Clark, Spadafora Spar in Senate Debate
Taxes, jobs, illegal immigration and cuts in local aid were among the issues that Massachusetts State Senate candidates Katherine Clark and Craig Spadafora disagreed over in a televised debate Wednesday night in Malden. Clark and Spadafora are vying to represent the 3rd Middlesex District in the State Senate, encompassing Wakefield, Lynnfield, Malden, Melrose Reading and Stoneham. The seat is being vacated by current Sen. Richard Tisei, who is running for Lt. Governor.
Clark is currently a State Rep. representing Melrose and part of Wakefield. Spadafora is a Malden City Councilor.
Spadafora blamed Clark and the state legislature for voting in 2009 to give Gov. Deval Patrick “9C” powers resulting in mid-year cuts in local aid to cities and towns, including a $10 million cut for Malden.
“The Legislature allowed, and Katherine Clark voted, to give the Governor 9C powers,” Spadafora said. “It’s a simple as that.” He predicted that there will be more mid-year cuts in local aid this year.
“Now I have to look at teachers and police and fire and say, ‘Sorry, there’s no more money.’” He blamed the legislature for raising taxes “across the board” while allowing the budget of a Probation Department “filled with favoritism” to double in six years.
Clark defended giving the Governor 9C powers. She pointed out that it is not unusual for 9C authority to be given to governors during difficult or recessionary times, noting that the legislature also gave Republican Governor Mitt Romney the same powers in 2002. She accused Spadafora of misrepresenting her record.
“I did vote in 2009 when we were facing a historic crisis to give the Governor those powers,” Clark admitted. But she added that in 2010 she voted against giving the Governor 9C authority because economic circumstances were beginning to change.
On the subject of illegal immigration, the candidates were asked whether recipients of state services should be required to verify their immigration status as legal residents.
“Yes,” Clark answered, “that is the current state law.” She said that those receiving benefits like welfare and state child care services must prove that they are legal residents. Clark admitted that the state could do better when it comes to illegal immigrants and public housing.
Spadafora maintained that illegal immigrants are in fact receiving state benefits and pointed out that Clark voted against an amendment sponsored by Rep. Jeffrey Perry that would have required recipients of state and federal services to provide a valid ID.
“You need a license to buy booze or cigarettes,” Spadafora pointed out. “There’s no reason that you should not have to show a license to receive state or federal benefits.”
Clark countered that the Perry Amendment was “a disingenuous attempt by a Congressional candidate to put in a system that has been an utter failure in other states.” (Perry is currently running for US Congress.)
Asked to give their positions on the three ballot questions facing voters on Nov. 2, both candidates said that they will be voting “No” on questions 2 and 3.
Spadafora said that he opposed Question 2, which would repeal 40B, the state’s affordable housing law. “We have to keep affordable housing,” he said.
Clark also opposed repealing 40B, although she called for the legislature to “make it a better law.” She credited 40B with creating 80 percent of affordable housing outside of urban centers.
Clark said that she also opposed Question 3, which would reduce the state sales tax from its current 6.25 percent to 3 percent.
“There will be nothing we can do to prevent further cuts in local aid,” if Question 3 passes, Clark said, maintaining that it would result in “too much of a hit for our families, businesses and seniors.”
Spadafora agreed, calling Question 3 “too drastic.”
The candidates disagreed on Question 1, which would remove the recently imposed sales tax on alcoholic beverages.
Spadafora favored a “Yes” vote to repeal the alcohol sales tax, calling it “a tax on a tax” and “a stimulus program for the state of New Hampshire,” as Massachusetts residents purchase their liquor across the border to avoid the tax.
Clark opposed repealing the alcohol tax, noting that “liquor is not a necessity” and maintaining that the tax provides funds for substance abuse treatment.
On the subject of jobs and the economy, Spadafora insisted that the state needs to lower business taxes and provide incentives to attract businesses and workers to Massachusetts. “We are not welcoming them,” he said.
Spadafora said that the election was “about jobs, jobs, jobs.” He maintained that the answer was in private business not the government, pointing out that the state continues “hoping for a miracle to attract business without providing any incentives.”
Clark also stressed tax credits and the need to invest in small businesses. “That’s where the jobs will come from,” Clark said. “We have to invest in our small businesses. We have to use our resources better and get the economy back on track. That’s how we can protect our communities and make sure we have the funding to do things like getting Malden the police it needs right now.”
In terms of the economy and jobs, Clark talked about creating opportunities, including educational opportunities. “We need to support people and get them back to work,” Clark said. She called for investment in “green technology, so that we can grow the jobs of the future.”
Clark also stressed her work as an advocate for working families, the disabled and the elderly. “We have incredible communities in this Senate district,” Clark said, “but they need our help.”
Spadafora said that his candidacy offered voters “an opportunity to put someone in the State House who will fight for the average person.
“I know what it means to work for a low wage and I know what it means to sit behind a desk,” Spadafora said, adding that in the current economic downturn he was forced to take a 10 percent pay cut.
“No one in the Legislature took a pay cut,” Spadafora said. “We need someone up there with a calculator with a minus button.”
The debate was co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Senior Action Council North Chapter and MATV. Questions were posed to the candidates by a panel from the local press, including the Wakefield Daily Item, the Malden Evening News and MaldenPatch (a news web site) and a separate panel from the Massachusetts Senior Action Council. The moderator was Kevin Duffy from the Malden School Committee.
[This story originally appeared in the October 22, 2010 Wakefield Daily Item.]
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