Spilka Set for Fourth Term
State senator intent on driving economic growth, creating jobs in Second Middlesex and Norfolk District.
State Sen. Karen Spilka is excited to have won the Second Middlesex and Norfolk District election earlier this month, particularly after cruising by an 18-percent margin (59-41) over Republican Ed McGrath.
But even after securing a fourth term, this is no time for the Ashland Democrat to rest on her laurels.
"I'm very pleased with the election results, very appreciative for the help and support of so many people, and I think it was great that so many came out and voted," Spilka said last week.
Spilka represents voters in Middlesex County towns Holliston, Ashland, Framingham, Hopkinton and parts of Natick (precincts 1-5) in addition to Medway and Franklin (precincts 1 and 5-8) in Norfolk County.
Now that the election is behind her, she's already immersed in her priorities for the upcoming year. Economic development and job creation have been and will continue to be the senator's top priority.
"I've been part of an effort to change the way we do business in Massachusetts," Spilka said.
To that end, Spilka has worked to make it easier for businesses to take advantage of state programs meant to help them. Thirty agencies used to be part of the commonwealth's economic development puzzle, making it very difficult for businesses, especially smaller ones, to access programs and loans that were specifically set up for their benefit.
"We merged several agencies, filled in some of the service gaps, and are able to provide loans to small businesses along with other services, help businesses put help wanted signs out," Spilka continued.
Spilka has also been one of the diving forces behind the Regional Private Economic Development organizations, which will be set up as public-private agencies that will help smaller businesses navigate through the variety of economic development programs. These agencies should be formed during the coming year.
Another of the senator's priorities is the Growth Capital Corporations, which she helped create. These, according to Spilka, will increase business access to capital while streamlining the process.
"I talked to many small businesses to learn more about the problems they had, not just in accessing capital but a number of additional concerns as well," she said.
For instance, small businesses used to only be able to take someone to small claims court for an amount no larger than $2,000. This limited ceiling made it difficult for many small businesses to recoup thousands of dollars owed them.
"During the past year, the legislature raised that ceiling to $7,000, which is closer to the rest of the nation, and a great help to merchants," Spilka said. "We need to insure that state agencies run as efficiently as possible, and we should also periodically review all the services and programs being funded to determine how well they're being delivered and if they are still needed."
But Spilka's most pressing focus is continually improving public education in the state, which already ranks high nationally.
"Education is a passion," Spilka said. "It's why I first ran for state representative."
The state will be completing an adequacy study in 2011 to identify what's most important to further the education of students across the commonwealth, and determine ways to fund those programs.
"My third priority is to find ways to curb the raging costs of healthcare, which is crushing families and small businesses," she suggested. "Healthcare involves many tough and complex issues, but we have to tackle them."
This past year, Spilka was part of a collaboration of leaders from the public and private sector instrumental in forming the 495/MetroWest Development Compact, of which she eventually became co-chair. This collaboration will pull organizations, agencies, and businesses together to multiply scarce resources and find other ways to drive the economic engine in the MetroWest region as well as throughout the state.
She was also one of the driving forces in creating the MetroWest Tourism and Vistors' Bureau, which will re-direct funds that used to go to the Boston region to promote tourism throughout MetroWest communities. The new organization will begin work in 2011.
Additionally, Spilka was also a key proponent in creating the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority, which now involves 11 communities and has become a great help to seniors, disabled residents and businesses.
"We are also making it easier to assist those many people commuting from greater Boston to the MetroWest," she said.