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Senate Approves $177 Million Military Bond Bill

Jan 23, 2014Council in the News, State House News Service

By Michael Norton
State House News Service

The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bill authorizing $177 million in state spending to support six state military bases and, according to supporters, put Massachusetts in a stronger position should the federal government close or realign military bases.

“All the states are looking at this in a very competitive way,” said Sen. Ken Donnelly (D-Arlington) said before the Senate voted 37-2 for the so-called military bond bill.

Sen. James Eldridge (D-Acton) and Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) opposed the bill, noting that military funding is a federal responsibility and cautioning that capital spending on other state priorities would likely be at risk given the state’s borrowing limits.

Noting the federal military budget of $594 billion in fiscal 2014 and a 69 percent increase in that budget since 2001, Eldridge said there are deserving and job-creating education, construction, health care and clean energy sector initiatives that could benefit from state investments.

“When we are thinking about the use of this bond money to match the federal dollars to create jobs, let’s pause and think that a much better use of our taxpayer dollars, whether state or federal, is for domestic purposes,” Eldridge said.

Supporters of the bond bill said 11 other states are spending on military installations to preserve and build jobs in the face of potential base closings. They also emphasized that investments in military bases also support private sector jobs and research with applications in the private sector.

“These capital dollars, this is unprecedented in its magnitude,” Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Stephen Brewer said during debate. “This bill today sends a very strong message from this Senate.”

Senate President Therese Murray voted for the bill and said after its passage, “I believe that this is a very important vote you took today. You are also protecting the Coast Guard, that protects our fishermen, our boaters, and intercepts the drug dealers that bring their drugs to our shores.”

Veterans Affairs Committee Co-chairman Sen. Michael Rush said military installations in Massachusetts support more than 46,000 jobs and deliver an annual economic impact of $14.2 billion.

The bond bill (S 1988), Rush said, was the “signature initiative” of a task force created by former Lt. Gov. Tim Murray. The House unanimously passed its military bond bill (H 3726) on Nov. 13.

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