Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Amherst attorney and UM alumnus runs for seat in state House of Representatives

By Matthew M. Robare

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Hannah Cohen/Collegian

Dan Sandell, an Amherst attorney and member of the University of Massachusetts’ class of 2000, is a Republican vying for the Third Hampshire District seat in the state House of Representatives. Ellen Story, a Democrat who has held the seat since 1992, is seeking re-election and Independent Dan Melick, formerly on the Amherst Town Meeting, is also running.

“I’m basically running because I see that our commonwealth is slowly going downhill,” Sandell said. “We have a number of huge financial issues which long-term, career politicians could have solved.”

For example,” he went on, “this year alone our budget was about $650 million short and the only became balanced because at the last minute the federal government had given us a check for $650 million to basically make our ends meet. Next year, unfortunately, we have a projected $2.5 billion budget deficit, which is roughly the equivalent of having to lay off 20,000 teachers in order to make ends meet. I think that our district can have somebody that better represents them than they’ve had in the past.”

Sandell is campaigning on a platform of cutting spending, which he refers to as “common sense” solutions. He supports repealing the Pacheco Law, which regulates the state’s ability to make contracts with private firms.

“[The Pacheco Law] makes it very difficult for government services to be privatized,” Sandell said. “Basically, just to summarize it, they don’t use the actual numbers of this government entity. They use ‘In a perfect world, where you could eliminate all the waste, what is your best case scenario’ number for making this government entity productive. They use this ‘magic number’ and they use that number to compare what it would cost to privatize something. Not exactly the truth of the real numbers.”

“So by making it easier for government services to be privatized and by also making it easier for small businesses to compete with large unions in government contracts would certainly reduce a lot of our spending,” he added.

Sandell also mentioned that the state government could examine selling sponsorships of government buildings, suggesting that UMass could increase its revenue by selling sponsorships of the Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium and the state could sell sponsorships of government buildings on the main streets of Boston. Sandell also said that freezing salaries would help to balance the budget.

Sandell explained his stance on privatization as one of allowing private companies to offer competitive prices on state contracts, without having to fulfill bureaucratic obligations, such as hiring only union workers.

“The reality is that we are spending way more money than we’re taking in,” Sandell said. “This has been a trend that’s been going on for quite some time. If we want to deal with it responsibly now we will have a reduction in the level of services, but it will at least be a level of services we can continue into the future. The other option, which long-term politicians seem to have taken, is to ignore this and wait till it all comes crashing down, whether it be three years, five years, or ten years down the road. But when that does happen, when Massachusetts has to start writing IOU’s to cover its debts, services will basically be slashed dramatically below the level that I would propose.”

Sandell disputed Rep. Story’s statements that a series of tax cuts under previous Republican governors have led to the current budget issues.

“Overspending has clearly been the reason why we are in such a hole,” he said. “If we were not overspending we would not have had to have the federal government cover $650 million of our overspending last year. Who knows how much of the $2.5 billion overspending is going to be covered next year?”

He said that the state health care reform program passed in 2006 is unsustainable and that even Independent gubernatorial candidate Tim Cahill has said that it’s “doomed to failure in four to five years.”

“You can raise taxes up to one hundred percent on everybody,” Sandell said, “but you still wouldn’t be able to cover the overspending that Ellen Story has become accustomed to.”

In addition, Sandell expressed his opposition to Question Three, which would reduce the sales tax rate back to three percent. He also opposes Question Two on the grounds that the affordable housing law is the responsibility of the legislature. He supports Question One, which would repeal the sales tax on alcohol.

After graduation from UMass, Sandell earned his law degree from the Western New England College School of Law in 2003 and now works as a criminal defense attorney. He claims to have represented over 1,500 people since being admitted to the Massachusetts Bar.

Matthew M. Robare can be reached at [email protected]

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