Creating an Economy That Works For Everyone
The Democratic Party needs to be the party of jobs again. With technology changing the skills people need to get ahead, we must build an economy where everyone can have access to a good job with upward mobility. Instead of the false hope of President Trump’s trickle-down economics, we have to develop real pathways to 21st century jobs. I will work everyday to generate job growth and raise wages in the Third District, with a focus on:
- Expanding employment in the innovation economy
- Bridging the skills gap and establishing true job pathways
- Fighting for a living wage for every worker
- Creating jobs by investing in infrastructure
1. Expanding Employment in the Innovation Economy
I firmly believe that government can be a force for good. In Congress, I will fight to expand federal investment that helps small businesses, strengthens our public education system, stimulates research and development, and allows everyone to enjoy the gains of the innovation economy. Federal funding has played an integral role in spurring economic development and technological innovation in the Third District. As a result of Congresswoman Tsongas’s efforts, the Small Business Administration has provided significant funding in microloans for local businesses. Likewise, federal grants from the Economic Development Administration have catalyzed job growth in innovative industries in our communities. Overall, I support:
- Increasing funding for small business innovation. We need to invest in small businesses and make sure that they have access to capital. That’s why I support expanding funding for programs like the small business innovation research (SBIR) grant program. This program gives technology innovators crucial R&D funding and creates high-paying jobs. Many of these funds have already come to the district. To cite just one of many examples, Triton Systems in Chelmsford recently received a SBIR grant of over $150,000 to develop anchoring systems for floating offshore wind turbines. SBIR grants have not only helped catalyze the cutting-edge research necessary to tackle pressing public policy concerns, but also have been an engine for economic growth. I will fight tirelessly to secure SBIR funding for the many small businesses in the Third District that are creating jobs in the 21st Century economy.
- Strengthening our educational system to attract, develop, and retain qualified workers in order to keep our innovation economy thriving. At a federal level, this entails expanding grant funding for high-quality K-12 computer science and STEM education. It also means protecting federal research funding for local higher education institutions and alleviating the burden of existing student debt. I support investing in free community college, so that more students have the opportunity to attend local institutions like Northern Essex Community College, Middlesex Community College, and Mount Wachusett Community College. Locally, I will collaborate with universities, community colleges, and businesses in the district to promote degree production in high-growth occupational fields. Additionally, we need a comprehensive community effort to address the fact that too many potential job creators leave after graduation. A one-size-fits-all approach that imitates Silicon Valley will not match the local needs of young entrepreneurs and mid-career professionals in gateway cities. Instead, we should look to replicate models that have already had success retaining talent in the district. The UMass Lowell Innovation Hub, which links promising local startups with the university’s resources and facilities, enables businesses to become further ingrained in the fabric of the community. Similarly, UMass Lowell’s recent collaboration with Natick Soldier Systems Center to develop protective military gear also demonstrates the critical importance of building local partnerships.
- Promoting evidence-based programs that fund innovative local community organizations. The Social Innovation Fund (SIF), launched in 2009, has used data analytics to maximize the local benefits of federal investments. For example, in Lowell and Lawrence, the United Teen Equality Center (UTEC) has had incredible success fostering gang peacemaking, as well as providing enrichment and employment opportunities for disconnected youth. As a result of a SIF sub-grant, UTEC will be able to employ more than 400 young adults from 2016 to 2020. I will continue to back the SIF and other proven community investments.
- Creating jobs in the clean energy industries of the future. Since 2010, employment in the clean energy sector in Massachusetts has grown by 81 percent, and there are now more than 109,000 clean energy jobs across the state. Energy retrofits have not only helped reduce carbon emissions, but also have revitalized historic buildings across the Third District. In Congress, I will work to extend the solar tax credit and other incentives for developing renewable energy. Moreover, early-stage federal funding for research and prototype development in clean energy industries has recently decreased. I will fight to restore funding for these pivotal research initiatives.
- Supporting innovative military research and development. Hanscom Air Force Base and the MIT Lincoln Laboratory have been at the forefront of cutting-edge research on air defense systems. That’s why I will oppose base realignment and closure proposals for Hanscom. Additionally, I support expanding Department of Defense funding for military research and development, and I particularly am interested in exploring pilot-programs funded by the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental.
- Growing the economy by renewing our nation’s fundamental promise of a fair and inclusive immigration policy. This is personal for me. A century ago, my family immigrated to Lawrence from Lebanon. We need to continue to attract people from across the world who believe in the American Dream and want to become members of our communities. Immigrants have always played an important role in our economy: immigrants or the children of immigrants have founded 40% of Fortune 500 companies. In Congress, I will advocate for immigration reform that expands the H-1B visa program, which provides visas to immigrants with technical skills, many of whom go on to create jobs in America. I also will stand up against Trump’s backwards immigration policies and fight to protect Dreamers permanently. Additionally, I support the successful Global Entrepreneur in Residence (GEIR) program, which was pioneered by the UMass system and facilitates the visa process for entrepreneurs. I will advocate for creative solutions, like the GEIR program, that ensure that the talent we develop here stays here.
2. Bridging the Skills Gap and Establishing True Job Pathways
Over 50,000 workers in the Third District help fuel our manufacturing economy. We need to fight to keep this industry strong. To do so, we have to focus on bridging the skills gap to make sure that workers have the skills and versatility needed to excel in the 21st Century economy. In turn, more companies will invest in our local communities and more people will have access to good-paying middle-class jobs. I support:
- Working with small and medium-sized advanced manufacturing companies to generate a more sustainable talent development pipeline. Based off my conversations throughout the district, I believe that we have to focus on training a new generation of advanced manufacturing workers in the district. Public-private partnerships, apprenticeships, and mid-career certification programs have a record of proven results, but we need to create a model that is tailored to the specific regional skills-gap needs of the district. As a result of federal funding, the Advanced Manufacturing Task Force at Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner established a workforce development program that has had success retraining mid-career workers in advanced manufacturing roles. I will push for additional funding to help this program scale and expand, as well as collaborate with other educational institutions to achieve similar results. We also need to make sure that apprenticeship programs work for everyone, including historically underserved communities. That’s why I support public-private partnerships at the local and federal level that support training programs for underrepresented workers.
- Promoting high-paying job opportunities. As Congressman, I will work with local unions, businesses, educational institutions, nonprofits, and other stakeholders to better publicize existing job opportunities in the district. Likewise, I will look to build on Congresswoman Tsongas’s legacy by prioritizing constituent services. We need to create a more accessible and responsive government.
- Passing a renewed version of the American Jobs Act, which was first proposed by President Barack Obama in September of 2011. This revenue-neutral law would cut payroll taxes for small businesses, while establishing a Pathways Back to Work program to support low-income youth and adults looking for work. The law would also create jobs modernizing our schools and community colleges, as well as revitalizing previously foreclosed businesses.
3. Fighting For a Living Wage For Every Worker
Massachusetts has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the country. We need to advance an economic agenda where everyone can earn a living wage and has the opportunity to get ahead. This means creating jobs that address the needs of working families. This is especially important given the dynamic shifts taking place in the labor market. In the new innovation economy, people increasingly are hired as temps or independent contractors: approximately 16% of all U.S. workers are in alternative work arrangements. To build an economy that works for everyone, wages and federal workplace protections must keep up with these structural changes. I support:
- Enacting a $15 minimum wage to ensure everyone gets paid a fair wage. We also need to work with key local job creators and encourage corporate citizens to create living wage pipelines.
- Passing measures to close the gender pay gap and create a safe workplace for everyone. On average, women in Massachusetts earn 84 cents on the dollar compared to men. We must enact increased transparency and enforcement measures to ensure equal pay for equal work. That’s why as Chief of Staff to Mayor Walsh, I worked to get more than 200 Boston-area businesses to share payroll data with the Women’s Workforce Council and pledge to eliminate the gender pay gap. In Congress, I will also advocate for affordable childcare and paid family leave, so that jobs actually work for working parents. Moreover, we need to pass strong workplace protections against discrimination and sexual harassment.
- Expanding economic incentives for developing affordable housing. Massachusetts has a shortage of quality workforce housing, which stifles economic development and puts many jobs out of the reach of hard-working middle-class families. I support expanding tax credits and other economic incentives for developing affordable housing. For example, the Historic Tax Credit helps preserve and adapt historic buildings into affordable housing. This is especially important in former mill cities like Lowell, Lawrence, and Fitchburg.
- Strengthening unions and protecting collective bargaining rights. Collective bargaining ensures that both employers and their employees are able to negotiate on equal footing, yielding the most positive results for everyone. When a company’s employees thrive, our economy thrives. We must take a stand for workers in the Third District and protect their rights to organize, unite and support themselves. In Congress, I will fight to strengthen workplace protections and preserve prevailing wage laws that help make sure that workers receive fair compensation and have economic security.
4. Creating Jobs by Investing in Infrastructure
Despite President Trump’s promises, his administration has done little to create good-paying infrastructure jobs that would help workers in the Third District. Over 9% of bridges in Massachusetts are structurally deficient, and roads in need of repair cost drivers over $500 per year in avoidable maintenance costs. We can fix these problems while creating good jobs in our district. With over 20,000 individuals in the Third District searching for work, we need a fighter in Washington to help bring infrastructure jobs to our community. As Congressman, I will work to bring people together to enact common-sense infrastructure investment. I support:
- Working with cities and towns in the district to attract federal funding, such as the Department of Transportation’s competitive TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant program. In 2015, Congresswoman Tsongas helped the city of Lowell secure more than $13 million in a TIGER grant to rebuild canal bridges that connect the UMass Lowell campus to the city’s downtown. I will look to follow in Congresswoman Tsongas’s footsteps and collaborate with any local stakeholder that needs help navigating the TIGER grant process. Similarly, I will explore creating a federal grant system to supplement local infrastructure funding, like the Chapter 90 program in Massachusetts.
- Creating a National Infrastructure Venture Fund, similar to what was initially introduced by Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) in 2007. The Venture Fund would approve loans to finance up to 50% of total costs for large infrastructure projects and extend low-interest-rate loans to private investors who are collaborating with municipalities. The Fund would help aggregate investments in one place so that funding can be efficiently allocated. I would fight to secure venture funding for promising local projects, such as developing the Hamilton Canal Innovation District in Lowell. By effectively financing infrastructure development, we can spur economic growth and create hundreds of good-wage jobs in our community.
- Providing federal seed funding for promising infrastructure projects. I support programs like the DOT’s Small Starts grant, which helped fund improvements to the Fitchburg commuter rail line. We also need to expand funding for “last mile” transit projects that help people access public transportation centers. To make sure that our communities remain strong and jobs stay in the Third District, we first need to ensure that people can easily and quickly commute to and from their workplaces. Integrated infrastructure systems hold the key to unlocking the jobs of today and tomorrow.
- Properly funding existing federal infrastructure programs, like the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). TIFIA has facilitated critical investment in surface transportation systems; however, TIFIA municipal loans have decreased from $1 billion in FY 2015 to an estimated $300 million in FY 2019. Instead of cutting TIFIA and reducing its efficacy, I support the proposal of economists Roger Altman, Aaron Klein, and Alan Krueger to expand TIFIA funding from $1 to $10 billion per year so that TIFIA can adequately finance local projects. Likewise, I also support restoring the Build America Bond program, which was part of President Obama’s stimulus package and allowed municipalities issuing debt to offer higher interest rates to fund local projects.
- Promoting cutting-edge infrastructure investments to meet the problems of the 21st century. I support the Smart Cities Challenge, which was established by the Obama administration in 2015 and awards grants to cities that make innovations in public transportation. We also cannot talk about infrastructure without discussing the infrastructure of the digital age. In Congress, I will fight for universal broadband access, particularly focusing on expanding high-speed Internet in rural areas. Moreover, as the latest natural disasters have underscored, we need to prepare for the impacts of climate change and start funding investments in climate-smart infrastructure.