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Palmieri Hopes for Changes on Beacon Hill

November 4, 2018 GMT

LEOMINSTER -- Rich Palmieri describes his motivations for running very much as a reaction to the last two years on Beacon Hill.

The first-time Republican candidate and retired military police officer is a huge critic of the 2017 vote to grant legislator pay raises, he’s frustrated that the state was unable to reform its educational funding formula, and he sees the sexual harassment scandal surrounding the husband of former state Senate president Stan Rosenberg as an example of “corruption” within the Democratic party.

However, he has few specific criticisms of his opponent, freshman Democratic state Rep. Natalie Higgins, apart from his seeing her as an accessory to all of the above.

“The problem I have with my opponent is simply this: She works for her party, not the city of Leominster,” said Palmieri.

Tapped to oppose Higgins by incumbent Worcester and Middlesex state Sen. Dean Tran, Palmieri admits he is new to the realm of legislation. When asked what specific bills he intends to file or cosponsor, he says he’s more eager to have conversations with people affected by statewide issues and go from there.

He is, however, a big fan of Tran, who has repeatedly touted an accomplishment of successfully advocating for nearly $30 million in state funding for local communities. Perhaps not surprisingly, all of Palmieri’s top three priorities are geared toward bringing money back to Leominster.

If elected, he said his three goals would be to find more funds in the state’s budget for local schools, infrastructure improvements, and housing assistance programs for homeless veterans.

Improving access to affordable education is also one of Higgins’ top three priorities, but where they differ is the funding source. Palmieri has publicly spoken against the proposed Fair Share Amendment, which his opponent supports and would create a four-cent tax on every dollar of income earned over $1 million by Massachusetts residents. He has referred to it as a “targeted tax” that unfairly targets specific community members.

“We have a billion dollar surplus (in Massachusetts), and the way everyone’s talking, it won’t be long before that’s a two billion surplus,” Palmieri said, listing the surplus as one way to find more money for public schools.

One bill he is certain he wants to introduce would be a state law requiring pay raises to state legislators only be approved through a ballot vote of Massachusetts residents.

He also said he wants to sponsor legislation to create a more formal line of communication between local teachers and state education officials regarding the impacts of unfunded mandates from the state.

“If you see something does not work, you need to write up a better plan, submit it through the administration at your school, and then have them submit it back to the state,” he said.

Like Tran, Palmieri is also in favor of spending more money and time on not just repairing, but expanding transportation infrastructure, like the senator’s proposal to widen Route 2 from Gardner to Concord.

While acknowledging that private ownership of abutting properties and topographical limitations like bodies of water may restrict the expansion, he said the highway likely could be expanded in certain areas.

“They are widening the highways where they can, and there are still bottle-neck areas where you can’t do it, but there are sections where things can open up and they will flow,” he said. “There are a lot of people out here that work in Boston, and something has to be done. If we can’t do Route 2, we have to find an alternate route.”

One such option he’s suggested is expanding the MBTA’s Commuter Rail lines, going as far to suggest that train services to Boston should reach as far west as Springfield. Expanding train service by one stop from Fitchburg to the Commuter Rail’s Wachusett station in 2016 cost $93 million and only extended service by a few miles.

Though he said his main issue with his opponent is that she is too allegiant to her political party, Palmieri does have several specific criticisms of Higgins, particularly her cosponsoring of the Safe Communities Act.

Had it passed, the act would have barred police from arresting or detaining a person solely for federal immigration enforcement purposes.

Since the bill was introduced, it’s been criticized as making Massachusetts into a sanctuary state, while Higgins has defended it as a way of preventing local law enforcement officials from being required to divert time and resources into policing immigration.

In a June 7 letter-to-the-editor published in the Leominster Champion, Palmieri wrote, “As I see it, making something that is illegal unenforceable by local and state law enforcement officials creates an environment where more illegals would want to come to Massachusetts. A state where there illegal action in unenforceable.”