Mass. Dems urge swing state students to vote home
Massachusetts Democrats are making an extra effort to register college students — and reminding those from battleground states that they can always vote at home.
Democrats still remember the 537-vote margin that cost Al Gore the state of Florida and the White House in 2000. They’re making a special push to remind students attending college here that they can cast ballots in their home states.
They say their votes are needed more in states like Florida and other swing states than in liberal Massachusetts, considered a safe state for Obama.
Massachusetts, with more than 450,000 college students, is seen as prime territory for the drive, although it’s unclear how many students hail from swing states.
More than two-thirds of Massachusetts residents said they opposed President Bush’s rejected $700 billion economic bailout plan and a majority are bracing for harder times ahead by cutting back on travel, meals and other spending.
A poll by Suffolk University and the Boston Globe found only 29 percent of residents backed the bailout. Almost six in 10 said they are worried about paying their heating bills and nearly a third are worried they won’t be able to keep up with their mortgage payments.
Half of Massachusetts residents said the economy will be the biggest factor in their choice for president, ahead of the Iraq war, health care and terrorism.
The poll of 400 Massachusetts residents was conducted between Sept. 22 and 25 and has a margin of error of 4.9 percent.
Local governments can seek housing aid this week
WASHINGTON — State and local governments seeking a piece of $4 billion in federal aid to purchase, fix up and sell foreclosed properties can apply as soon as this week.
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) last Friday released a breakdown of how the money will be spent and published detailed rules on the application process Monday.
The assistance, pushed by congressional Democrats, was included in a massive housing bill passed and signed by President Bush in July. The White House argued strenuously against the plan, saying it would help lenders, not homeowners.
Since the legislation requires funding to be parceled out within 18 months, officials are urging communities to submit funding applications soon.
“It’s essential for them to put these plans together quickly,” said Housing and Urban Development Secretary Steve Preston.
The government is divvying up money based on an analysis of foreclosure levels, risky lending and mortgage defaults. For example, California’s Riverside and San Bernardino counties, both hotbeds of foreclosures, are slated to receive $48.5 million and $22.8 million, respectively.
Massachusetts is set to receive $43.47 million, including $4.2 million to Boston, $2.6 million to Springfield, $2.4 million to Worcester and $2.2 million to Brockton.
HUD will host a housing summit in Washington on Oct. 7-8 as well as other regional conferences to explain the details of the program to governors, mayors and other local leaders.
Nonprofits warn Patrick on budget cuts
Nonprofit groups are warning Gov. Deval Patrick about possible program cuts before he has a chance to propose them.
Patrick has said steep cuts across state government are possible after a $200 million drop in revenues over the first half of September.
In a letter to Patrick, the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network said slashing funds would destabilize nonprofits, which are the state’s leading employer.
Nonprofits such as hospitals, museums, and human service agencies provide more than 13 percent of state jobs.
The nonprofits argue the state’s economic problems can’t be fixed by cutting its major source of jobs.
The Boston Globe reported that many nonprofits are panicking because they are spending money they might not have after cuts.
A Patrick spokeswoman said the governor knows cuts won’t be easy, but tough decisions are ahead.
Mass. lawmakers: Raise gas tax, not Pike tolls
NATICK — Lawmakers from Boston’s western suburbs say a higher gas tax or new tolls on the Central Artery through Boston should be considered instead of hiking Massachusetts Turnpike tolls.
They’re looking for relief for commuters from their districts, as the Turnpike Authority considers raising tolls by up to a dollar on the highway. It is also considering steeper increases in the authority’s tunnels to downtown Boston.
The struggling agency is seeking to raise an extra $90 million annually.
State Sen. Karen Spilka of Framingham told The Boston Globe that a small group of citizens should not be expected to support the Big Dig.
State Rep. David Linsky of Natick says tolls on the Pike could be eliminated if the 23.5 cents-per-gallon gas tax was raised three or four cents per gallon.
Massachusetts driver’s licenses are getting a new look.
The Patrick administration last Thursday awarded a six-year, $32 million contract to a Connecticut company to produce the next generation of driver’s licenses. Registrar of Motor Vehicles Rachel Kaprielian told The Boston Globe the new licenses will be more secure against identity theft and harder to counterfeit.
The company, Stamford-based L-1 Identity Systems, also has agreed to build a new plant in the state to manufacture the licenses. Massachusetts licenses are currently made in Washington state.
L-1 will produce 1.4 million new licenses and ID cards annually.
The new licenses are expected to come into use next September.