Senate President Karen Spilka, left, and House Speaker Ronald Mariano speak after receiving MMA Legislator of the Year Awards at the MMA Annual Meeting on Jan. 19.

At the MMA Annual Meeting & Trade Show on Jan. 19, the MMA and local officials recognized Senate President Karen Spilka and Speaker Ronald Mariano as 2023 Legislators of the Year.

Spilka and Mariano were recognized for their steady leadership during the COVID pandemic and their work on the fiscal 2024 state budget, which featured key state investments in cities and towns such as funding for discretionary local aid, supplemental road and bridge funding, keeping the Student Opportunity Act on schedule, and codifying universal school meals.

“On behalf of local officials across the state, the MMA is honoring two individuals who demonstrated profound leadership to propel the Commonwealth beyond the pandemic and who have led the way to invest in essential municipal services in the past several years,” said MMA Executive Director Adam Chapdelaine. “Cities and towns are fortunate to have advocates in the Legislature who will stand with them to improve the quality of life for Massachusetts residents.”

Spilka opened by recognizing the kinship she feels with the hundreds of local officials who were in the room for the Friday dinner event.

“I started out as a school committee member [in Ashland],” she said. “I know how hard your job is, and I know how thankless it can be. But I also know how rewarding it can be. And I thank you and congratulate you for doing this every day.

“When the state and our cities and towns work together, that collaborative energy will lead to our collective success. … I want to offer my gratitude to the MMA for your partnership and your working toward that joint goal.”

Mariano likewise thanked the MMA for “truly a special honor” and recognized the importance of the state-local partnership.

“I truly believe that this relationship is extremely important to both of us,” he said. “And we should be giving you guys an award.”

Noting that his own public service included time on the Quincy School Committee, he added, “I know the pressures that local decision-makers are under. The pressures are real.”

Coming out of the pandemic, he said, legislators prioritized supporting local accounts in the state budget.

“We continue to recognize the importance of providing you with funding” for local priorities like schools, roads and housing.

In his introductory remarks, Chapdelaine noted that the pandemic was “a whole-of-government crisis” that required state and local governments to work together.

“And fiscal uncertainty caused budgetary strife and difficult decisions in many states across the country, which chose to cut municipal funding and services — but not in Massachusetts,” he said. “Senate President Spilka and Speaker Mariano, along with their leadership teams, played a pivotal role to promote a steady and deliberate approach to protect all who depend on state funding, including all 351 cities and towns.”

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