Lawmakers talk public, green banking at Buckland forum

  • Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, and Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, met with officials and residents in Buckland Town Hall on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, met with officials and residents in Buckland Town Hall on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, and Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, meet with officials and residents in Buckland Town Hall on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • From left, Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, and Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, met with officials and residents in Buckland Town Hall on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 7/18/2022 6:00:00 PM
Modified: 7/18/2022 5:59:36 PM

BUCKLAND — State lawmakers met with area residents at Town Hall on Monday to continue their advocacy for legislation relating to green banks and public banks.

“One of the issues that we have worked on together through different bills is how do we help provide capital support to small businesses, whether it’s through small cities and towns, around affordable housing, around climate resiliency,” said Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, one of the legislators behind a push to establish a public bank in Massachusetts. “I think it’s a particular issue as you get farther and farther away from Boston. Often, big banking institutions aren’t as focused on rural parts of the state.”

A public bank is a bank owned by the people through their representative government and operated in the public interest, according to Massachusetts Public Banking, a volunteer effort organized as a sponsored project of the Alliance for Democracy, a national non-partisan organization founded in 1996. Government revenues are deposited in the bank and the bank then makes loans to benefit communities and businesses.

“The organizing around the public banking bill has been very powerful,” Eldridge said, noting it isn’t likely to pass the current session. “This was really just proposed as a commission a few years ago, and it’s turned into a bill.”

Public banks, Eldridge explained, would fill the gap left by traditional banks, which don’t often focus on lending, as it doesn’t fit the profit model.

“This is a role for the government to come in and provide the financing,” he said. “The bill I filed would upfront have $50 million of seed money to get the bank going, and then it would be an independent entity.”

Green banks, meanwhile, are public, or quasi-public entities established to facilitate private investment into low-carbon, climate-resilient infrastructure, according to state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, who invited Eldridge to the region on Monday.

“This bank can exclusively focus on this type of project and … try to get things financed and moving,” he said.

Eldridge said it’s possible the concept of a green bank could be included in the public banking bill.

“Public and green banks models really come together,” he said.

Among those in the audience Monday was Buckland resident Janet Sinclair, who asked the legislators what oversight there would be in determining where money is spent. She cautioned against state money being spent on projects that are controversial among residents.

“Cities and towns apply for these projects,” responded Eldridge. “Unless the municipal government supports it, it’s not going to happen.”

Residents later segued the conversation into other areas of interest, including legislation on climate change, the status of Medicare For All, and of particular concern locally — the lack of resources allocated for rural school districts. In general, residents felt there needs to be a better understanding of rural school districts by eastern legislators.

“These visits, they build that education, that knowledge,” said Mark, who is running to represent the Berkshire, Hampden, Franklin and Hampshire District in the state Senate.

Sharon Tracy of New Salem asked what was the likelihood of western Massachusetts receiving money through the Fair Share Act, which would amend the Massachusetts Constitution to add a 4% tax on annual income over $1 million. The Fair Share Amendment is on the November statewide ballot, where it is now set to be decided on by voters

“The money is coming,” said Mark, reassuring residents. “It’s always a struggle to make sure we get our fair share of the pie. … I think we do a good job fighting above our weight class.

Eldridge was the third of 40 state senators Mark has invited to the region to discuss various issues.

“I thought as a rep it was important to bring colleagues from out east to learn about the needs unique to our area,” Mark said, “and talk about their work as well.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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