Community Advocate: New senator looks to stimulus package for grants

By Angela Greiner, Community Reporter

Marlborough – After a little over a week on the job, State Sen. James Eldridge, D-Acton, representing the Middlesex and Worcester District, has hit the ground running, given the looming economic troubles, state budget cuts and federal stimulus packages.

In a recent interview, he admitted that it has in fact been a great week.

“It’s really an honor to be succeeding these two dedicated public servants [who previously held the seat, former State Sen. Pamela Resor and former State Sen. Robert Durand], and I hope to carry on their tradition of leadership and excellent service to this district,” Eldridge said.

Eldridge also said that Peggy Ayers, Resor’s former executive aide, will remain in that position, acting as his executive aide and staffing the local district office in Marlborough.

According to Eldridge, his top priority is the economy. After applauding President-elect Barack Obama’s comments about the economy, Eldridge spoke of his concerns about the future of the state and said that we need to act now.

“The Metrowest is the fastest growing region for jobs in the state,” he said. “It is a district that works well with the business community. We need to continue that, which means we need to properly invest in the area’s infrastructure.”

Given the availability of federal stimulus funds, Eldridge is currently advocating for several projects in the district to receive some of the money; projects include roadwork along Route 85 in Hudson and the $90-million upgrade to the Westerly Waste Water Treatment Plant in Marlborough. Having already sent along the request to the governor that the city is a priority for federal stimulus funds, Eldridge explained that the state is looking specifically for projects that are “shovel ready.”

According to Eldridge, the stimulus package is not going to be a complete fix and the state is already running $1 billion dollars in the red, so there will be more cuts.

“The economic crisis hit Massachusetts hard,” Eldridge said. “We need to preserve vital services like local aid to our schools and communities.”

Leading the fight to protect Chapter 70 funding, established to help balance school budgets, he explained that this program directly impacts communities like Marlborough. He said that the Chapter 70 goal is to establish a state aid education fund of 17.5 percent for all communities.

“This has been dramatic help,” he said. “My biggest issue in legislature is education; I want to make sure that the districts get fair funding.”

With more people losing jobs, Eldridge is also advocating for stronger legislature regarding predatory lending and improving consumer protection by upgrading the bankruptcy laws.

“It is an important role of government to protect people from the private sector,” he said.

With Lottery aid down, he said, that is another area of concern. Proposing the use of money from the rainy day or general fund to make up the diff erence this year, Eldridge is hopeful that the coming budget will be level funded compared with last year’s budget.

And with the committee seats still undetermined, Eldridge said that he would be honored to follow Resor’s footstep and serve on the environmental or education committee.