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‘Budget for All’ ballot initiative finds support in Northampton

“Our national budget, what all of our tax dollars fund, is a moral document,” said event moderator Jeff Napolitano, program coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee. “Surely, if we can find enough money to give hundreds of billions of dollars to banks, we can find money to support the victims of those banks. Surely we can divert a little bit of our national budget toward uplifting those who have fallen behind.”

The Budget for All referendum question is a nonbinding call for legislators to prevent cuts to public benefits, create jobs through public investment, increase revenue by closing corporate loopholes and raising taxes on those making over $250,000 per year, reduce military spending, and end the war in Afghanistan.

The referendum will appear on ballots in dozens of communities across Massachusetts, including Amherst, Granby, Hatfield, Pelham, Northampton, Southampton and Westhampton. The ballot measure was championed by a statewide coalition of organizations called Fund our Communities Not War.

More than two dozen local organizations and politicians sponsored Monday’s event. Northampton Mayor David J. Narkewicz opened the event. Speakers included state Reps. Peter Kocot and Ellen Story, Holyoke City Councilor Aaron Vega, who is a candidate for state representative, Scott Laugenour, a candidate for state representative from Lenox, and Congressman Jim McGovern, who is seeking election to the newly created 2nd Congressional District seat.

Jo Comerford, executive director of the National Priorities Project, a Northampton advocacy and research organization that helped sponsor the event, outlined the differences between President Obama’s budget, the Republican congressional budget, and the Budget for All.

“My job tonight is to make us all fall a little bit in love with our federal budget,” Comerford said.

Speakers were quick to assure the crowd that the goals of the initiative are not “pie in the sky” — a phrase both Napolitano and McGovern used. Instead, they noted that the measure is based on a budget that has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. McGovern is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a strong advocate for the Budget for All.

“I don’t believe that the budgets coming out of Washington reflect what the majority of this country believes,” McGovern said. “When you have budgets that routinely turn a cold shoulder to the poor in this country, make it more difficult for the middle class, provide big tax cuts to the wealthy and to big corporations, and continue to overinvest in a military budget that is so big that even Dr. Strangelove would be impressed, you got to wonder what the hell is going on.”

The audience seemed largely supportive of the measure. One member of the crowd sported a Robin Hood hat. During the question period, attendees expressed their support and asked what they could do to further the goals of the initiative.

Clare Overlander of Florence said she was a strong supporter of the Budget for All before attending Monday’s event.

“This is the most common-sense expression of a national budget ... that has been put forth,” she said. “These are universal principles of community.”

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