$450 million in diverted aid should go back to communities.

Position:COMMENTARY
 
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Byline: George N. Peterson Jr.

COLUMN: As I See It

I, as well as Republican representatives of Central Massachusetts, champion local aid for cities and towns because we believe money is best spent at the local level by officials who know their communities and who know best how to provide essential services such as education and public safety to our citizens.

Unfortunately, the state has not abided by that philosophy in recent years.

When tough fiscal times hit the state in 2003, the Legislature voted to put a cap on the amount of local aid sent to cities and towns from state Lottery proceeds. Over the course of three years, the state withheld a total of $450 million from our cities and towns.

From the state's perspective, the cap of Lottery aid was a windfall. It helped grow the state's rainy-day fund by more than $1.5 billion, more than doubling what was in there to start.

But for local communities, the cap cost millions. They watched their own coffers decline as the state got richer, and many cities and towns were forced to cut back on services. Local officials throughout the state found themselves asking residents for Proposition 21/2 tax overrides just to make ends meet.

The money withheld from our communities during those three years, in the end, wasn't needed by the state after all and we strongly feel it should be reimbursed to them. I, as well as Reps. Paul Frost, Karyn E. Polito, Lewis G. Evangelidis, Paul J. P. Loscocco, Todd M. Smola, and the Republican caucus led by Rep. Brad Jones, recently filed legislation to immediately return all of the $450 million that the state diverted from local communities.

Our bill is fair, reasonable and affordable. The state currently has well over $2.2 billion in its...

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