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Knapik to 'triage' priorities in the Senate

Date: 2/23/2011

Feb. 23, 2011

By Katelyn Gendron

Assistant Managing Editor

WESTFIELD — State Sen. Michael Knapik isn't pulling any punches.

A veteran legislator, the senator is frank about the issues facing the Commonwealth and how best to ensure the long-term viability of the state and the 2nd Hampshire and Hampden District.

"It's about triaging the most important issues and working with legislators on how to help the Pioneer Valley," Knapik said. "We have to be more creative. If there is any a time to use the energy of the 40 new members of the Legislature, the time is now."

Several dilemmas facing those on Beacon Hill today include health care and pension reforms, closing the budget gap, helping to decrease the state's 8.2 percent unemployment rate and the stimulation of the economy.

"The quickest way to create jobs and more revenues is to expand casino gaming. I'm hopeful that sooner, rather than later, slot revenue could be included in the fiscal year 2012 budget," Knapik said, adding that corporations need tax credits to spur job creation.

"With experience you gain perspective," he said of his 21 years in public service. "I still think government is still a part of our society and when government goes astray, as it often does, I think we let the public down. People work too hard and they need better from us. This is the third recession of my tenure. While new folks [in the Legislature] might be impatient for results ... the stakes are that much higher today and we have to get it right."

In addition to budgetary responsibilities as a member of the budget conference committee, he'll be serving on 10 committees this legislative session. Knapik is the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, and a member of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, the Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, the Joint Committee on Election Laws, the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, the Joint Committee on Revenue, the Senate Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets, the Senate Committee on Ethics and Rules, the Committee on Public Service and the Committee on Financial Services.

The senator called juggling his numerous committee assignments a difficult task but one that he's ready for.

He said other priorities for his district this session include lobbying for the 30-plus bills he filed, investing in improvements for vocational-technical schools and funding infrastructure projects.

"In Westfield [my hometown], I'm very much looking forward to the completion of the Great River Bridge Project. I want to thank folks for being patient. A project of that scope takes time. This is a legacy project that will change the landscape of Westfield," Knapik said. "I know it has been aggravating and I've gotten a flat tire on Main and Noble streets."

He called Westfield a city that is "pulling itself up by the bootstraps."

"Westfield is going through a transformation and we hope it will transition into a new century [of development]," Knapik said. "Cities and towns that are dynamic and moving with the push and pull of the public are the ones that are going to thrive into the future."

The senator said that while his hometown is going through these massive infrastructure changes, he does not discount the great strides the other communities in his district have also made.

"This is a great state. I love Massachusetts and I want to make it better for future generations," he added.

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