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Massachusetts voters to weigh in on Budget for All referendum

Voters in many Valley communities will weigh in Tuesday on a first-of-its-kind ballot question calling on Congress to craft a federal budget that redirects military spending to domestic needs and provides revenue to invest in creating and protecting jobs.

Though it has no enforcement clout, the Budget for All referendum instructs the state’s representatives and senators to vote in favor of a resolution calling on Congress and the president to implement the many principles outlined in the nonbinding question.

“If you look at this referendum and what it does, it’s just common sense,” said Jeffrey Napolitano, director of the of the American Friends Service Committee Western Massachusetts Program in Northampton.

Some of the proposals include tax increases for the country’s wealthiest people and cuts in military spending while protecting social services such as Social Security, Medicare and assistance for housing, food and unemployment.

The question supports an immediate end to the war in Afghanistan and for troops to return home right away, with the intention of redirecting the money spent on the war to domestic needs and deficit reduction.

Nearly one million Massachusetts voters will vote on the measure in dozens of communities, including Amherst, Northampton, a portion of Granby, Hatfield, Pelham, Southampton and Westhampton. The referendum is championed by a statewide coalition called Fund our Communities Not War.

This is the first referendum in a state focusing on specifics about the federal budget, and supporters hope the idea catches on in other states in a way that forces Congress to change the way it allocates money, Napolitano said.

“I think this is going to influence a lot of the political environment in Massachusetts,” Napolitano said. “It won’t turn the tide in and of itself, but if it passes, the referendum can be used to push for more courage and more support for politicians to step up and deal with the budget.”

Napolitano cited the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, supports the measure and was the keynote speaker at a Northampton forum on the question earlier in October.

Supporters that night equated the federal budget to a moral document that reflects the nation’s values and priorities, and saying it fails in many areas.

The Budget for All proposal is based on a spending plan introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Although not approved, it did receive 78 votes last spring.

Other proposals in the Budget for All proposal include steps to generate new revenue by closing corporate tax loopholes, ending offshore tax havens and raising taxes on incomes over $250,000.

The new revenues would help pay for the initiatives outlined in the measure and reduce the long-term federal deficit, backers say.

In addition to social programs, Congress is urged to create and protect jobs by investing in manufacturing, schools, housing, renewable energy, transportation and other public services.

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