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Lt. Gov. Polito Pitches Housing Bill At Springfield Chamber Lunch

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The largest business association in western Massachusetts held its largest annual event Friday. The Springfield Regional Chamber’s Outlook 2020 luncheon was attended by about 500 business and community leaders and elected officials. 

   Delivering the event’s keynote address, Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito made an appeal for support for the housing bill Gov. Charlie Baker has been trying to get the legislature to act on for three years.

  "The call to action is to work with the legislature and find the common ground on the housing choice bill," said Polito.

  Earlier this week, the Republican governor announced a $240 million economic stimulus bill —something the legislature is sure to take up -- and attached to it the language of his housing bill to underscore the importance he places on getting lawmakers to finally take a vote on it.

  The housing bill filed by Baker would let local governing bodies change zoning laws with a simple majority vote, not the two-thirds vote that has been a requirement in Massachusetts for decades.  Housing advocates say the “super majority” hurdle blocks higher-density lower cost housing from being built.

"This, we feel, will lead to more projects that make sense for you community, projects that can be permited and built," said Polito adding, "there are no doubt builders and developers in the room who would like those opportunities."

Polito stressed the administration’s argument that the high cost of housing is putting a drag on the state’s economic prospects.

" We put it into our economic development bill because it is that high a priority for our commonwealth, not just for our adminstration, but for our commonwealth," said Polito.

  State Senator Eric Lesser, who chairs the Economic Development Committee, said he shares the concern about the impact housing costs are having on the state’s economy, but is not sold on the solution proposed by the governor.

"We have to make sure the ideas that are on the table actually do solve the problems," said Lesser.

  The Longmeadow Democrat said he was pleased to see Baker include funds in the economic stimulus bill for high-density housing construction near public transit stops.

    " In many respects the housing price issues are a symptom of a transportation system that is breaking down," said Lesser.

    The Massachusetts House this week approved an $18 billion transportation bond bill and a series of tax and fee increases to pay for it.  Gov. Baker has already said he will veto the proposed 5 cent increase in the gasoline tax if that makes into the final version of the bill.  The Senate has yet to take it up.

    Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal said he expects the U.S. economy will continue to grow despite the impact of the coronavirus.

     " The reality is if there is one country that is going to do a great job on this it is the United States because of the health care system we have," said Neal.

      Neal met in Springfield Friday with hospital officials from throughout western Massachusetts to talk about the response to the coronavirus.  Congress this week approved $8.3 billion to combat the spread of the disease.



The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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