Michlewitz shares priorities at ESNA winter meeting

Just as he has for the past few years, State Rep. Aaron Michelwitz gave an overview of his legislative priorities during the Eight Streets Neighborhood Association’s winter meeting Tuesday at Project Place.
Rep. Michelwitz admitted a year ago when Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo appointed him as chair of the Committee on Ways and Means, which is responsible for crafting and enacting the state’s annual budget, “It was a great honor but a somewhat daunting task.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Rep. Michelwitz attended the first of eight meeting held throughout the Commonwealth before the House of Representatives unveils its state budget in April. After amendments to the budget are filed, members of the House committee will review each one before passing the budget along to the Senate. The Senate will then weigh in on the proposed budget before Memorial Day before passing it along to Gov. Charlie Baker, who must finalize it before the fiscal year ends on July 31.
“Personally my biggest concern is public transportation,” Rep. Michelwitz said. “We’re heading to a tipping point in the City of Boston because of public transportation not being up to snuff.”
Rep. Michelwitz said the state could raise much-needed revenue needed to improve its public transportation infrastructure by increasing the gas tax, which has only seen a 3-percent hike in the past 30 years, but he admitted this initiative could prove “politically challenging” in parts of the state where constituents drive more than they typically do in Boston.
Increasing fees on ride-share services like Uber and Lyft could also help underwrite the cost of public-transportation infrastructure improvements, he said,
While Rep. Michelwitz didn’t provide an estimate for this year’s state budget, he said, “Anything under $500 million wouldn’t be impactful and anything over $1 billion would be tough to pass, so I think somewhere in that range is what we’re looking at.”
Gov. Baker didn’t veto a single budget item last year, which Rep. Michelwitz said was not only a testament to the strong economy, but “also spoke to us spending appropriately.”
Rep. Michelwitz said the state issued a record number of Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) vouchers, which provide financial rental assistance to low-income persons renting apartments on the private market last year.
The state also allocated a substantial sum to subsidize services for the homeless last year, which Rep. Michelwitz said is “an issue dear to [his] heart,” especially since there are three shelters located with his district. “We hope to increase this again for the upcoming fiscal calendar,” he added.
In the past fiscal year, the House and the Senate also unanimously approved the Student Opportunity Act, which updated the funding formula for K-12 public schools throughout the Commonwealth for the first time since 1993 to allocate more money for schools with low-income students.
Rep. Michelwitz said as a “tax-rich” city, Boston doesn’t benefit much from the budget overhaul, but it does provide much needed additional funding for schools in places like Lawrence, Lowell and Worcester.
In another matter, architect Norberto Leon unveiled his latest plans to build a rear deck on the third floor of a building at 37 Dwight St.
The deck, which would measure 19 feet, 2 inches wide and 6 feet deep, would match “the look and size” of an existing second-story rear deck; be made of steel and paint black; and attached to existing masonry.
Leon didn’t outline plans for a proposed roofdeck, however, which he said “would be allowed by [the Boston Landmarks Commission] as long as long we conform to architectural standards.”
Michael Almond, president of the Eight Streets Neighborhood Association, said the group would table the matter until they receive letters from direct abutters.
Meanwhile, the next Eight Streets Neighborhood Association is scheduled for April 14, Almond said.

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