By Cary Shuman
State Senator Anthony Petruccelli addressed residents about the economy and the state budget for fiscal years 2009 and 2010 on Tuesday night at Winthrop Senior Center.
Petruccelli, speaking at a podium with Winthrop town councillors seated on each side of him, answered questions from the audience after his remarks.
“One thing that I feel is important for the people of the town of Winthrop to know is that the fiscal challenges facing the commonwealth and the town are not unique,” said Petruccelli. “In fact, we are dealing with the same economic hardships as every city, town, and state in the country.”
A member of the Joint Transportation Committee of the Mass. House and Senate, Petruccelli said major transportation reform is coming to the state.
“The main component of both the Senate and the House version is the elimination of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority as we know it, and the merging of most state transportation agencies and their assets, as well as the revenues that go along with it under one roof,” said Petruccelli. “We believe [the merger] creates much great efficiencies by elimination duplication of services where appropriate. We believe it creates much needed transparency.”
Petruccelli said in his introductory remarks that he will support the House measure that calls for an increase in the state sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent. Though he said the increase is unpopular, he added new revenues (taxes) will be needed to get through this time.
“A significant portion of that [taxes] is proposed to fund transportation needs, and the rest still needs to be debated about where it will be spent,” said Petruccelli. “I commend Speaker DeLeo for his leadership on these issues and will support them when the Senate takes up the budget.”
Petruccelli was asked whether he would like to comment about the upcoming Proposition 2 1/2 override election in Winthrop, but he declined politely.
While the in-house audience was smaller than many had anticipated – Petruccelli was competing with a Celtics playoff game and a Boston Red Sox game – the forum was broadcast live on Winthrop Cable Access Television (WCAT).
“I already received some text messages right from people who said they were watching it at home,” Petruccelli said.