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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Nuciforo Pledges To Remain A Working Senator

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Saturday, March 25, 2006

State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. will not seek reelection to the state Senate. [Photo by Susan Bush]
Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. [D-Pittsfield] pledged to continue working vigorously for the constituency he represents during the remainder of his elected term.

Nuciforo announced on March 18 that he will not seek a sixth term as state senator; speaking on March 24, he emphasized that his present term hasn't ended nor has his commitment to the Berkshire region and Franklin and Hampshire county residents he serves.

Health Care Reform

He vowed to fight aggressively for state health care reform. The state House of Representatives and the Senate each passed separate, competing versions of a state health care reform bill; the time has come for state legislators to work together and produce one bill that delivers genuine reform, Nuciforo said.

Work to that end is ongoing, and Nuciforo said he believes both sides are capable of crafting a mutually acceptable reform package.

Employers and individuals have a stake in, and a responsibility to, health care, he said.

"I hope that a bill includes that employers contribute in some way to the health care of employees," Nuciforo said.

Steps should be in place requiring uninsured persons with financial capabilities to contribute to any care provided by hospitals.And employee access to employer-offered health care must be improved, he said.

State programs offered via MassHealth are available to assist qualified families and individuals with health care, and the federal Medicare program is available to those who are age 65 or older, he noted.

In Massachusetts, about seven percent of the population - about 500,000 citizens - are without health care coverage, Nuciforo said.

Among the reasons for the lack of coverage are employer-offered plans that are out of the financial reach of company employees, companies that do not offer health care plans to part-time workers, and companies that do not offer any employee health care benefits, he said.

Workers who toil at low-wage jobs are among those who are the most disadvantaged by the current situation.

"In this state, we have some large companies, Wal-Mart included, that have created health care programs that are inaccessible to the employees," he said. "I am committed to changing that."

Nuciforo said that some companies force employees to work for one year before allowing enrollment in a company-offered health care plan.

"In many cases, employees don't stick around that long," he said. "They can't afford to."

Companies may limit health care benefits to full-time employees, then build a workforce of employees who are regularly scheduled to work shifts that are designed to remain just under what would be considered full-time work hours.

Those working at companies paying low wages and offering no health care benefits or limited, over-priced benefits often move from job to job with hopes of securing a position offering a health care plan and wages enough to make the plan financially feasible.

"We have people bouncing around, seeking good health coverage and good wages," Nuciforo said. "For many people, a paycheck is important, but it can be secondary to health insurance."

Employee health care expenses can mean that paychecks are significantly reduced due to employee contribution costs, Nuciforo said. He agreed that households hosting two "breadwinners" often find one person working for a paycheck while the other individual works to maintain family health care coverage.

Chapter 70 Funds

Working to restore state Chapter 70 funding to regional school districts ravaged by previous state funding cuts is another priority, Nuciforo said.

"Many regional school districts have suffered because of losses of Chapter 70 state aid and we are hoping to see a reversal of that," he said.

The revenue reductions are partly due to the state's funding formula and partly due to stagnant or declining enrollment in the districts. Among those districts that have been hard hit are the Central Berkshire, Mount Greylock, and Adams-Cheshire Regional school districts, Nuciforo said.

Changes in the state funding formula could ease the financial situation.

"We're hoping to monkey around with the formula and change that [financial losses]," he said.

The Chapter 70 issue affects regional school districts across the state. The state's overall financial picture is improving and regional school districts should be among the beneficiaries of those improvements, Nuciforo said.

State Revenue Collections Improve State Financial Picture

State revenue collections for Fiscal Year 2006 are currently at about $11.2 billion, an increase of 8.5 percent or $879 million over FY 2005 revenue collections, according to information posted at the state's Department of Revenue Internet web site.

During December 2005 and January 2006, revenue collections increased significantly across the board, according to web site information, and while February 2006 state income tax collections were at $379 million, a 1.5 percent decrease from February 2005, overall February 2006 revenue collections were up over last year by 0.5 percent.

Nuciforo urged people to visit the web site and see the improved revenue collection rates for themselves.

"If you check the DOR web site, that indicates a better [state financial] picture," he said.

Seeking New Challenges

Nuciforo reiterated the reasons that led to his decision to leave the senate post.

"I have served in the state Senate for 10 years," Nuciforo said. "I have loved every minute of my service. But it's meant 10 years of driving up and down the turnpike, and it's time to move on to other things."

Nuciforo has announced that he is seeking election in November as registrar of the Middle Berkshire Registry of Deeds. He has termed the registrar's post a "great opportunity" and "a position with a lot of promise."

District voters have returned Nuciforo to the state Senate five times. Nuciforo is currently the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Financial Services and the Vice-chair of the Elder Affairs Committee. He is a member of the Higher Education, Consumer Protection, and Election Laws committees.

Candidates Emerging

For many years prior to Nuciforo's 1996 election, the seat was held by Republicans. Former Gov. Jane Swift served as state senator prior to being chosen as former Gov. A. Paul Cellucci's running mate. Republicans Peter Webber and John "Jack" Fitzpatrick were among Swift's senate predecessors.

Potential Democratic and Republican candidates for the Senate seat have emerged since Nuciforo's announcement. Democrats Margaret J. Ware, a former Williamstown selectwoman, former Pittsfield Mayor Gerald Doyle, former state Representative Peter Larkin and former state Representative Christopher Hodgkins have stated their intentions to seek the office, while Republican Jay Lukkarilla of Adams has taken out nomination papers for the seat. Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts student Wendy Jones has also stated her intentions to seek the seat.

"I Am Confident The Voters Will Choose Well"

Nuciforo said that he believes it is "time to give someone else a chance" to bring a vision to the district and Boston.

"I know that there are some very talented people out there and I am confident that the voters will choose well," he said.

The decision to leave the state Senate wasn't without its' downside, he noted.

"It's been a great pleasure to serve in the Senate," Nuciforo said. "I'll miss it terribly."

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.

Information about state revenue collections is available at a www.dor.state.ma.us./News internet web site.

Additional information about state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. is available at a www.nuciforo.com Internet web site.

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