. Specifically, looking at Page 5 of the report highlights what the T calls the "chronic underperformance" of the sales tax.
When the T was put on the now-infamous "forward funding" program in 2000, it was guaranteed 20% of state sales tax revenues. That sounds pretty good, right? The problem is that sales tax revenues have not grown at even the most pessimistic levels that were projected back in 2000. Thus began a built-in annual revenue deficit at the T that started at $21 million in 2004 and has grown to $100 million in 2011. That revenue deficit represents over 50% of the total deficit the T is facing in 2013. In other words, inadequate revenue is what is forcing the T to offer these draconian fare increases and service cuts. Take a look at Page 5 of the T's information booklet for yourself here.
Like the rest of state government, the problem the T is facing is a revenue problem. Raising revenue is the only real alternative to service cuts and fare increases that harm all of us and hamper our economic recovery.
Just a few hours ago the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health announced the closure of Taunton State Hospital. Taunton State is one of the few public hospitals left in the Commonwealth that serves severely mentally ill people. Those patients will now have to travel to Worcester to the new facility being built there to get services. While I have no doubt that the new facility will be great, it is terrible to tell very sick people that they must travel two hours, away from whatever support system they might have, to get treatment.
The worst part is, I am sure that no one in the Patrick administration actually wants to close these services for the mentally ill. Everyone knows that there is a chronic shortage of services for psychiatric patients across the Commonwealth, and the loss of this hospital just adds to that crisis. The problem is, the state has no money to operate these facilities.
We all have a stake in making sure that mentally ill people get the services they need. We need to raise the revenue we need so we can meet that goal.
This distressing reality is discussed in a report recently released by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. The report includes a great explanation of what Local Aid is in Massachusetts, and what critical services it pays for. It even includes an interactive tool that lets you look at how much general local aid has been cut in your community.
As the report makes clear, these cuts are in large part due to a series of tax cuts in the 1990s and 2000s. And while the economy seems to be slowly growing, and that growth will help, it will probably not stop the cuts, and it certainly won't allow us to restore the huge cuts over the past several years. We need to invest in our communities, not cut their funding. We can only do that with new revenue.
Take a look at this great report.
Greetings! My name is Andi Mullin, and I am delighted to announce that on January 2nd, I started work as the Campaign Director for the Coalition for Our Communities! Many of you know me, but for those of you who don't, over the past ten years I have worked for two different labor unions, first for AFSCME Council 93 and for the past five years or so for the Massachusetts Nurses Association. In 2002 I chaired the Stop the Cuts Coalition, which helped insure that the 2002 tax increase included a provision that increased the taxes on capital gains, a provision that primarily affected the state's highest income earners. At the MNA, I sat on the Steering Committee of the successful No on Question 1 (2006) and No on Question 3 (2008) campaigns. I am excited about this new project, and look forward to working with all of you to insure that Massachusetts remains a great place to live and work.
I can be reached at 617/878-8316, or at Andi@ourcommunities.org. Please be sure to sign up to support the campaign, and do not hesitate to contact me. Please stay tuned to this site in the coming weeks for updates on our efforts to insure that Massachusetts continues to invest in its communities!