State Senate Debate between Anne Gobi and Mike Valanzola

I attended a debate in Wales last night between the candidates for the State Senate seat that includes Sturbridge where I live.

Anne Gobi is a current State Representative. Mike Valanzola has been on the Board of Selectmen for Wales  and he is currently the head of the Tantasqua Regional School committee that encompasses 5 towns including Sturbridge and Wales.

Valanzola seemed to be quite eloquent and dogmatic in putting forth his point of view. I don’t think Anne Gobi did quite as good a job at touting the value of her experience as a a State Representative. Some of the things I point out below as negatives for Valanzola are positives for Gobi because she decidely does not think along the same lines as Valanzola.

Valanzola’s focus on Wales has narrowed his views on what the job is that he is running for. When he gets to the Senate, he will have to work with Senators who represent other parts of the state. In fact he will be representing other parts of the state other than just Wales. The interests of the other Senators for their parts compete with his interests for his part. He will have to learn to work with these people. He will even have to look after the interests of the other parts of his Senatorial district other than just Wales. He can’t just focus on what he wants without regard to what the other Senators need if he is going get any cooperation from them. You have to give some cooperation to get some cooperation.

Working on the Board of selectmen and on the regional school committee, he has a distinctly management focus. He wants to get as much out of the workers in the town and the schools as he can get for as little money as he can spend. That is good for the taxpayers as taxpayers. But the taxpayers are also workers. If you squeeze the workers and help other business owners to squeeze the workers, then you may harm the voters/taxpayers in their roles as workers.

When he decries the power of the unions to extract better working conditions and pay from the state than what the state wants to pay, he fails to realize that the lack of unions for all the people in his town who are workers impedes their abilities to get a fair wage and working conditions. Some of these people in his town who are workers seem to also fail to make this connection. I can’t imagine that every person in the town of Wales is a small (or even large) business owner.

He emphasized having grown up in Wales, learning his values in Wales, and living his adult life in Wales. That is a great point of view, but he doesn’t seem to understand that it also restricts his view. He has to consider the greater world outside of Wales. He didn’t get all of his education in Wales. He had to go to college outside of Wales. Not all people who live in Wales earn their livings from jobs in Wales. Other parts of the state must prosper for the people of Wales to prosper.

The great universities and businesses of the state depend on the prospering of the great cities of the state. In turn, the well being of Wales depends to a larger degree than he seems to understand on the well being of other parts of the state including the cities.

Valanzola kept hitting Gobi with the claim that the state budget has gone up $10 billion over the last 8 years, but local funding has been cut. The state budget went up by 38% he claimed, while local aid went down by a similar percent. He kept wondering how this could be.

I decided to do a little research of my own.

All numbers below are in $ millions. I couldn’t find numbers for what was spent, but since the state has a balanced budget, the revenues will have to stand in as a close approximation for what was spent.

Governor Year Revenue For All Budgeted Funds Local Aid
Mitt Romney 2007 $16,327.3 $ 6,170.1 $25,297.1 $ 4,604.0
Includes Lottery
2008 $17,089.7 $6,428.5 $26,590.4 $ 5,648.6
Includes Lottery
2009 $28,166.7 $
2010 $26,930.1 $ 4,973.9
2011 $29,432.6 $ 4,825.4
2012 $30,597.9 $ 4,844.8
2013 $21,200.3 $ 9,449.5 $32,477.0 $ 5,070.1
Deval Patrick 2014 $19,712.0 $ 8,554.6 $33,858.5 $ 5,231.4

So total revenue went up $8,561 or 33.8%, local aid went up $627 or 13.6%

From the peak year of local aid in 2008 to 2014 it went down $417.2 or 7.4%. From 2007 to 2008, local aid went up $1,044.6 or 22.78% while total revenue went up $1,293.4 or only 5.1%. I don’t have a local aid number for 2009.

I noticed that Valanzola made passing reference to the Quinn Bill in his litany of complaints about how the state is being run. For those who aren’t up on these things it is the Quinn Bill or Police Career Incentive Program. I am not sure he made it clear, but from his tone that I heard I presume his complaint has to be the state’s recent underfunding of this program. How ironic that in other parts of his talk he decries unions and the costs they put on the state, and on the other hand he decries the underfunding of a benefit that was extracted from the state by the strong police unions.

In case I haven’t made it clear in my comments in this post, I think that Mike Valanzola shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near state government.

Then there was the issue of driver’s licenses for undocumented workers. Valanzola is against. Apparently Gobi voted for on one occasion. Gobi failed to point out that by refusing to give driver’s licenses to undocumented workers, we take away their incentive to learn how to drive in this country. Valanzola’s position will only increase the numbers of undocumented workers who may be driving without having studied the laws for driving in Massachusetts.

This is just another example of Valanzola’s constrained world view that prevents him from seeing the larger consequences of what he advocates.

October 23, 2014 14:03

I just remembered the frequent complaint that Valanzola had about the House shutting off amendments on the last vote on local aid. To refresh my memory on what Anne Gobi had to say about the dates involved, I found an April Mass Live article Massachusetts’ $36.2 billion budget bill is peppered with add-ons.

House leaders say amendments to increase local aid will not be considered during the budget debate, since the House and Senate previously approved a resolution calling for a $25 million increase in unrestricted aid for cities and towns and $100 million more in Chapter 70 aid for public school districts. Still, Republicans hope to offer a proposal that would require the state to return to cities and towns at least 50 percent of any unanticipated tax revenue surplus at the end of the next fiscal year.

As Gobi explained, the cutoff of amendments was agreed to by the Republicans because this could allow the towns and cities to know in April the level of local aid that they would get for the year. Since this was prime planning time for them, it was better to know in April than to have to hold their budgets open until the July passage of the bill. According to Gobi, the bill was eventually passed unanimously. Valanzola couldn’t seem to get his head around this explanation as demonstrated by his repeating his complaint several times. He kept getting the same answer from Gobi. I wonder if he expected the answer to change if he kept repeating the complaint. Presumably some of the people in the audience were able to understand Gobi’s explanation.

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