Thursday, October 14, 2010
Joyce runs on record of fiscal responsibility

SHARON - State Sen. Brian Joyce said he’s not worried about his reelection chances in November, even though he’s seen a strong anti-incumbent and anti-Democrat sentiment in the country.
Joyce said one poll showed that 35 percent of voters will vote against the incumbent, no matter who it is. But he said he is a moderate rather than a liberal Democrat, which is one reason he believes his district will go against the national trend.

“I would be obtuse if I didn’t see that there’s a lot of anger directed (toward) those in power, but I hope it won’t transfer to my race,” he said. “I’m not identified by partisan politics, not at all. I give my heart and soul to this job, and I think my constituents know that.”
But he said he’s not being naïve. He believes that Canton Selectman Bob Burr will give him a good fight.
“I think my success will be more difficult to replicate this time around,” he said.
While he is a Democrat and counts Milton neighbor Deval Patrick as a friend and close political ally, Joyce said his track record is relatively fiscally conservative because he wants to spend tax money responsibly.
“Until the sales tax hike, I was one of only three senators who had never voted for a tax increase, not once over my 12 years,” he said. “The others were (Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate Richard) Tisei and Scott Brown, R-MA.”
But Joyce said he had no qualms about voting for the tax increase, and he strongly opposes ballot Question 3, which would drop the rate from 6.5 percent to 5 percent. Burr strongly supports the measure.
Joyce said he understood the logic of those who want to scale back the sales tax. In business, lowering prices can increase profit because lower prices usually mean more customers. In the same way, lowering the tax rate can keep many residents from going over to New Hampshire to shop, he said.
“That’s a classic economic model,” he said. “But you have to look at the net result. We’ve done our research, and cutting back that rate would cost the state $4.5 billion, even if it kept everyone from shopping in New Hampshire, and we’d have to make some very difficult choices.”
Joyce said his devotion to fiscal responsibility has been politically unpopular at times. He worked on reforming the pension system, and voted to combine the state’s seven transportation agencies into one.
“You think that was popular with all the T employees?” he said. “But I’m not afraid to stand up to the special interests that have traditionally been seen as allied with the Democrats.”

Burr recently said he liked Joyce’s work in giving tax breaks to the life science’s industry, a move that kept the rapidly expanding company Organogenesis in Canton, but Burr said he wanted the deregulation and tax cuts to go to all businesses. Joyce said he couldn’t disagree more.

“That would be naïve and not fiscally responsible,” he said.

Joyce said the state can’t compete with India or China in manufacturing, so it has to focus its investments on the industries that the government decides are promising.

“We aren’t going to be a leader in cheap shoes, but we can compete with anyone in knowledge-based jobs,” he said. “And these are good, high-paying jobs.”

The state did institute a claw-back system with Organogenesis. If the jobs were not created, the company would have to pay back tax breaks and grants.

“I have a responsibility to make sure that my constituents’ investment pays off,” Joyce said.

In Randolph, Joyce said a government investment in the town will pay off there as well. While he said he wants to decrease government waste, he said that investing large amounts of money in sidewalk and infrastructure improvements would pay off in the future.

“If Randolph were a stock, I’d be buying,” he said.

Joyce also criticized Burr for his opposition to Westwood Station, a proposed shopping center that would abut Canton. He agreed with Burr that the original mall plan was bad for Canton, but he disagreed with how Burr handled the situation.
“It would add a lot of traffic to Canton streets,” he said. “We get the burden, and they get the benefit.”
But Joyce said Burr spent $1 million on an appeal after the deadline had passed, while Joyce worked out a deal with the mall to get road improvements in Canton to handle the added traffic.

“Bob tried to make political hay out of it, while I got a commitment that might actually improve the traffic flow in Canton,” Joyce said.

He said the Westwood Station issue shows the difficulty of trying to get economic development without hurting the quality of life for residents. For instance, he supports the South Coast Rail project in Stoughton, but wants to see some improvements in the plan so it would have less environmental impact.

“(Stoughton Selectman) Steve Anastos has some great ideas,” he said. “I think he sees the inevitability that this is coming, and now we’re working to make sure that the stimulus comes with as little negative impact as possible.”

To help generate economic stimulus, Joyce opposes repealing 40B, the affordable housing law that Burr said has too many loopholes.

“Talk to the plumber, the electrician whose chance at a job would be taken away.,” he said.

Joyce said that 40B has been amended some already, and more can be done. But with 85 percent of the state’s affordable housing coming from the law, he doesn’t think it should be repealed outright.

“That’s extremist - it’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” he said. “These are nice homes, not some slums.”

For more economic growth, Joyce also supports casinos in the state, citing an independent study that says the state is losing up to $1.4 billion every year to Connecticut and Rhode Island. He also said that the moral issue of gambling already has been resolved because the state has supported a lottery for decades.

“We’d be the 41st state to legalize casinos,” he said.
He also said he might support a casino in his district.

“I can’t rule it out,” he said.

Joyce said casinos are not the only revenue stream he’s looking into. He also would support holding a PGA event at the Ponkapoag Golf Course, which regularly has nine or more holes closed because of a lack of funding.

“That would stimulate the local economy just as much as a casino, and it would help fund that professional-level course,” he said. “Having those championship holes closed is a disgrace.”
In all, Joyce said the economy is the main focus of his work, just as it’s the main focus of the election season.

“Is there still inefficiency? Sure,” he said. “But we’ll continue to reduce waste, just as we have.”
But Joyce does want to continue expanding the amount of money the state gives to education.

“I want to keep the burden off the property taxes and local communities,” he said, citing his Canton tax bill that went up to $17,066 from $9,900 over the past six years. He said that keeping state education aid high is an area that he and Burr can agree on.

With all of the inefficiency and all the anti-incumbent feelings in the electorate, Joyce said he still loves being a state senator.

“I know I’m very lucky to have this job,” he said. “Very lucky.”