Gas taxes to abortion: Monday's debate between Democratic state senate candidates Bartley, Tautznik
David K. Bartley. PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID K. BARTLEY FOR SENATE.
Easthampton Mayor Michael A. Tautznik
Easthampton Mayor Michael A. Tautznik, left, joins debate moderator and WGGB-TV (ABC40) news anchor Ray Hershel and Holyoke City Councilor David K. Bartley at a debate for the two Democratic candidates for the 2nd Hampden and Hampshire state Senate seat. REBECCA EVERETT
EASTHAMPTON — At a debate at the city’s new high school Monday, the two Democratic candidates hoping to win the Oct. 8 primary for 2nd Hampden and Hampshire District agreed that it is time a Democrat occupy the seat former Republican state senator Michael R. Knapik vacated after 18 years.
But Easthampton Mayor Michael A. Tautznik and Holyoke City Councilor David K. Bartley disagreed on many other issues throughout the night, from a state gas tax and abortion, and both argued they would be the best choice to represent the western Massachusetts district.
The Republican candidates who will also compete in the Oct. 8 primary — Westfield state. Rep. Donald F. Humason Jr. and Holyoke Veterans’ Services Officer Michael Franco — were not included because of the Democratic Committee’s involvement and because neither lives in Easthampton, according to Easthampton Community Access Television station manager Kathy Lynch. The debate was sponsored by ECAT and the Easthampton Democratic Committee.
Bartley said his experience as a government auditor for over 16 years, as well as his ability to think on his feet, which he learned as an attorney, will serve him well as a senator. He said he values fairness and listening to his constituents and will be their voice in Boston.
Tautznik said his 35 years working in municipal government, the last 17 as mayor, makes him the most experienced candidate of the four running and he promised to fight hard for the communities in the district. He said his fiscal responsibility would help him win some votes from more conservative voters in the district to challenge a Republican on Nov. 5.
When asked what the solution is to the problem of dwindling state aid to cities and towns, Tautznik said the answer is to create more jobs and thus more payroll taxes.
“Payroll taxes are the basic support for government — they can bring in the kind of revenue we need,” he said. He also said lawmakers need to “do more with less” when crafting the state budget.
Bartley said he doesn’t think “Boston knows best” on the budgeting issue, and fighting in the Legislature is not the answer.
“We’re going to think, we’re going to pull together as a legislative body,” he said. “That’s the experience I’ve had working on the Holyoke City Council ... We work together, we find a solution, we argue it out but we find a resolution.”
When asked about the Chapter 70 formula that the state uses to decide how much to spend on education in a school district, Bartley said he thinks the formula needs to be revised because it does not take into account that communities like Holyoke cannot afford to pay the share the state formula dictates.
“Holyoke and other places, we don’t have the capacity to raise property taxes we need ... We don’t have the property tax base,” he said.
Tautznik said the state’s spending on special education is woefully low. “Special education funding is a huge cost in all our districts. The state does not adequately reimburse for that kind of funding,” he said. He said the state’s funding formulas for education are outdated and need to be reviewed, including the defunding of busing for non-regional districts.
Both candidates touted their communities’ progress toward the state goal of 10 percent affordable housing in each municipality, but Tautznik said the state’s Chapter 40B law that promotes the building of new affordable housing leaves something to be desired.
“I would like to see a change in Chapter 40B that would allow existing housing that meets affordable housing criteria that could be protected permanently by deed restrictions to be counted in that minimum 10 percent,” he said.
Bartley, noting that Holyoke has the second highest percentage of affordable housing in the state, said the law was enacted partly to force the hands of some communities that resist adding affordable housing. “It’s 10 percent, that’s the law, but right now, it’s not even close to being adhered to. Holyoke is doing its share. My hope is the rest of the commonwealth does their share,” he said.
When asked about abortion, Tautznik declared himself the only pro-choice candidate of the four. “I’ve always believed in a woman’s right to choose,” he said.
While Bartley said that he personally doesn’t support abortion because he believes that life begins at conception, reversing Roe v. Wade is not on his radar.
Bartley and Tautznik both supported the Legislature’s recent decision to repeal the software tax that had been written into a transportation funding package passed in July, but disagreed on the gas tax that was also included in the legislation.
Bartley said he would vote to repeal the gas tax because it will increase every year and because most of the funds will stay in the eastern part of the state.
“That’s a tax you and I are going to feel every year,” he said. “It’s not fair.”
Tautznik called the gas and turnpike taxes “a bold move” by the Legislature to fund much needed infrastructure improvements. But he also said that the taxes raised in this part of the state should stay here.
Bartley said he was reserving judgement on Westfield State University President Evan Dobelle’s spending of foundation money and his personal use of university credit cards, as state and university investigations continue.
“There’s a process and the process is being followed. The board of trustees is going to get to the bottom of this,” he said.
Tautznik said he fears Dobelle’s spending has damaged “the public’s trust.”
“I think what was done was wrong, it was the wrong way to use public funds and there should have been more disclosure,” he said.
While he acknowledged that state officials have not finished investigating, he said, “I think if there has been fraud, the man should be fired.”
The special election will be held Nov. 5. Knapik vacated the seat Aug. 9 to take a job as executive director of advancement at Westfield State University.
The 2nd Hampden and Hampshire District comprises Easthampton, Southampton, Westfield, Holyoke, Agawam, Granville, Montgomery, Russell, Southwick, Tolland and part of Chicopee.
The debate will be rebroadcast on ECAT channels 5 and 20.