Saunders, Harrington air views in final forum

  • James “Chip” Harrington and Aaron Saunders.  SCREENSHOT

Staff Writer
Published: 10/26/2022 4:27:02 PM
Modified: 10/26/2022 4:26:47 PM

With two weeks remaining before the Nov. 8 statewide election, the candidates vying for the House of Representatives’ 7th Hampden District made a final appeal to the public Tuesday night in a remote forum hosted by the Friends of the New Salem Library.

James “Chip” Harrington, of Ludlow, and Aaron Saunders, of Belchertown, fielded questions submitted by potential constituents during event registration and posed by Anna Channing, the Friends co-chair who moderated the final of four forums featuring the two candidates. Harrington and Saunders delivered opening statements before answering the prepared questions and wrapped up the hour-long session with closing remarks.

The first question asked the candidates how they planned to make themselves available to all constituents across the 7th Hampden District, which touches four counties and cuts across two Congressional districts and two state Senate districts. The district includes the towns of Belchertown, Pelham, Shutesbury, Ludlow, New Salem, Petersham, and Wendell.

“I think the proof is in the pudding, right?” Saunders responded. “It’s being responsive. It’s being present in all of the seven communities of the 7th Hampden. And it is not only answering the phone but it’s having that follow-up and knowing how to address the concerns that may come up.”

Harrington said he believes availability requires physical presence in all communities a politician represents.

“I will have office hours in each of the seven communities,” he said. “If the library would be willing to, you know, that would a great spot to set up office hours on a regular basis. I also think it’s important that the state representative is a part of the selectboard meetings, the school committee meetings, conservation (commission meetings), right on through.”

The candidates were asked if they support Question 1, which pertains to the proposed Fair Share Amendment. Adoption of the initiative would change the state constitution to levy an additional 4% tax on personal income over $1 million in a year. This would reportedly generate about $2 billion in revenue for public education, public transportation and infrastructure. Harrington and Saunders also were asked how they would ensure the 7th Hampden District would get its share of that increased revenue.

Harrington, 54, said his main issue with Question 1 is that the threshold is too low. He said he recently spoke with two farmers — one in New Salem and one in Petersham — who would become “accidental millionaires” if selling land increases their earnings to more than $1 million in a single year. He mentioned he is not opposed to a Fair Share Amendment, “because we do have uber-rich in Massachusetts” that likely should contribute more taxes.

However, Harrington said, he is always in favor of more funding for schools and would fight to get his district the money it is owed.

Saunders, 42, said he supports the amendment. He stressed that a person’s taxes will increase only if their income is $20,000 per week.

“That’s where you start to pay the 4% surtax,” he said. “Just to finish the arithmetic, if you make $20,000 a week, you would pay an extra $8,000 a year. So the treatment (of) the ‘marginal millionaires’ or ‘accidental millionaires’ doesn’t seem to be too bad, in my estimation. Or, at the very least, I would be willing to make $20,000 a week and pay the extra eight grand. I don’t have that luxury.”

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