By Senator Jamie Eldridge
With Tim Murray leaving the office of the lieutenant governor this past Sunday, it’s important to remember his dedication to public service and his work to improve the lives of the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. With the strong partnership that existed between Governor Patrick and Lt. Gov. Murray, many reforms and priorities were able to be tackled that had a real impact on the state.
One of the biggest legacies of the Patrick-Murray administration is dramatically improving the state’s investment in infrastructure. The lieutenant governor served as the point person for cities and towns across the state and played an integral role in how transportation investments would improve the economy in every corner of the state, while better connecting regions and improving the quality of life in every community.
For the residents of the Middlesex and Worcester district, Tim Murray had a particularly strong record. Murray led the effort of the state to purchase the railroad tracks between Worcester and Boston that the railroad company CSX owned. This $100 million-plus purchase has already led to an improved level and frequency of service on the Worcester commuter rail line, including stops in Southborough and Westborough. In the northern part of the district, the Lieutenant Governor also played a critical role in significant improvements to the Fitchburg commuter rail taking place right now. Lt Gov. Murray personally intervened at a moment in time when the state’s $75 million match was in jeopardy, and pushed for the use of federal stimulus dollars to allow for the double-tracking of the rail between the South Acton and Ayer stations, and more parking at the Littleton and Ayer stations.
In trying to help increase state aid for towns and cities for education and municipal services and encouraging towns to share services and enter into more regional agreements, Lt. Gov. Murray fought for relief and reforms at the state level. The Municipal Partnership Act filed by Gov. Patrick and Lt. Gov. Murray at the beginning of their first term was a proposal initially not well received by the Legislature. But Tim Murray, in a rare display of grassroots organizing by the administration, barnstormed the message of providing more tools for cities and towns across the state by gathering support from municipal leaders and concerned citizens to advocate for the passage of the bill, which became law in 2010.
Since the bill’s passage, more and more communities have been able to share equipment, town staff, and municipal services, improving the quality of services while lowering costs. Furthermore, the push by the Patrick-Murray administration for a local option hotel tax, which was included in the FY10 state budget allowed for communities like Marlborough to use the revenue generated by the hotel tax to hire staff dedicated to improving economic development in the city.
Lt. Gov. Murray also championed a number of causes that led to an increase in resources to tackle social problems that still exist in the state. Massachusetts, already a national leader in providing services to veterans returning home, shined its patriotic spirit even brighter in part through legislation spearheaded by Tim Murray that provided more financial support to veterans, increased resources for those struggling with PTSD, and proposed a detailed plan to make 1,000 units of permanent housing available to homeless veterans over the next three years.
Regarding homelessness, the lieutenant governor also led the effort throughout the past six and a half years of the Patrick-Murray administration to reduce homelessness in Massachusetts. While I happened to disagree with some of the simplistic proposals that were found under the banner of “Housing First” for homeless individuals and families out of concern of a weakening of the social safety net that I continue to be concerned about, there is no doubt that Tim Murray brought innovation and energy to the task of helping homeless families lead more independent lives.
For his strong commitment to public service, and record of accomplishments to invest in transportation infrastructure, provide assistance to towns and cities and bring light to the crises that many veterans and homeless families face each and every day, I believe Massachusetts residents have a great deal to thank Lt. Gov. Tim Murray for.
State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, represents the Middlesex and Worcester district.