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Locals participate in ‘Budget For All’ hearing in Boston

“I learned about how many jobs we could gain if we converted our very militaristic economy to a green economy,” Nathan, a physician and co-convenor of the Western Massachusetts Budget for All, said in a telephone interview on the drive back from Boston.

“We could have two times the jobs from sustainable energy, education and rehabbing houses that we have from the military,” she said.

Nathan was among the western Massachusetts residents who attended a hearing Wednesday before a joint legislative committee on the Budget for All resolution now before lawmakers.

The measure calls on legislators to urge Congress to prevent cuts in Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits, housing and social services by increasing taxes on the wealthy and redirecting federal military spending to fund social services.

Similar resolutions have been approved by municipal leaders in Northampton, Amherst and Holyoke.

State Reps. Peter Kocot, D-Northampton, and Ellen Story, D-Amherst, spoke “eloquently” in favor of the budget resolution, Nathan said, and state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, submitted written testimony.

During her testimony in the packed hearing room, Nathan said she talked about the recent vote for a property tax override in Northampton to fund a school system that has seen years of declining state aid.

“I also talked about the devastation that cuts in Medicaid, mental health and food stamps cause,” Nathan said. “As a physician that affects what I do.”

Amherst resident Susan Theberge also traveled to Boston Wednesday to show her support for the budget resolution.

“It was so exciting and powerful,” said Theberge, who recently retired as coordinator of School Counselor Programs at Keene State College in New Hampshire. “The hearing room was jam-packed. People talked about how budget cuts are affecting their lives in very real ways.”

Two local academics traveled with Theberge to testify at the three-hour hearing. Thomas Herndon, a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, cited his recent work in debunking a Harvard University study that concluded austerity measures rather than spending are needed in a recession.

Heidi Garrett-Peltier, an assistant research professor in economics at UMass, described studies she has done that show twice as many jobs are generated by investing in education as in the military.

Also traveling with the group from Amherst was Bonnie MacCracken, a member of Amherst Fair Housing Now. She said she told legislators about how hard it is for low-income residents of her town to find affordable housing. “We are forcing them out of our community,” MacCracken said.

Theberge said Budget for All supporters will be meeting to talk about how to follow up on Wednesday’s hearing.

“There was such overwhelming testimony from such a diverse range of people who support this idea,” she said. “We have an amazing model in Massachusetts and we need to share what we are doing.”

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