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Key Issues In The Fight For Worcester’s 15th

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

 

Healthcare, jobs and education are at the top of the list among the field of five, but even though all five candidates are running as Democrats, there is a lot of daylight between their positions on certain issues.

Women and Social Issues

Progressive Mary Keefe has identified herself as the pro-choice and equality candidate.

When it comes to social issues, City Councilor Kate Toomey has fallen back on her Catholic personal beliefs. However, the candidate said she has never let those beliefs interfere with her actions in office.

"I will support what is law in this Commonwealth," she said.

Ralph Perez is in favor of any legislation that supports the women of the 15th District and the rest of the city and state.

"Women are the ones that are supporting the families and are the backbone of our community," he said.

Economy and Jobs

Frank A. Beshai has called for more accountability in local government, noting a history of wasteful spending in the City of Worcester.

Beshai also said the vacancy rate for downtown office space is unacceptably high.

Perez, an apprentice plumber, has repeated time and again that residents need jobs, not welfare assistance.

Keefe's work with the Community Labor Coalition is focused on making sure public dollars go toward projects that provide jobs for local residents.

The group is looking to start apprenticeship programs throughout the city and is pushing a "Responsible Employer Ordinance" at City Hall.

"I would be doing it whether I was running for office or not," Keefe said.

Beshai has said he is in favor of state legislation that would mandate jobs go to local workers when state money is involved.

Toomey, an advocate for local business, would also support such a move.

Perez wants to increase the state minimum wage, which at $8.00/hour, is above the current federal minimum wage but still below the poverty line.

Keefe has voiced her agreement, stating "Just eight dollars doesn't cut it."

Councilor Toomey was less decisive on the subject. She said that her son, a college graduate, was earning $8.50/hour at a part-time job, a rate she believed to be adequate and appropriate for him.

In regard to a proposed increase, Toomey said, "If it was warranted, I would support it. If not, I wouldn't."

Healthcare Insurance

Healthcare is another topic on which the Democratic field is split.

Keefe is proud of the progression of healthcare legislation in Massachusetts and believes that guaranteed, accessible healthcare should be a right for every resident. She would support bringing a single-payer health insurance system to the Commonwealth in order to achieve that goal.

Beshai is also in favor of a single-payer system, but for the more business-minded ends of lower costs and greater efficiency.

"A single-payer insurance system would start to end the bureaucracy," he said.

Toomey, on the other hand, does not believe that a single-payer healthcare insurance system works, and she said she would not support bringing one to Massachusetts.

"We still need to be sitting at the table having this discussion," said Dianna Biancheria, who also does not think a single-payer system is the answer for the Bay State.

Biancheria noted that $16 million in penalties have been meted out under the requirements of the Massachusetts healthcare insurance reform legislation of 2006, and that the costs of a single-payer system for businesses and schools would be unsustainable.

Taxes

Beshai, Biancheria and Toomey have all said they are not in favor of any tax increases.

"You're not going to bring in jobs, you're not going to bring in business if you keep raising income taxes," said Toomey.

The lone dissenter has been Keefe, who supports increasing revenue and returning the state income tax rate to 5.9 percent.

"We can't keep cutting our way to a great city." 

 

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