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Sen. Warren Wraps Up Berkshire Visit

Jim Levulis

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren wrapped up her trip across Massachusetts in the western part of the state today. The Democratic Senator’s visit included a tour of defense manufacturer General Dynamics’ site in Pittsfield. Senator Warren says the plant is making innovative gains in military manufacturing and research to save the country money while still keeping it safe. She said she is unhappy with the across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester, which cut spending and furloughed jobs at defense contractors like General Dynamics, whose plant supports the U.S. Navy.

“The sequester puts at risk some of our smartest spending and that’s the thing that infuriates me the most," she said. "To make cuts here? This makes no sense and that’s what I really hate about the sequester.”

General Dynamics Staff Vice President of Communications Rob Doolittle says the sequester hasn’t had much impact on the Pittsfield plant so far. Local Democrats state Senator Benjamin Downing and Representative Tricia-Farley Bouvier joined Senator Warren during her trip around the Berkshires. They also weighed in on the sequester.

“We shouldn’t be going just about it with a hatchet cutting programs that avoid cost in the long term that are part of the quality of life of this community," said Downing.

“I just think it has more to do with the fact that the sequester really is stupid," Farley-Bouvier said. "The stupid way to make cuts because it costs us money in the long term.”

The group then moved to the Berkshire Museum in downtown Pittsfield, where Senator Warren addressed the state’s Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development. Speaking to the committee and a room of people largely supportive of the Senator, she said now is a time in history to reinforce investment in the arts, especially in the Berkshires.

“We’ve got world class museums, world-class music, world-class dance," she said.W"e’ve got it, we just need to support it. We need to give access to it so there’s transportation to get to out here. That’s a way to build a stronger economy going forward.”

One of the plans to improve access to the Berkshires is the state’s transportation project to establish passenger rail from western Massachusetts through Connecticut to New York City. Senator Warren said the federal government cannot ask states to take sole responsibility for their infrastructure needs without help from Washington. She said Republican refusal to invest in projects for the future and the inability to agree on transportation policies on both sides of the aisle are the central issues at the capitol. Just one week after Governor Deval Patrick made similar observations during a trip to Pittsfield, Downing offered his take on the state’s transportation plans.

“The transportation bill while not perfect, certainly gives the Governor the resources to get the first work in the ground on expanding passenger rail access, certainly on expanding public transportation, and improving roads and bridges that we all rely on here.”

Warren appeared at ease in a county where 70 percent of voters backed her in November’s election and where she began her U.S. Senate campaign in 2011. Senator Warren wrapped up her stay in the western part of the state by touring the Crane and Company paper factory in Dalton.