Voter Guide: State Rep. Candidate William 'Smitty' Pignatelli
William 'Smitty' Pignatelli
Q1: Right to Repair: Yes.
Q2: Assisted Suicide: No
Q3: Medical Marijuana: No
"I still love my job. I still have a lot of passion for this job and we're doing great things," the incumbent Democrat said on Thursday. "I think Massachusetts is on the right track for fiscal stability."
Pignatelli will be back on the ballot on Nov. 6 against challenger Lee Scott Langenour for the state House of Representatives seat for the 4th Berkshire District.
Coming out of a recession, the state is getting stronger and now Pignatelli is hoping to increase funding for cities and towns, increase fairness in transportation funding, close tax exemptions and further support education.
Being the incumbent, the Lenox native, who began his elected career in 1986 as a member of the Lenox Planning Board, points to the accomplishments the Legislature has already made and said he hopes to continue building on that progress. The state is one of three with a $1 billion or more in surplus funds, he said, but the other two are dependent on oil.
That surplus, along with the highest bond rating the state's ever had, positions Massachusetts to make more investments in roads, bridges and dams, he said. With a lower interest rate on bonds, Pignatelli said there will be a serious discussion about rebuilding the state "for the long term."
Transportation, however, is expected to be a major debate soon as Beacon Hill looks at the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority. The MBTA receives about $27.4 million of sales taxes generated from the Berkshires but only $1.8 million comes back to the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority. Pignatelli said he will be fighting to let the county keep the money it generates to fund and expand the BRTA.
For cities and town, Pignatelli said there is growing investment from the state in local aid but the Legislature has also given municipalities tools to raise their own revenue with the optional hotel-motels and meals taxes as well as the Community Preservation Act.
"The state can't be the answer to all of a community's problems," Pignatelli said. "They have to be somewhat self-reliant."
The state could also have tools to raise additional revenue by re-examining the tax code and making sure the exemptions are going to the "right" people. While Pignatelli said he'd like a progressive tax, he doesn't see a constitutional amendment to make it happen passing. Instead, 2013 should be the year the Legislature picks through the tax code and adjusts it, he said..
"The idea of taxes in any shape or form is always an uphill fight with the Legislature," Pignatelli said.
Municipalities and businesses will see an economic benefit from the health-care cost reform the Legislature passed this year. The reforms emphasize preventive care and limits cost increases to 3 percent, he said.
"Health care was bankrupting our state," Pignatelli said. "We have to start stressing healthier living."
That change will be monitored but Pignatelli said he believes the bill will limit the rising costs.
Education has also seen an increase in state funding, he said, in both infrastructure as well as aiding cities and towns. Regional school transportation is still underfunded, he said, and to help the district's schools that "promise" needs to be reached.
"I think we to recognize and embrace the importance of education," Pignatelli said.
While there has been a push in the state for regionalization in schools and municipalities to lower costs. Pignatelli said he doesn't support a "full-blown" regionalization but would like to see great collaboration.
However, the threat to the district's growth is an "epidemic" of drug use, Pignatelli said. He said he will be voting against the state ballot initiative to allow medical marijuana the same way he voted against the ballot initiative to decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug a few years ago.
"Since then, we've had an increase in South County teens using marijuana," Pignatelli. "We have an epidemic and I don't want to introduce another drug that we don't have control of."
Pignatelli said the state has made strides toward reducing drug use by implementing the prescription monitoring program, which monitors which pills doctors prescribe to patients. Pignatelli said he'd like to see an increase in rehabilitation centers along with strong controls to keep addicts in them. He'd like to see more beds in the already existing detoxification clinics like the McGee Unit at Berkshire Medical Center.
As for the environment, Pignatelli says he supports solar the most and would like to see more Berkshire buildings with solar panels because those are "out of sight, out of mind" but reap a benefit to the owners.
"I am a huge champion of solar. I think we can do more on solar. I think we need to incentivize individuals and communities to tap into that solar market. Currently, the money goes to the wrong people. The incentives go to the corporations and developers and I'd rather see those dollars go to the consumer," Pignatelli said.
The Berkshires draw tourism dollar because of its "natural beauty" and Pignatelli said he wants to preserve it. Wind could be unsightly, though he isn't against the use of wind in all occasions. He said he voted against the wind siting bill because it lacked local control and thinks such projects should go through local planning boards.