SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

March 29, 2013

Our view: In Peabody, Gravel for state representative

(Continued)

While Gravel would caucus with Democrats if elected, and would eventually re-enroll in the party, he follows the Peabody tradition of keeping taxes as low as possible. For example, Gravel says he would not blindly support such initiatives as Gov. Deval Patrick’s plan to raise nearly $2 billion in new taxes to boost spending on everything from higher education to high-speed rail.

“I just don’t think it’s a good time to increase taxes on anybody,” he told reporter Alan Burke earlier this month, saying the best way to increase state revenue is to put more people back to work.

Gravel stood out in recent interviews and in a candidates debate earlier this week for his response to questions about fraud in the state’s Electronic Benefit Transfer card system. The cards, which work like debit cards, are given to residents who need state assistance for food and other day-to-day expenses. Tens of millions of taxpayer dollars are lost to the program each year through fraud and abuse. Rather than resort to demagoguery or painting all assistance recipients as criminals, or throw up his hands at the problem, as many in the Patrick administration have done, Gravel chose to focus on a technical solution.

Gravel would see the EBT cards work more like flexible spending accounts, which allow pretax spending on health care necessities. Spending with those debit cards is closely controlled.

“I can’t believe that the technology doesn’t exist that we can’t implement controls that allow for more efficiency out of the EBT program and eliminate the fraud and waste that goes on with the few who abuse it,” he said at this week’s debate.

It’s a straightforward, technical approach to solving a problem that others merely scream about.

That’s the kind of measured, intelligent approach to the issues that residents of Peabody need, and it’s part of the reason why Gravel has earned endorsements from Jackie Torigian, the wife of the late Mayor Peter Torigian, as well as former Mayor Michael Bonfanti and City Council President Tom Gould.

We add our name to the list, and encourage Peabody residents to vote for Gravel next week.

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