BOSTON (CBS) — Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka said she is proud of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I talk regularly to Governor Baker, to the speaker, and we’ve been coordinating a lot of the responses, whether it be through executive order or through legislation. So we have been very communicative collaborative,” Spilka told WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller.
She reminded residents that as the state approaches the surge, now is not the time to let up in social distancing efforts.
Spilka’s main concern is the virus overwhelms the healthcare system.
“I think everybody knows that at this point, unfortunately, states are on their own, whether it be masks, or isolation gowns, or gloves, or ventilators, we’re on our own,” she said, taking a dig at the federal government. “So [in Massachusetts], we’ve been working closely, making sure that there’s the procedures the laws in place, and the supplies, and staffing, and beds, and that is our primary focus right now to contain this public health crisis.”
According to Spilka, President Trump is not doing enough nor is he accurately displaying information about states’ needs. “I don’t know what planet he’s on, to be blunt,” she said.
The state senate was planning to pass a bill Thursday to “have a moratorium for evictions and foreclosures, at this point in time, for failure to pay. People still could be evicted for criminal activity for serious health and safety violations,” Spilka explained.
The senator said pushing people to the streets during the pandemic would only make matters worse.
The missed payments don’t just disappear though. “The landlord could tack on if, say there’s two or three months of mortgage that are missed, tack it on to the end of the mortgage payments and that way they would still collect it.”
Spilka said property tax delays can be discussed at a local level, and utility bills can be handled between companies and private owners.
“This is an unprecedented time and it really requires unprecedented solutions.”
The coronavirus pandemic also made it difficult for a lot of candidates, particularly challengers, to collect the minimum number of signatures need to get on the ballot.
Spilka said she supported lowering the number of signatures needed, but not getting rid of the rule entirely.
“There have been a lot of people that are still working hard in mailing out a lot of the nomination papers, getting hundreds and hundreds of signatures that way. A lot of people have put tables on their porches with a BYOP, bring your own pen situation to sign and then walk away not touching anything. People have collected, continue to collect hundreds and hundreds if not thousands of signatures that way. So it is possible and I urge people to continue if they want to run, continue to do it,” she said.
Despite the fact that just over a month ago, the House passed a roughly $600 million tax and fee package for transportation and Gov. Baker had been working on a transportation-climate initiative, Spilka said “I do not have any tax increase on my radar right now. Right now, number one, we’re focused on the public health pandemic and curbing that and containing that and saving lives.”
“The second part that we are focused on is the economic aspect of it we want to make sure that our economy stays as strong as it possibly can be. Through unemployment benefits to the help to small businesses to other things help to assistance to hospitals.”
Spilka said somethings, such as the budget and a transportation bill, can’t be pushed down the road for too long though.