ADAMS, Mass. — State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi updated the Maple Grove Civic Club on some of the work she has done in 2016 and what she plans to advocate for in 2017.
At the club's monthly meeting Sunday at the PNA, the North Adams Democrat spoke of her goals for the upcoming year and fielded some of the membership's question.
Cariddi said the governor should release his budget in a few weeks and she expects it to increase modestly.
"The budget goes up every year but it is going to be fairly conservative with modest increases in different areas," she said. "Hopefully, education will continue to be a big part of the budget going forward because we certainly need it."
Member Jeffrey Lefebvre asked why the state keeps building new schools in the county.
"What is the matter with school building funding? We are losing students around here like crazy yet Williamstown got that money and Taconic got over $100 million," he asked. "We built one, North Adams built one and now Clarksburg wants one."
Cariddi said she understood his concern but noted communities vote to build these schools, not the state. She added if communities want a bigger school than the Massachusetts School Building Authority is willing to fund, the town residents are the ones who vote to pay the extra amount.
She said she has talked to the MSBA about incentivizing regionalization and using the money to aid school districts that combine instead of continuing to build new schools.
Cariddi added that she will continue to fight for a different charter school reimbursement formula and more transportation reimbursement for regional school districts.
"The state promised to pay 100 percent of transportation years and years ago to get schools to regionalize but it never really has come through," she said.
Cariddi pointed out some of the things she helped accomplish last year, including securing $150,000 to support the Berkshire County Education Task Force, $100,000 for the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and $200,000 to create a joint Adams, North Adams and Williamstown animal shelter.
She said she also helped secure emergency shelter money to help make repairs to the Louison House family shelter, which suffered damage from a fire last summer. She and former state Sen. Benjamin Downing also worked together to get state conservation designation at the Greylock Glen.
Cariddi said she will continue to advocate for the glen project.
"Now we have to keep fighting to get the bond money out of the Senate and what I got in so we can finish," she said.
Member Joseph Rogge, who also sits on the Mount Greylock Advisory Committee, said he had concerns over the staffing of the mountain because the state has only been replacing retired employees with seasonal help.
"They are asking [the Department of Conservation and Recreation] to take on a bigger piece of the pie with the glen yet they are getting less help," Rogge said.
Cariddi said she was aware of the concern and plans to work jointly with the new state Sen. Adam Hinds to get more staff on the mountain.
"I agree with you and will continue to advocate for more staffing up there," she said. "The state has put millions of dollars up there, especially with the monument, signs, maps and the Bascom Lodge … and they want to make sure no one vandalizes anything."
Cariddi also said it is anticipated that MassHealth will increase its budget nearly $600 million because enrollment has increased by 500,000 people in the state-run health insurance program.
Added to that are questions about how a repeal of the federal Affordable Care Act could affect the state.
She said the governor has sent the president-elect some of his thoughts and concerns on health insurance.
"He actually sent a number of things he thought should be happening," she said. "One thing for sure is that people are able to keep their coverage for preexisting conditions … and he advocated for more flexibility going to the states with the money that comes to our state, but her certainly does not want to jeopardize anyone’s access to health care."
Cariddi closed the meeting by inviting the membership to her "There Ought to be a Law: Community Listening Tour" that will be in Adams on Monday, Jan. 23, at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.
"It's to make my time is available to citizens who have ideas on what should we have as laws or laws we shouldn’t have," she said.
In other business, club President Stanley Cote asked members to invite friends to the club and try to boost membership
"They can come down, have a meal and see if they like it," Cote said. "I just want to boost it up a little this year."
The Club also acknowledged member Jeff Lefebvre who decided to step down as vice chairman.
"I would like to acknowledge Jeff for all of the work he has done with the club to advance the club and all of the work he does outside of the club with youth sports leagues and staying involved in politics," member and Selectman Joseph Nowak said.
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