By Grant Welker
LOWELL -- Sequestration, the automatic government funding cuts that could go into effect March 1, would be especially harmful to Massachusetts, which relies more on federal research funding than any other state, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in a visit to the city Tuesday.
Warren, hitting areas of the state this week while Congress is on break, stopped at the new Lowell Community Health Center on Jackson Street, then visited the University of Massachusetts Lowell's Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center, which opened in October, and the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center.
Warren also stopped at the university's Fox Hall for a talk with students, who gave her a standing ovation when she entered the room. She talked about signing the Violence Against Women Act, potential gun-control legislation, and the potential for automatic government cuts, known as sequestration.
"The automatic cuts are terrible for the country," Warren said. "They're bad for the economy, and they're real bad for Massachusetts."
In an earlier interview, Warren said she is "worried" about the potential for sequestration and said she was "out there fighting as hard as I can" to prevent it.
Massachusetts could lose an estimated 60,500 jobs from sequester cuts, according to the George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis, as cited recently in a statement by U.S. Rep. Ed Markey. Of those, more than 40,000 would be in the defense field.
The cuts could eliminate funding for medical research, education and health care, including $127 million in National Institute of Health funds and $10.7 million in Title I education funding, according to Markey's office.
On gun control, Warren said a consensus is building on adopting stronger controls on gun registrations, bans on high-capacity firearms, and more research into gun violence.
Warren also expressed optimism that President Obama's nominee for secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, will eventually be approved by the Senate after he received criticism and tough questions from Republicans.
"Chuck Hagel is a good man, and I think he will make it through the Senate," she said.
While at UMass, Warren got an overview from Chancellor Marty Meehan of the school's progress and growth across campus. Meehan touted the school's rising enrollment, research expenditures, student-body diversity and average SAT scores, as well as the move up to Division I athletics, which was announced last week.
In her talk with students, Warren cited the benefit that public investments can have on higher education.
"If we make those investments, you have a future, your children have a future, your grandchildren have a future," she said. "That's the vision."
Earlier in the day, Warren toured the new Lowell Community Health Center, which opened in December in a space that doubled its previous capacity.
Warren called the new space "innovative," and said it is an example of what can be done with community investments. The center received $9.4 million in federal stimulus money as part of the $42 million cost.
"This place is a reminder of what we get when we invest in ourselves," she said.
The health center's new space helped create 100 new permanent jobs, as well as 600 construction jobs, said Dorcas Grigg-Saito, the center's chief executive officer. The center now has the capacity to serve half the city's population, up from one-third before the expansion, she said.