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Democratic Congressional Candidates Identify Ways to Jumpstart Economy, Reduce Unemployment

A week from today, voters in the 5th Congressional District will go to the polls to select a Democrat to face off against a Republican challenger in December to become the district new U.S. Representative.

Democratic Congressional Candidates Identify Ways to Jumpstart Economy, Reduce Unemployment
A week from today, voters in the 5th Congressional District, which includes Framingham, will go to the polls to select a Democrat and a Republican candidate, who will face off in December to become the district's new U.S. Representative.

This is the first time in more than three decades, the district has elected a new U.S. Representative. Massachusetts' junior Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass) had held the congressional seat since 1976, before being elected to senator this year. He resigned the congressional seat on July 15, 2013. 

The district, redesigned in 2012, now represents 24 communities in three counties.

There will be seven Democratic names on the Tuesday, Oct. 15 ballot. They are Sen. William Brownsberger, Sen. Katherine Clark, Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, Martin Long, Paul Maisano, Rep. Carl Sciortino and Sen. Karen Spilka.
Patch asked each of the candidates running in the primary a series of questions. The answers to those questions will be published now through Sunday, Oct. 13. Long did not respond to Patch's request.

Today's report focuses on the unemployment rate and the economy.

Patch asked each candidate this question: "For years, Massachusetts maintained an unemployment rate well below the national average. After a summer of rising rates, however, Massachusetts unemployment numbers now mirror the nation as a whole. What's changed, and what can you do at the congressional level to help restore employment in Massachusetts?"


Sen. Will Brownsberger:  "Massachusetts has continued to add jobs over the past year, just not enough to keep up with work force growth. As the number of people looking for work has exceed job growth, our unemployment rate has ticked upwards. I'm not sure why job growth has not been stronger in Massachusetts. The big picture is that our national economy is facing a long-term transition brought on by  globalization and automation. I will support policies designed to sustain ongoing innovation  that creates good jobs and to provide education that helps people at all stages of life adapt to a changing economy. 

First, I am a strong proponent of ample and consistent federal investment in basic research - to support the Massachusetts economy and also to promote national growth. Sustained federal support for fundamental scientific inquiry is critical to our economic future, and Massachusetts’ institutions are major recipients of grant funding. Federal funding for the National Institutes of health has drifted downwards over the past few years and has taken a further cut with sequestration, and federal funding for general science and basic research has failed to keep pace with inflation over the past few years. Second, I will support investment in necessary infrastructure - investment that, in itself,  creates jobs, but which also lays the foundation for economic growth. I am particularly  concerned to support funding for public transportation. As a Congressman, I will be especially diligent in helping to move major infrastructure projects through the approval process. Third, I will continue to be active on clean energy and climate issues - these do have job creation implications for Massachusetts. Energy conservation jobs are lower skill local jobs. Clean energy jobs are higher skill, but also local. Infrastructure investments to adapt to rising sea level rise may be substantial in the future. Fourth, changes in our intellectual property laws may also be an important part of strengthening innovation - the patent system has become a barrier to growth in at least some fields. In information technology, inordinate resources are being diverted into patent litigation. Fifth, I will work hard to pass criminal justice and immigration reforms that will help alleviate some of the burden of poverty and allow groups that are often marginalized to fully integrate (or re-integrate) into their communities and the work force."

Sen. Clark: "Misguided federal priorities and shortsighted federal budgeting have finally caught up to Massachusetts. The impact of sequestration, with cuts to programs and services, and funding for the innovation economy, is being felt in the Commonwealth and in the Fifth Congressional District. When workers are furloughed from Hanscom Air Force Base, it has a ripple effect through the local economy. When kids are kept out of Head Start and their parents can’t find reliable childcare so they can go to work, it has a huge impact. 

And when federal funding for research and development is cut, great jobs in laboratories, manufacturing companies and at universities are lost. If we want to improve our economy and economic security, we need an educated and skilled work force. The research clearly shows that providing high-quality early education programs to our youngest learners – so that they’re reading at grade level by third grade – makes them more likely to graduate high school, move on to college, and have higher wages. Continuing federal funding for research into chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s and alternate energy sources will create jobs and be good for the economy. We also need to equip our workforce with access to targeted education and job training for high-tech manufacturing and other skilled jobs. In the State Senate, I co-sponsored legislation to create regional skills academies that would train workers and fill 120,000 open jobs."

Sheriff Koutoujian:  "As the country continues to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, middle class families across the 5th District are still feeling the strain of our struggling economy. I feel it too. My family has been a member of the middle class in Waltham my entire life. We must promote policies that spur job growth and strengthen the middle class. Government needs to invest in businesses and projects that create local jobs today, and encourage entrepreneurship, which creates the jobs of tomorrow. While our economy shows signs of improvement, there are still many people without work. In order to foster job creation, we must invest in the programs that help small businesses grow, because they are the engines that will drive our economic recovery.

Supporting and enhancing the Small Business Administration’s lending programs will make it easier and less costly for small businesses to access credit. I also support a comprehensive overhaul of our nation’s tax code to help level the playing field for our small business owners and entrepreneurs. We must make it easier for individuals to start a new business and ensure that existing businesses have the support they need to remain competitive. The 5th District is home to many of the industry leaders in biotechnology, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, technology, telecommunications and energy, which are some of the largest employers in the Commonwealth. Supporting these leaders of research and development is key to boosting our economy and making the 5th District, and the entire Commonwealth, a hub for these engines of job growth.

In Massachusetts, and the 5th Congressional District, our higher education institutions are known for their academic excellence, which attracts students from around the world to our area, fueling our economy and creating countless jobs. The financial impact of our first class schools reaches everyone from those employed there to the small businesses providing meals to hotels that house parents and prospective students.  A vital component to our economic success is a sound transportation infrastructure. That is why I support further investment to rebuild our roads and bridges and improve our transit and commuter rail system. Better investment in our infrastructure will help generate greater economic development and, as a result, create much-needed jobs for the people of the 5th District."

Maisano: "Haven't we noticed that nearly 10% percent of our population has relocated from this state over the last decade. People are not making it here they are leaving the state due to the high expense. The numbers are flawed when this is added to the equation."

Rep. Sciortino: "We need an economy that works for all. If you have worked hard and played by the rules, you should be able to prosper, no matter where you started out.

First and foremost, we need to tackle the growing gap in income inequality between the rich and the rest of us. That means enacting a progressive tax code where having more money doesn’t mean you get to pay less in taxes. Second, we need to make sure that small businesses, which employ the majority of workers, aren’t subjected to policies that tip the balance in favor of big corporations, and have access to the same benefits as large businesses. Third, we need to implement meaningful regulations on Wall Street and big banks to ensure the reckless policies of a few do not bankrupt the economy for the rest of us. Fourth, we need to make sure that if you work a full-time job, you are not subject to living below the poverty line. We need to increase the federal minimum wage to a living wage and index it to the rate of inflation. Fifth, we need to invest in green jobs, make investments in renewable energy and need a generational investment in our aging infrastructure — all of which benefit our national security, and environment while creating good paying jobs."

Sen. Spilka: "Economic development has been my central priority on Beacon Hill. As chair of the Jobs Commission I learned from workers and business owners that one of the keys to employment in this new economy is continuous education and skill development. Business need highly skilled workers trained to do increasingly technical jobs. I have fought to make some important changes at the state level directing resources to training programs that meet employer need, improving Science Technology Engineering and Math education, creating internship programs and providing access to capital to companies at risk of closing. We are making progress and there are strong industries in our state. 

But we are not isolated. The health of the Massachusetts economy is affected by our trading partners in Europe and Asia and we are vulnerable to the austerity program inflicted on the entire nation by the sequestration imposed by a dysfunctional Congress. In Congress I would work to help Massachusetts companies connect with federal programs that assist with export issues and be a strong voice for rational budgeting in Congress. It is distressing to see increasing unemployment numbers in Massachusetts. Many families have not had any relief from the Great Recession that began in 2008. Long term unemployment is crippling older workers and many young people entering the workforce over the last five years are not finding jobs that use all their qualifications or pay a living wage. While the improving housing market is helping construction employment and our thriving innovation economy has brought new private sector jobs those gains are being offset by the loss of government jobs that are the results of sequestration and decreased federal spending. Higher education, life sciences, including healthcare, and defense are major sectors of the Massachusetts economy and all rely on heavy federal spending. Sequestration is hitting those sectors very hard and it is clear that we are now seeing the impact of drastic across the board cuts in our unemployment numbers. ... In Massachusetts the furnace of our economy is research and innovation. As chair of the BioTech Caucus I have come know that the federal government has an important role in nurturing the life science industry. We need both the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation to be well funded and efficiently run to maintain support for the activities we do so well here. We must support the education of future scientists, fund basic research and monitor and assist in clinical trials. The damage caused by cutting funding for this work will take a generation to repair. In Massachusetts, technology jobs are key to long term prosperity. In the short term they are very good high paying jobs that produce the ancillary benefit of increasing jobs in service sectors and local economies."

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