By Paul Tennant
November 25, 2012
ANDOVER — State Rep. James Lyons has renewed his fight to prevent state benefits from being paid to illegal immigrants.
Gov. Deval Patrick issued an executive order last week that permits undocumented aliens to pay the same tuition rate at state colleges and universities as legal Massachusetts residents if they have obtained work permits.
Lyons, R-Andover, said he and other Republican legislators have filed a bill that would restrict all state benefits to United States citizens and legal immigrants. Last year, Lyons demanded that the Patrick administration report how much was spent during the fiscal year on health services for illegal immigrants.
In October 2011, the administration gave a figure of $270 million, Lyons said.
“My role is to protect the hard-earned tax dollars of working people,” Lyons said. The governor has been talking about increasing taxes, according to Lyons.
“We need other solutions besides taxes and providing services to illegal immigrants,” he said. His proposal has support from Republican colleagues but so far, no Democratic legislators have approached him about backing the measure, he said.
Yet he’s received more than 100 emails from people who object to illegal immigrants receiving state benefits, he said. The response, he said, has been “really incredible.”
Lyons, re-elected to his second term as representative from the 17th Essex District on Nov. 6, said “it’s insanity” that Patrick wants to give illegal aliens benefits while presiding over reductions in aid to cities and towns.
President Barack Obama issued an executive order that allows illegal immigrants who came to the United States before reaching age 16 and who don’t have criminal records to obtain work permits. They must also pay a $465 fee.
Both Obama and Patrick have pointed out that those who came here illegally at a young age were most likely brought by their parents, so their presence in America is “not their fault.”
State Rep.-elect Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, whose 14th Essex District abuts Lyons’ territory, did not commit herself to a position when asked what she thinks of Lyons’ bill. She hasn’t had a chance to study the legislation, she said.
Education-money windfall expected from state
State awards town schools $600,000 more than Andover planned
By Dustin Luca
July 5, 2012
Andover schools will receive significantly more state money than officials expected.
State Sen. Barry Finegold referred to it as the highest allocation of education money ever from the state to Andover, and $608,804 more than the town planned for in its budget.
“There’s the potential for the town having to go back to Town Meeting on this,” to determine how the extra cash should be handled, said Finegold, who noted the town usually goes back to Town Meeting for the opposite reason — because it does not have enough money for what it needs to do.
This past week, Andover state legislators reported ratifying a budget that increases money being sent to Andover by over $1 million, one of the largest year-over-year increases in state education money the town has seen in its history.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said state Rep. Jim Lyons. “Ultimately, what you have is a total state budget of around $32 billion. What we’re doing is trying to get a bigger portion of that money back to the communities.”
“Years ago Andover was disproportionally cut and we’ve been trying to get back to where we were,” said Finegold. “In the early 2000s we had to make some difficult decision.”
Local aid can be used to cover the costs of new programs or reduce the tax burden on taxpayers by reducing what has to be collected through property taxes, according to Lyons. Chapter 70 funding specifically targets school districts.
Last year the town received $6.9 million for education from the state. The House had recommended an increase of about $400,000 for Andover. This was the estimate Andover used to create its budget for fiscal year 2014, which began on Sunday, July 1. However, the state has approved $7.95 million in education aid for Andover, the number approved in the Senate version of the budget.
The budget also ensures that students with special needs receive the services and education they need, according to Finegold. Andover is eligible to be reimbursed for up to $2.5 million in special education costs, an increase of more than $200,000 over last year.
The Massachusetts Municipal Association applauded the legislature’s FY2013 budget, saying: “By passing this budget, every legislator is demonstrating their commitment to local aid and their determination to invest in cities and towns as an essential step in the state’s economic recovery.”
Finegold said the money is available in part because more people are working in Massachusetts than in many other places around the country.
“Revenues are doing much better. No question about it,” he said. “The rest of the country is [over] 8 percent [unemployment]. We’re 6 percent, so the money is coming in.”
Illegals, others use funds
By John Zaremba
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Illegal aliens, out-of-staters and others who failed to produce proof of Massachusetts residency drained $118 million from the pool of cash the state uses to reimburse hospitals and clinics that care for the poor in the latest year on record, state officials say.
The report, a letter from Health and Human Services Commissioner Aron Boros last week to an Andover lawmaker who has been dogging the state for health cost data, says people without documents racked up $118 million in medical bills from October 2010 through September 2011, paid for through the state’s Health Safety Net program — funded by taxpayers, insurance ratepayers and hospitals and intended for the state’s indigent residents.
Boros’ letter also says that program coughed up $60 million for people whose claims paperwork did not include certain data — such as residency status — because of the confidential nature of their medical problem. That group includes victims of domestic violence and minors seeking birth control.
Total safety-net spending for the year: $412 million.
“That’s a lot of money. A lot of money that is going basically to individuals without any documentation. It’s time to level the playing field,” said Rep. James J. Lyons (R-Andover), who wants the state to tighten regulations to weed out free riders.
“If you open a business in the commonwealth, you’ve got to provide documentation of where you live and what the business is,” Lyons said. “If we’re providing benefits, all I’m suggesting we do is level the playing field. Don’t just give benefits out if we’re not requiring documentation.”
In October, the Patrick administration — under pressure after Lyons staged a sit-in in the House chambers — disclosed that nearly 55,000 illegal aliens received more than $93 million from the separate MassHealth benefits for emergency medical services in 2010.
A scathing March 2011 report on the Health Safety Net by the state Inspector General’s office analyzed the fund’s 2009 spending and found that $7 million went to medical bills for non-Massachusetts residents, in addition to $6 million paid for duplicate claims and $17.8 million for more than 60,000 dubious claims, including foot X-rays for patients complaining of headaches.
“The purpose of the Health Safety Net Trust Fund is to reimburse hospitals for care provided to individuals who include victims of domestic violence, patients in need of emergency treatment and children,” HHS spokesman Alec Loftus said. “The health safety net has been supported for decades by multiple administrations in Massachusetts and health safety net payments are down more than 40 percent since the Romney administration, thanks to the successful implementation of health care reform in Massachusetts.”
Joshua Archambault, director of health-care policy at Boston’s conservative Pioneer Institute, said Boros’ letter “points to a significant hole in accountability when it comes to spending state resources.”
“It’s just telling us we have a lot more work to do to make sure we’re spending taxpayer money wisely on health care. … It shows we need more of a robust audit of this program, given the amount we’re spending.”
Democrats target measure in House
By Kyle Cheney – State House News Service
April 26, 2012, Boston Globe
House members beat back a Republican-led effort Wednesday to force indigent criminal defendants to pay unpaid legal bills by threatening to block their driver’s license renewals or car registrations.
Democrats ripped the move as an effort to penalize “the poorest of the poor’’ and a burdensome measure that would ask state agencies to shoulder additional administrative functions. The proposal, an amendment to the House’s $32.3 billion budget, failed 36-to-119 with just three Democrats joining the 33-member Republican caucus in support.
Representative James Lyons, an Andover Republican and sponsor of the amendment, contended that the state forfeits millions of dollars each year that it is owed for providing legal counsel to indigent defendants who are deemed able to afford a $150 legal fee.
In 2010, Lyons asserted, the state billed $42 million for those services and received just $8 million in payment.
“What we have is $34 million simply lying there on the floor, and all we have to do is bend over and pick it up,’’ Lyons said during debate on the budget. “They have the assets. They have the income, and they have the ability to pay.’’
Lyons pointed out that motorists who fail to pay speeding tickets are prevented from renewing their licenses regardless of their financial wherewithal, and he said a similar mechanism would ensure that those defendants who turn to publicly funded legal counsel pay bills they are deemed able to afford.
Other Republicans called the move a “common sense’’ measure that would target only those with assets.
“There are already mechanisms in place to determine they are financially able to pay the money,’’ said Representative Daniel Webster, a Pembroke Republican. “There really is no need to further study whether or not the guidelines in place for determining indigency would affect this.’’
But Democrats countered that the move was more complicated than Republicans had indicated.
“I’ve come over the years to distrust quick and easy money,’’ said Somerville Democrat Denise Provost, drawing applause from colleagues.
The representative added, “This is substantive policy we are being asked to make on the promise that it is easy money.’’
Representative Michael Costello, a Newburyport Democrat, said those seeking indigent defense counsel typically are not seeking to cut corners.
“This is a person who is accused of a crime whose liberty is at stake,’’ he said. “I find it hard to believe that at that low of a threshold, they’re out to game the system. Most of them are in a really tough spot. They have no money. They have no support. They can’t afford private counsel.’’
Lyons rejected those arguments, contending the state’s own guidelines deem some recipients of indigent defense counsel able to afford limited fees.
“I’m not disputing anything about whether or not someone should have counsel. I completely believe in it, understand it and support it,’’ he said, adding, “This isn’t the poorest of the poor we’re talking about.’’
Representatives join with fellow Republicans to oppose hike.
January 20, 2012, Tewksbury Patch
Representatives Paul Adams (R-Andover) and Jim Lyons (R-Andover) joined the entire House and Senate Republican caucus in filing legislation to freeze the anticipated unemployment insurance tax rate.
Citing the current economic climate as the reason for this legislation, House and Senate Republicans seek to prevent a tax increase of $220 per employee, or 31 percent, on the Commonwealth’s businesses. This would mark the fourth straight year that a similar bill has been passed by the Legislature protecting Massachusetts employers from this damaging and unnecessary tax hike.
Although this tax hike triggered on January 1, 2012, employers will not receive the bill for a few more weeks. In the interim, the Legislature has the opportunity to ease the potential burden on the Commonwealth’s businesses.
“This rate freeze is essential,” said Rep. Jim Lyons of Andover, “to protect struggling small businesses. Otherwise, a huge government rate hike will place an unacceptable burden on family-operated shops and stores.
“We must,” Lyons emphasized, “improve the climate for local employers to thrive and create new jobs. This legislation is one step in the right direction, one that helps small businesses and will lead to greater job creation and economic growth.”
“Freezing this tax now and reducing taxes across the board will build confidence within the private sector, helping keep people employed and end our state’s part-time jobs crisis,” said Rep. Paul Adams of Andover. “Most importantly, overhauling the Commonwealth’s unemployment insurance system will help private-sector job creators stay here and expand here for the long term.”
“Unemployment insurance is already a major cost for employers in Massachusetts, and one that relates directly to the number of people they employ,” said Senator Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), the Senate Minority Leader. “A substantial rate increase now will not only imperil a struggling economic recovery, it will also put a new obstacle in the way of getting people back to work.”
In addition to freezing the unemployment insurance tax rate hike in the coming weeks, the House and Senate Republican Caucuses will introduce comprehensive unemployment insurance reform and long-term job creation opportunities for the Bay State.
October 29, 2011
Pol gets action!
Gets Patrick to admit high cost of illegals’ health care
By Gary J. Remal
A dogged freshman lawmaker who refused to budge from the House chambers earlier this month until the Patrick administration came clean on how much taxpayers coughed up last year for free health care to illegal aliens finally got his answer yesterday: a whopping $93 million.
“I didn’t think it would take as much work as it did to answer such a simple question about how our tax dollars are spent,” state Rep. James J. Lyons Jr. told the Herald yesterday.
“My whole goal was to get the information and open the process up. (MassHealth spending) is a third of the state budget. That was what we highlighted to (Health and Human Services) Secretary (JudyAnn) Bigby.”
The 58-year-old Andover Republican — who bucked Beacon Hill by holding a sit-in in the House chambers two weeks ago — pried the shocking report from state officials. It showed that nearly 55,000 illegal immigrants received more than $93 million in MassHealth benefits for emergency medical services last year.
Watchdogs predicted that the report is likely to inspire deeper questions about the state’s lavish spending on health care for illegals. The staggering medical bill for poor and jobless residents was supposed to level off under the Bay State’s landmark universal health insurance plan enacted five years ago under the aegis of then-Gov. Mitt Romney.
“It is sad that Rep. Lyons was forced to hold up business on Beacon Hill to get basic information that should be part of the yearly budget process,” said Joshua Archambault, director of health-care policy at the conservative Pioneer Institute in Boston.
“This issue deserves further investigation. Simply put, the administration has failed to set up robust program integrity features, many of which were part of the health-care reform law passed five years ago,” Archambault said.
However, another state budget watchdog said the report — which showed the state doled out more than $9.5 billion to more than a million low-income families — doesn’t reveal how much the bill for illegals has increased since the system was overhauled in 2006.
“It would be interesting to know what it was in 2005 or ’06,” said David G. Tuerck of Suffolk University’s Beacon Hill Institute. “It’s too bad it took forever to get this information from these people.”
Lyons began pushing the Patrick administration for a full accounting of all state spending on illegal immigrants last May.
In her letter, Bigby apologized to Lyons for his long wait. Her spokeswoman explained that it took time to get “a thorough and accurate” accounting of the spending.
Lyons took a gracious stance. “I think this opens the lines of communication with the administration, and this administration recognizes that openness and transparency are something we are very serous about. This is a good first step,” he said.
“But we started this process in May, and here we are in October, so hopefully it will be a little quicker than this next time.”
October 15th, 2011
Rep Sits Tight, Wins Budget Duel
By Gary J. Remal
An upstart freshman lawmaker’s threat to occupy his State House seat and stall approval of the $500 million supplemental budget bill bent the Patrick administration to his will, forcing an accounting of state benefits for illegal immigrants and out-of-staters.
Channeling Jimmy Stewart in the iconic “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” Andover Republican Rep. Jim Lyons, 58, stood his ground for more than 24 hours starting Thursday afternoon, camping out in the House chambers to push for the numbers or force Democrats, some of whom had supported his demand in earlier tallies, to take a roll call vote.
“My taxpayers, my district is asking a very simple question, ‘Where are our tax dollars going?’ ” Lyons said.
After extracting a promise from state Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby last night, Lyons stepped aside and allowed final passage of the budget.
For months, Lyons said, he had been asking Gov. Deval Patrickfor a breakdown of state human services spending, and administration officials repeatedly promised to turn it over.
But when it never showed, Lyons injected in the spending bill a requirement that the governor account for all benefits paid out, an amendment supported by a majority of House members.
The conflict arose when Lyons’ provision was not in the Senate bill, Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen M. Brewer (D-Barre) said, and it did not survive the melding of the House and Senate versions.
“It was not a Senate priority,” Brewer said. “I think it needs further study.”
Lyons was able to hold off a vote on the budget because the House is meeting “informally” and cannot take action without unanimous consent. Even a single member’s objection can force a roll-call vote.
“If we weren’t here today, it’s my understanding, they would essentially gavel it through,” without a recorded vote, Lyons said.
Bigby spokeswoman Jennifer Kritz promised a quick response. “I would say days. Soon.”
Lyons said he was willing to end his protest, believing Bigby’s commitment. “It looks like people are starting to see it’s taxpayers’ money and not the bureaucrats’ ” he said.
Hillary Chabot contributed to this report.
October 5th, 2011
Lyons Amendment Clears House
North Andover Patch
State Rep. Jim Lyons (R-Andover), joined by his Republican House colleagues, introduced a “transparency in spending” amendment to the state supplemental budget that passed the House of Representatives.
Titled “An amendment to account for budget expenditures,” the Lyons-authored amendment directs the Executive Office of Administration and Finance to specify the amount of state taxpayer funds being spent on benefits and services for citizens, documented legal residents, and those whose status remains undetermined
“As I talk with taxpayers in the communities of my district,” Lyons said, “one question that I am consistently asked is: ‘Where are our tax dollars being spent?’
“This amendment will help answer that important question” Lyons emphasized. ”We are looking for basic data that should be readily available to the public. By requiring the Patrick Administration to share this information with the public, we will shine the light of openness and transparency onto the state spending process.”
In addition to requiring a report on taxpayer-funded benefits, the amendment also asks for a break-down of spending with respect to legal services, translation services, the detention of prisoners, and costs related to the Health Safety Net program.
“How can we legislators know how to spend taxpayer funds efficiently,” Lyons observed, “if we are denied information about where those tax dollars are going? Or on whose behalf those tax dollars are being spent? Or for what purposes?
“Sharing this knowledge with the taxpayers of the Commonwealth will enrich our legislative budgetary debates,” concluded Lyons. “The reporting of this essential data is the first step to answering the question posed to me by constituents: ‘How and where are our tax dollars being spent?’”
September 15th, 2011
Lyons Delivers Speech Opposing Gambling Legislation
Rep. Jim Lyons (R-Andover) delivered his maiden address to the House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon,Sept. 14. Lyons expressed his opposition to the pending casino gambling legislation. Here is the full text of that speech:
“Within the bill to institutionalize casino gambling in Massachusetts lies a provision that bans smoking tobacco products in casinos. The betting parlor must present a pristine smoke free environment. This presents a jarring note, a clanging sound, in a bill that seeks to undo centuries of history, that seeks to remove the prohibition, endorsed by generations, against state sanctioned casino gambling.
For how many decades have we been striving to discourage the individual habit of smoking? The same bill that acknowledges our societal commitment to discourage the smoking habit- that very same bill- opens the door to the habit of gambling in casinos. This bill in effect turns our cultural history on its head. In everyday conversation, we say ‘doing a 180.’
We need not make any ethical or moral judgments about gambling. The question before us is not whether gambling is right or wrong at all times and in all places. The question today is about casino gambling in Massachusetts.
This bill before us proposes a fundamental change in the character of this state—of this great Commonwealth. If we approve this bill, we are turning our backs on our history. We are moving our state irrevocably in a different direction. We are taking a 180 degree turn.
The important question is: Are we turning in a better direction? In a stronger direction? In a direction that, decades from now, the heirs to this Commonwealth will be proud to say: ‘It was this legislature- it was this generation- that delivered slot parlors and gambling casinos into our state.’
Now I know that there are studies upon studies projecting job growth, revenues, and development. And- Who knows?- maybe some of these studies will prove reasonably accurate. Or maybe not. One place we know for certain that jobs will be added is to the new state bureaucracy overseeing the gambling venues. We are told that there will be at least five well-compensated commissioners added to guide this new bureaucracy.
We also know that there will be jobs created by revenue that is set aside for the expressed purpose of combating compulsive gambling. I do not believe that these are jobs that any of us can feel proud about creating.
We know that the growth of gambling will ensnare some vulnerable persons and profoundly wound their families. We don’t know precisely who they are, or how many there will be, or when they will be hurt. We do know that they will not come from the most privileged, the most affluent, or the highest income segments of society. Yes, we do know that families who cannot afford to be harmed will be harmed. We are so certain of it that we are setting aside revenue for addiction counseling to mitigate this pain.
And yet, these cost/benefit questions are not sufficient to suppress casino gambling fervor, or maybe I should say casino gambling fever, in Massachusetts.
So I draw your attention back to the questions each of us must ask ourselves: Do we want to be part of the legislature that will be remembered for one thing and one thing only? Make no mistake: We will forever be the legislature that brought casino gambling to Massachusetts. The casino gambling legislature. That will be our legacy. That will be etched in our history. That will be engraved on our monuments.
We are linked together, one with other fellow citizens. This is the obligation we mutually accept as citizens in this place and at this time. And we are also linked together across time with those who came before us, with those who worked and sacrificed for so many generations to build this great Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Despite the want and deprivation of the Great Depression, they did not succumb to the temptation of building gambling parlors. Despite the pain and peril of great wars, they did not need gambling parlors to take them away from their hard realities, from nights and days filled with difficulties. Can we truthfully say that our want is greater than theirs? Do we really believe that we are in greater need of easy diversions than they were? Yet, they held course. They held steady. They worked to create the future that we enjoy.
And what will those who come after us say? Will they say that like our parents and grandparents, we rolled up our sleeves to build a brighter, stronger future? Or will they say that we left them places for gaming, places for betting, and places for gambling? Will they say of us that we gambled their future away, rather than built it?
Let us step back from this change, from this 180 degree turn. Let us consider together our commitment to our fellow citizens, and let us weigh even more our generational obligations. Let us not forever alter the social fabric of this Commonwealth for the primary purpose of generating revenue. Let us determine that profound changes of this nature shall be adopted for the higher purpose of improving, of uplifting, of elevating the lives and futures of the Citizens of Massachusetts.
With solemn respect and deep appreciation for those who came before us, and with certain knowledge that it is within our grasp to leave something better to those who come after us, I urge a no vote on the proposition at hand.”
August 4, 2011
Andover Rep. Lyons vows ethics reform won’t wither
Changes waiting for review by House committee
By Dustin Luca
An attempt to bring ethics reform to the state’s House of Representatives is currently sitting idle, but state Rep. Jim Lyons says he and other state Republicans won’t give up on bringing such changes to Beacon Hill.
Following a third consecutive state Speaker of the House being convicted of a felony, Lyons and Rep. Paul Adams, Andover’s two state representatives, are joining other Republicans in battling what Adams says is an “institutional” problem in the state’s government.
“The last three Speakers of the House were convicted on federal criminal charges. The problem in the Speaker’s office is institutional,” Adams, who represents the 17th Essex district in the House of Representatives, said via email. “The objective of the Republican rules proposal is to prevent unethical or criminal conduct from happening, and to bring more accountability and transparency to the legislature.”
The proposed reform would change a number of ethics rules in the House that Lyons and Adams said would hold legislators to a higher standard of ethnical conduct than presently prescribed by statute.
The rules may have met an early grave, however. When it came up for discussion a few weeks ago, the House’s leadership moved the bill on to the House Committee on Rules, which is not likely to take action on the bill, according to a press release from the Massachusetts Republican Party.
“House Democrats rejected the Republican proposal during a House session on (July 20),” Adams said. “There was brief debate, but the rules were rejected along party lines.”
While reform is waiting to be taken up by a committee, Lyons said that won’t stop representatives from bringing the issue up in the future.
“We voted to continue to bring this up every month until the House leadership allows us to have a fair and sound debate,” Lyons said. “We are hopeful that it gets out of rules committee and gets to the floor.”
RULES ADDRESS “CULTURE OF CORRUPTION”
Lyons said that the legislation “represents a significant change to what has been going on on Beacon Hill.”
“It is one of the things I ran on, the culture of corruption on Beacon Hill,” Lyons said. “It’s time to change the mentality on Beacon Hill. It’s about public service, not private enrichment.”
Joining Lyons and Adams on the reform was House Minority Leader Bradley Jones, and Rep. Dan Winslow from Norfolk, who both led the movement to bring the reform forward. All four legislators are Republicans. The House of Representatives has 32 Republicans, out of 160 total members.
When previously reached for a comment, state Sen. Barry Finegold of Andover — a Democrat who served in the House of Representatives for year until he was elected to the Senate last fall — declined to comment on the specifics of the legislation.
“It is a House bill, and the House has to deal with it,” Finegold said.
“I’m open to any legislation that has the potential to improve the legislative body,” he said.
Last month former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi was found guilty on seven of nine counts in his public corruption case, including conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and extortion. Thomas Finneran, pled guilty in 2006 to obstruction of justice regarding his testimony during redistricting litigation. Charles Flaherty pled guilty to tax evasion in 1996.
PROPOSED ETHICS CHANGES
Andover state Reps. Jim Lyons and Paul Adams support an ethics reform proposal supporters describe as having six goals:
Forbidding House members and staff from contacting public entities regarding pending procurements before an award decision is made;
Limiting members and staff to written recommendations for job seekers in the public sector unless the employer initates contact;
Creating an ethical duty for members and staff to report any unethical or criminal conduct by any other members or staff;
Prohibiting lobbyists from entering the House chamber and the members’ lounge, and requiring them to wear a visible badge identifying them as a lobbyist;
Creating detailed disclosure requirements in the event a member or staff member is arrested, indicted or charged with criminal offenses, or named as a defendant in a domestic violence restraining order;
Preserving the right of members and staff to have private lives, provided that the private conduct doesn’t become public or otherwise bring the House into public disrepute.
July 18, 2011
By Jonathan Phelps
ANDOVER — State Rep. Jim Lyons sat at a table in the backyard of his High Vale Lane home on a recent afternoon reviewing a report by the inspector general’s office on the state’s Health and Safety Net Trust Fund.
Behind him, red campaign signs were leaning against a refurbished barn.
It has only been eight months since he defeated incumbent Barbara L’Italien, D-Andover, last November for the 18th Essex House District seat. But the Andover Republican, who was sworn in as state representative on Jan. 5, is already gearing up for the 2012 election.
On June 30, about 120 people packed Lyons’ backyard for the launch of his re-election campaign. After defeating L’Italien, an eight-year incumbent, Lyons campaign account was reduced to only $12.11, he said.
The 18th Essex House District takes in bits and pieces of Andover, North Andover, Boxford, Georgetown, Methuen and Haverhill.
His re-election campaign will cover many of the same themes as his last one, including restoring local aid and reducing taxes. He said he will continue to work on Beacon Hill to strengthen small businesses, create jobs and bring more control to the cities and towns.
While there is 17 months before the November 2012 election, Lyons said with only $12.11 left in the his campaign checkbook, the planning and fundraising for his re-election couldn’t wait.
Lyons spent about $44,000 during his campaign to unseat L’Italien, while L’Italien spent about $77,000.
On Beacon Hill, Lyons was the only member of the House to vote against the state’s $30.5 billion budget — making the vote 157-1. He said there needs to be reform to the state’s budget process.
“I ran on a campaign platform that we should not vote for any budget that doesn’t level fund local aid,” Lyons said. “This budget cut local aid by $65 million.
“Our cities and towns have been struggling and the Patrick administration has consistently not made the cities and towns a priority,” Lyons said. “I want to make it a priority that moving forward we restore the cuts of this administration and give the cities and the towns the money they need to operate.”
By maintaining local aid it will reduce the pressure on property taxes, Lyons said. “People need relief from taxes … if we are going to turn the economy around, we are going to have to do that with reduced tax rates,” he said.
Lyons said he also continues to work on rolling back the state’s sales, meals and income taxes to 5 percent, as promised in his campaign.
He said there also needs to be more accountability on how taxpayer money is spent in the state, mentioning the recent $10 million that went missing from the Merrimack Special Education Collaborative in Chelmsford.
“Our tax dollars are being spent with no accountability,” Lyons said. “There are millions and millions of our tax dollars being wasted, and this administration is cutting aid to our cities and towns. Well, what we ought to do is clean up were we are spending our money and make sure are tax dollars are protected and spent wisely.”
He said he has also visited many programs and organizations throughout the district since being elected and had been working with the leaders of the cities and towns in the district.
During his campaign, Lyons was criticized for a record of unpaid taxes and legal troubles connected to his family’s business. Anonymous letters began turning up in mailboxes around the district citing previous tax liens and accusing Lyons of unethical business practices.
Despite the criticism, Lyons said he has had a good reception from the people throughout the district.
“People recognize that I am going to work hard for the taxpayers and I listen to any ideas that are brought forward to me,” Lyons said. “People understand what my mission is and what our goals are.”
April 30, 2011
State House News Service
BOSTON — Massachusetts House leaders marveled at the bipartisan backing that their $30.5 billion budget received Thursday, even as Rep. James Lyons, R-Andover, mounted a lone dissent.
The budget passed 157-1 just before 6 p.m., and it now heads to the Senate, which will consider its own budget proposal in May.
Rep. Brian Dempsey, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the final budget checked in at $25 million to $30 million below Gov. Deval Patrick’s $30.55 billion plan issued in January.
“In challenging times, we need to have the discipline to find a balance,” Dempsey said, describing cuts to programs and a series of savings initiatives that helped close a budget gap left as the state is exhausting billions of dollars in one-time federal economic stimulus law funds.
But, Lyons told the State House News Service yesterday he was fulfilling a pledge to oppose any budget that failed to protect local aid for his district.
He said he hoped a Republican-backed provision adopted by the House committing half of all extra funds at the end of this fiscal year to local aid, or $65 million, whichever is less, would make up the difference. But he said the budget itself still contains a $65 million cut in unrestricted aid.
Lyons also worried that the House failed to include strong enough assurances that taxpayer dollars were being spent only on legal residents. “My constituents want to know, I believe, that if we’re spending X on folks that are here legally, and spending Y on folks that are here illegally, there should be some transparency about that,” he said in the interview.
Lyons said a third reason he voted against the budget was the rejection of amendments to roll back the sales, income and meals taxes. “I am convinced that long-term, in order for us to continue to grow our economy, we need to focus on reducing the rates that we tax our businesses and our taxpayers at,” he said.
Lastly, Lyons noted he opposed the budget in part because of the revelation that taxpayer dollars had been used to fund a sex education website that he said contained inappropriate and graphic content geared toward children and teens. “I believe it’s my responsibility to investigate and get a grasp on some of the programs that are being funded,” he said.