New England News
6:00 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

Berkshires Hear Gov. Patrick's Call for Investment in Transportation, Education

Out of many of the proposals Governor Patrick made in this State of the State address, an increase in transportation & infrastructure spending in particular struck a chord in the Berkshires.

Credit Boston Globe Web Staff

The Governor’s specific mention of connecting Pittsfield to New York with commuter rail service was of particular interest to Pittsfield state representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier….

Earlier this week, the Governor laid out a more detailed plan for improving transportation and infrastructure, which included the commuter rail plans, as well as a significant increase in funding for the state’s Regional Transit Authorities.

Nat Karns, Executive Director of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, said that improving bus transportation along with the expansion in commuter rail would have an enormous impact on the Berkshires.

Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli, who represents the Southern Berkshires, also agreed with the Governor’s proposals for improving transportation.

Nat Karns illustrated the need by highlighting the state of the county’s bridges.

To pay for many of the improvements, Governor Patrick’s proposal of a 1% hike in the state’s income tax will certainly be called into question.

Representative Pignatelli said that he’s looking forward to a debate, but also said that he can’t make any assumptions on how the changes in tax code will affect the region until the Governor releases his FY 2014 budget.

Representative Bouvier said that she would consider a possible restoration of tolls on the first six exits of the Mass. Pike if the money went to local transportation infrastructure.

Representative Bouvier said that she too will be looking forward to the debate after the Governor unveils his budget next week. She did say that she was glad to see the Governor take bold steps in addressing the needs of the Commonwealth.

Governor Patrick also called for a significant increase in spending in education across Massachusetts in his State of the State address. Although he acknowledged that Massachusetts schools are some of the best in the country he also said that “achievement gaps persist. And they will until we go deeper.”

To help close the achievement gaps, the Governor said that he plans to make further investments in reading proficiency.

John Bissell is a founder and partner with Pittsfield Promise, a group dedicated to boosting reading proficiency.

Bissell said he said it’s essential for education funding to end the wait list for income-eligible early childhood care. In his speech the Governor said he wanted to make early-childhood education available to all.

In his speech, the Governor also mentioned he would increase funding for K-12 education. He noted that every Gateway City – which includes Pittsfield, Holyoke, and Springfield – should have a middle school with a longer school day.

And the Governor also noted that he would seek more investments in public colleges. Mary Grant is the President of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams…

Grant said she was in support of the Governor’s proposal to invest more in the MassGrants scholarship program, to help families pay for college.

Ellen Kennedy, president of Berkshire Community College, also recognized the Governor’s call for more investment in public colleges. The Patrick-Murray administration has made recent investments public schools, including  two capital bond bills, which at BCC have allowed for the renovation of two aging buildings on its Pittsfield Campus, and helped MCLA open a new science center. But Kennedy said that for a region like the Berkshires, a community college plays a pivotal role in partnering with schools like MCLA to help students advance and be able to find jobs in the region.

And Mary Grant says that she hopes through the budgeting process, that the investments remain intact.

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