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Healey announces $987M bond authorization, $400M borrowing plan in North Adams for first Berkshire visit as governor

Democratic Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey at Greylock Works in North Adams on January 19th, 2023.
Josh Landes
Democratic Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey at Greylock Works in North Adams on January 19th, 2023.

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey made her first visit to Berkshire County since taking office with a stop in North Adams today.

The Democrat held a press conference alongside Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll and local leaders like State Senator Paul Mark, State Representative John Barrett, and North Adams Mayor Jennifer Macksey at Greylock Works to announce two new pieces of legislation.

“This legislation seeks $987 million dollars in bond authorization to ensure that critical housing and economic development programs across the state can continue to serve the people of Massachusetts without interruption," said Healey. "So important programs, we want to make sure they continue and they continue by way of funding. This includes production and preservation of affordable rental housing, public housing, climate resilient housing and transit-oriented developments. It also reauthorizes funding for cities and towns, including targeted funding for rural and small towns to support libraries, seaport development, housing, tourism and planning.”

The money would also continue the state’s program to expand high speed internet access to rural communities across the commonwealth — an area in which many of Berkshire County’s smaller municipalities have lagged behind for years.

“One of the most immediate needs it will address is funding for MassWorks," the governor continued. "This is the state's largest and most flexible source of capital funds to municipalities for public infrastructure projects. These projects support housing production, spur economic development, and create jobs across the state. This bill seeks $400 million for MassWorks alone and extends its authorization into fiscal year 2028 supporting additional investments in critical infrastructure projects across the state for the next five years.”

Healey cited Greylock Works as a prime example of the program’s efforts.

“Greylock has received several millions of dollars from MassWorks over the years to support the renovation of this wonderful mill building and turning it into the vibrant place that it is with lots of great stuff going on,” she said.

The governor said her administration planned on filing another comprehensive bond bill later in the session. The second piece of legislation will address the commonwealth’s crumbling infrastructure through the funding formula used to distribute money to municipalities.

“We also filed, are filing today, a bill that will authorize the state to borrow an additional $400 million to fund roads and bridges under Chapter 90 for the next two years,” said the Democrat.

So far, Healey has only appointed one cabinet member with Western Massachusetts ties — Secretary of the Executive Office of Economic Development Yvonne Hao, who graduated from Williams College and owns a home in Williamstown. WAMC asked the governor if she would continue to hold to a November commitment she made in Pittsfield after her victory to have representatives from the region in her administration.

“We are continuing to look at that, we're continuing to, certainly, I expect there to be, absolutely," said Healey. "And you know, that work continues. We'll make announcements as soon as we're ready. We're working through Cabinet secretaries and a few other positions. But obviously, there are a lot of critical, important positions to fill, and we're both committed to making sure we have representation from Western Massachusetts.”

Healey was asked if she planned to file legislation that would bring state government into compliance with public records laws. Both on the campaign trail and after her election, the governor has pledged to break with past practices and not claim an exemption for her office that would shield it from transparency requirements. A Boston Globe editorial urged Healey not to walk the issue back.

“I’m not sure about filing legislation," said Healey. "I remain committed to making sure that, you know, this administration operates with transparency, and I've said that we're probably going to do things that are different from the way other administrations have done things in the past. I support the public records law in its application to the executive branch, and I think we can do that, you know, as we go along. I'm not sure that necessitates legislation.”

The governor said her visit to the Berkshires was designed to drive home her commitment to the region, which is one of the commonwealth’s poorest and least populated areas and faces high rates of overdose deaths among its many challenges.

“It's driven home to me every time I come to this area and take in its beauty and take in also some of the challenges that confront the region- And we've had conversations about some of those real challenges around affordability," said Healey. "We’ve got real issues with housing, we've got issues with economic development, and, you know, employment, we've got workforce related, we've got issues in terms of making sure that we have the funding for roads and bridges, but also our public buildings. And of course, here and around the state, we've got real issues with mental health and substance use disorder, right? But, you know, we view this as an as an opportunity to work together in partnership, to move things forward.”

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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