Party: Democratic

Incumbent: Yes

Headquarters: 4 Court Street - Room 109 Taunton, MA 02780
Phone: (508) 880-6272

Age: 58

Occupation: Legislator

Family: Married to Barbara (Sylvia) Pacheco

Town: Taunton

Education: Master of public administration degree, Suffolk University, 1989; honors: Pi Alpha Alpha
Bachelor of science degree in human services, New Hampshire College, Manchester, NH, 1985
Associate of science degree in agronomy, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Stockbridge School of Agriculture, 1973

Experience: State senator.
Former state representative.
Former Taunton School Committee member.
Former budget director and chief assistant to the mayor of Taunton.

— Submitted by the candidate

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TIMELINE

Why are you running?

"I have a vision for the future of this region, and I am willing to fight for it.

I want to help improve our economy and create jobs, invest in education, promote renewable-energy initiatives, and ensure that vital services for seniors and other vulnerable populations remain intact.

What I bring to the table is a mix of valuable life experiences, a strong educational background, and a record of proven results.

I grew up in a working-class family where both of my parents worked long, hard hours to care for my sister and me. I learned the value of hard work at a young age. I drove a truck and worked to fix streets and clean culverts.

I eventually was able to go back to school on nights and weekends to earn a master's degree from Suffolk University.

There were times, however, when I stood in an unemployment line and knocked on door after door looking for work. I know firsthand how that struggle can change lives.

I am not someone who waited for a recession to focus on job creation.

I fought for expansions of the Myles Standish Industrial Park, which now employs more than 7,000 hard-working men and women in the private sector.

I fought for the Kopin Corp. to get grants that enabled it to stay in Taunton, expand, and create hundreds of high-paying jobs.

I fought to make improvements to the Middleboro Industrial Park that played a major role in attracting new businesses to that area.

In addition, I've fought for a state-of-the-art Math & Science Center at Bridgewater State University to ensure that we are prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

Investing in education is absolutely crucial, and I will continue fighting to make sure our region is prepared to meet the demands of the 21st century economy.

As state senator, I have never stopped working hard and fighting for the people of my district, and I would be honored if the voters of the 1st Plymouth & Bristol District give me the opportunity to continue fighting for all of us."

— Submitted by the candidate

Issues

Health costs

The Mass. Taxpayers Foundation recently recommended that local officials be given the power to design their own health plans without having to negotiate with the unions, and that state retirees use Medicare for their primary health care coverage. Do you support these proposals?

"There is no doubt that health care costs are becoming a significant burden for many cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth.

It must be noted, however, that most cities and towns agreed to their current arrangements through the collective bargaining process. A collective bargaining agreement is a contract, and I do not believe that any entity, including our government, should be allowed to unilaterally alter a contract.

The collective bargaining process already allows municipalities to make changes to their current arrangements. Many local leaders have already done this, including my home city of Taunton. In a plan architected by former mayor Robert Nunes, the city and its workers ultimately moved to a new system, generating savings for the city without outside intervention.

Working men and women bargain in good faith in public and private workplaces, and in many instances, they forgo pay increases in lieu of other benefits. The agreements that are reached not only apply to workers while they are employed, but when they are retired as well.

Many people make important life decisions based on the reasonable expectation that their agreements will not be altered after retirement. Therefore, I am opposed to allowing any entity to change any aspects of a collective bargaining agreement unless it is done through the collective bargaining process, especially when the health care of elderly citizens is at stake.

Another infrequently mentioned aspect of this issue is the cost increases that are likely to result in the state budget should a new population of people be transferred into the GIC.

Adding a large new group of people, many of whom are older, would significantly skew the mix and potentially result in a substantial cost increase to the Commonwealth."

State pensions

The foundation also proposed changes in state and municipal pensions, such as increasing the retirement age and capping annual pensions at $100,000. Do you agree?

"I have long believed that there was significant room for improvement to the Commonwealth's pension system.

That is why I was proud to support comprehensive legislation that aimed to end abuses in the pension system and save taxpayer money. While many have talked about pension reform over the years, the state Senate passed this legislation unanimously in 2009.

The average pension for a Massachusetts employee is $24,000 a year; however, prior to the Legislature's pension reform, a small number of people could exploit obscure loopholes in the system at taxpayer expense.

The bill I supported closed many of those loopholes, including the 'one day, one year' provision that allowed some employees to claim a year of credible service for working one day in a calendar year, and the 'termination allowance' that allowed elected officials to increase their pensions based on failure to be nominated or re-elected.

In addition to the major improvements this bill made to the pension system, I also would consider a cap on annual pension amounts similar to the one proposed by the MTF.

I would support a formula-based cap, which would account for eventual cost-of-living increases and adjustments for base wages, rather than a specific dollar value cap that would require regular legislative adjustments for inflation."

MCAS

Do you believe in keeping the requirement that a student must pass the MCAS or an MCAS-like test in order to graduate from high school?

"One of my top priorities in the Legislature and as a public servant has been to ensure that a high-quality public education is available to students throughout the Commonwealth. Education is the key to making sure we will be competitive in the 21st century global economy.

I believe that the MCAS test, or one like it, is an important part of an effective educational strategy. These tests help ensure that students leave school with a strong grasp of the core skills that are necessary for success in the real world.

I also believe, however, that there are many bright and talented students who may not be able to articulate their knowledge on a standardized test. That is why, in addition to standardized testing, I support a portfolio-style apparatus for evaluating students.

I think we need to focus on the entire skill set of a student, as opposed to focusing on only the skills measured on a standardized test. I want to make sure students absorb knowledge and develop critical thinking skills and do not just acquire the memorization skills needed to pass a standardized test."

Public records

Should the state Legislature be exempt from the state's public records law?

"I believe openness and transparency are the crucial traits that allow a democracy to function properly.

I have consistently supported efforts to increase transparency and accountability in the Legislature in the past, and I would certainly continue to support any such efforts in the future.

Legislative transparency must be balanced with our commitment to preserving the confidentiality of the constituents who contact their legislators.

I am very frequently contacted by constituents requesting assistance, and it is often necessary that they provide medical records, financial information, and other sensitive data.

This information is entrusted to me, and to make it publicly available would violate constituent privacy."

Party leadership

Cite any votes (if an incumbent) or positions (if a challenger or newcomer) you have taken that disagree with the stance taken by your party's legislative leadership.

"Since my first day in the State House, I have prided myself on being an independent voice. I have always done what I felt was in the best interest of my district, whether it was in agreement with leadership or not.

Last year, the leaders on Beacon Hill asked me to vote for the FY 2010 budget that cut local aid, raised taxes on sales and alcohol, established local-option taxes on meals and hotels, and made no attempt to save the jobs at the Raynham-Taunton Park. I voted 'no'.

This year, when the FY2011 budget made further cuts to local aid and still failed to address the then-imminent closure of the Raynham-Taunton Park, I refused to give in and voted 'no' again.

In addition to voting against the last two budgets, I have also supported the idea of authorizing slot machines at the state's race tracks. Many leaders of my party have not been in favor of this position. I support it so strongly because I believe it would save and create hundreds of jobs and generate revenue that could be used to fund local aid.

I also broke from party leadership by voting to repeal the alcohol tax. I believe in reality this is a 'double-tax' and it is not a major revenue generator. I believe it should be repealed, and I am in favor of the ballot question seeking to do so in the upcoming election."

Endorsements

Will you make public any questionnaires you fill out in pursuit of the endorsement of unions or other groups?

"I will authorize any of the organizations to whom I submit a questionnaire to release my responses if any of them choose to do so."

Legislative audit

Should the Legislature be subject to a full audit?

"Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said that sunshine is the best disinfectant, and letting more light into government can only help us serve you better.

That's why I support extensive analysis and review of state programs by the state auditor, independent third parties, and the Post Audit and Oversight committee, which I chair.

The Commonwealth was built on providing all citizens with access to an open government. Legislators annually file thousands of bills, many directly from constituents through their right of free petition, and manage the $29 billion budget. With this responsibility, I believe the Legislature should continue to be subject to regular audits at the hand of a neutral third party.

Senate Rule 13C requires periodic audits of Senate financial accounts to be conducted by a certified public accountant experienced in auditing governmental entities. This audit is publicly available from the Senate clerk's office.

By utilizing an independent auditor for Senate audits, we protect against conflicts of interest arising from partisanship or the legislative funding of the state auditor's office."

Formal sessions

Is the Legislature holding enough full formal sessions?

"While I do believe the Legislature was successful in addressing many important issues during the current two-year session, some crucial matters have been overlooked.

For example, I believe the Legislature should have gone back into session to finish work on the gaming bill. Holding more formal sessions would help facilitate action on this issue and others, and I am in favor of increasing the number of sessions for that reason.

I must stress, however, that a legislator's important responsibilities consist of much more than participating in formal sessions. The most crucial job a legislator does is spend time in his or her district listening to the thoughts and concerns of constituents.

A legislator must dedicate significant amounts of time to meeting with local officials and constituent advocacy groups, attending events and meetings in the district, and ensuring that he or she understands the issues and critical needs of the cities and towns he or she represents."

Term limits

Should there be term limits for the jobs of House Speaker and Senate President?

"Under Senate rules, the Senate President is already subject to an 8-year (4-term) limit. I believe this limit is fair, and I fully support it."

Responses gathered through e.thePeople

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