Beacon Hill Roll Call, April 10-14

By Bob Katzen

Beacon Hill Roll Call

Published: 04-21-2023 10:00 AM

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: BHRC records local representatives and senators’ votes from the week of April 10-14.

$1.1 BILLION TAX CUT PACKAGE (H 3770) — House 153-3, approved and sent to the Senate a $1.1 billion tax relief package. Provisions include combining the Child Care Expenses Credit with the Dependent Member of Household Credit to create one refundable $600 credit per dependent, while eliminating the current cap; exempt the first $2 million, instead of the current $1 million, of the value of a person’s estate from the state’s estate/death tax that a person is required to pay following their death before distribution to any beneficiary; double the Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit from $1,200 to $2,400; increase the rental deduction cap from $3,000 to $4,000; reduce the short-term capital gains tax rate from 12% to 5%; raise the Earned Income Tax Credit from 30% to 40% of the federal credit; and replace the current business tax from the three-factor apportionment based on location, payroll and receipts with a single sales factor apportionment based solely on receipts.

Another provision changes the tax refund distribution formula under a current law, known as 62F, that requires that annual tax revenue above a certain amount collected by the state go back to the taxpayers. Under current law, the money is returned to taxpayers based on how much he or she paid in 2021 taxes, while this tax relief package changes the formula and provides a flat rate refund, unrelated to what the individual paid in taxes.

The measure would also change a current law that provides when the state’s Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, exceeds 15% of budgeted revenues, the excess is transferred to the Tax Reduction Fund which eventually is returned to taxpayers. The Democrats’ tax relief bill would raise that percent to 25.5%.

“We have been focused on how we can help the people of the commonwealth with the cost of living and make life a little easier, and we do so in this legislation,” said Revenue Committee House chair Rep. Mark Cusack (D-Braintree). “We have also focused on our economic competitiveness, and where we can lower and remove our outlier status to make Massachusetts a better place to live, work and invest and we do that in this package as well.”

“With increases to the earned income tax credit, the senior circuit breaker and the renters deduction, there’s a lot in this bill that we can all support,” said Rep. Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge). “And yet, other parts of the bill, such as the big cut to the short-term capital gains tax rate, will disproportionately benefit the very wealthy. In this time of unprecedented inequality, housing emergency and MBTA disaster, I believe we need to reconsider the provisions of this bill that are inequitable and will ultimately deprive us of the revenue we need to invest in our future.”

“Despite the Chapter 62F changes, I voted for the underlying legislation because it will provide over $1 billion in tax relief to Massachusetts residents and business owners,” said Rep. Mike Soter (R-Bellingham).

“Over the last three years, our state has seen a net loss of over 100,000 people,” said Paul Craney, spokesperson for Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “As the full effect of the income surtax amendment begins to be felt, we’re absolutely going to see that trend continue, but this time with a cohort composed of our largest taxpayers. Our economic competitiveness rankings are in free fall. If our state government is to address this issue and head it off before it becomes catastrophic, they need to take bold action. The changes to the estate and capital gains taxes put forth by the House won’t cut it and the speaker’s attempt to gut the voter approved tax cap and rebate law known as 62F is nothing more than provocation to the taxpayers.

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(A “Yes” vote is for the $1.1 billion in tax relief. A “No” vote is against it).

Rep. Natalie Blais, Yes; Rep. Daniel Carey, Yes; Rep. Mindy Domb, Yes; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, Yes; Rep. Aaron Saunders, Yes

HOW TO DISTRIBUTE SOME FUTURE TAX REFUND (H 3770) — House 26-128, rejected an amendment that would change the current law (known as 62F), approved by voters on the 1986 ballot, that requires that annual tax revenue above a certain amount collected by the state go back to the taxpayers. A few months ago, the law resulted in $2.9 billion being returned to taxpayers, using a formula based on how much each taxpayer paid in income taxes in 2021.

In the House $1 billion tax reduction bill, the formula is changed so that each taxpayer will receive a flat rate refund, unrelated to what they paid in taxes. The amendment would strike the change and revert back to the refund based on what a person paid in income taxes in 2021.

“The Legislature needs to respect the will of the voters, and that means keeping the existing Chapter 62F tax law in place,” said sponsor GOP House Minority Leader Rep. Brad Jones (R-North Reading). “If we really want to change the law, we should not act unilaterally, but instead should hold public hearings to solicit input from the state’s taxpayers or put it before the voters again as a statewide ballot question to see whether there is actual public support for making those changes.”

Opponents of the income-based amendment said the flat rate refund would ensure everyone in the state, regardless of income, will share equally in the state’s economic success.

“This is a representative democracy, not a direct democracy,” said Rep. Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown). “Yes, there are some ballot initiatives, things that go on the ballot that come to us. And [as] often as not, we make tweaks to those ballot initiatives and change them after they are voted on by the people to make them better legislation. What recently comes to mind is the legislation and the ballot initiative that legalized the sale of cannabis in the commonwealth of Massachusetts. What appeared on the ballot is not what appears in our statute books today, so this isn’t some outlier. This is the common practice.”

Massachusetts Republican Party Chair Amy Carnevale said the flat rate refund changes the 1986 law from a refund into a government handout. “Instead of taxpayers getting a percentage based on what they paid to the state, the Democrats want to send just a flat rate check to everyone. It is a redistribution of wealth. It is not fair. Your refund should be based on what you pay.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment distributing the refund based on what each taxpayer paid in taxes. A “No” vote is against the amendment and favors a flat rate refund of the same amount for each taxpayer).

Rep. Natalie Blais, No; Rep. Daniel Carey, No; Rep. Mindy Domb, No; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, No; Rep. Aaron Saunders, No

RAISE TRIGGER POINT FOR TAX REFUND (H 3770) — House 25-129, rejected a Republican amendment to a section of the Democrats’ tax relief bill that would change a current law that provides when the state’s Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, exceeds 15% of budgeted revenues, the excess is transferred to the Tax Reduction Fund which eventually is returned to taxpayers. The Democrats’ tax relief bill would raise that percent to 25.5%.

The Republican amendment would eliminate that change and revert to the current 15% formula.

“When excess funding is transferred to the Tax Reduction Fund, that helps provide for some modest tax relief to the commonwealth’s residents by allowing for an increase in their personal exemption when filing their taxes,” said amendment sponsor Rep. Brad Jones. “The whole purpose of this bill is to make Massachusetts more competitive, affordable and equitable, but raising the threshold makes it less likely that taxpayers will actually get a break, which runs contrary to the stated goals of the legislation.”

Opponents said that raising the cap will allow more money to remain in the Rainy Day Fund so that when it does “rain” and state revenues decline, the Legislature will not have to cut important programs or raise taxes. They noted hiking the cap is not without precedent, noting that the Legislature previously raised the cap from 7.5% to 10% in 2001 and from 10% to the current 15% in 2004.

Rep. John Cusack (D-Braintree), chair of the Revenue Committee, did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on why he supports raising the cap.

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment making the cap 15 percent. A “No” vote is against the 15 percent cap and favors the 25.5 percent cap).

Rep. Natalie Blais, No; Rep. Daniel Carey, No; Rep. Mindy Domb, No; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, No; Rep. Aaron Saunders, No

NEW CABINET POSITION: SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND LIVABLE COMMUNITIES (H 43) — Senate 39-0, approved and sent to the House Gov. Maura Healey’s reorganization plan that would split the current Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development into two separate cabinet level departments: the new Secretary of Housing and Livable Communities and the renamed Secretary of Economic Development.

“The creation of a new Secretariat will bring a cabinet-level focus to the commonwealth’s housing crisis,” said Sen. Nick Collins (D-Boston), Chair of the Senate Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight. He noted that Gov. Healey will now be able put her vision for housing and livable communities into action.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill).

Sen. Joanne Comerford, Yes; Sen. Paul Mark, Yes; Sen. Jacob Oliveira, Yes; Sen. John Velis, Yes

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE PROPOSES $56.2 BILLION FISCAL 2024 STATE BUDGET (H 4000) — The House fired the second shot in the long battle over the state budget for fiscal 2024 that begins on July 1. Gov. Maura Healey fired the opening volley in January when she filed her version of the spending package. The House Ways and Means Committee last week unveiled its own $56.2 billion version.

The Ways and Means budget recommendation would increase spending by $3.73 billion, or 7.1% over the current year’s budget. Debate on the House version is scheduled to begin during the week of April 24.

After the full House finally approves a version of the package, the Senate will follow suit with its own draft, and a House-Senate conference committee will eventually craft a plan that will be presented to the House and Senate for consideration and sent to the governor.

CHANGE “SELECTMEN” TO “SELECT BOARD” (S 12) — The Municipalities and Regional Government Committee held a hearing on a proposed constitutional amendment that would replace the gendered reference to “Selectmen” with “Select Board” in the state’s constitution.

Supporters said it is long past time to eliminate this outdated and sexist language from the state’s constitution. “This is a change which many communities have already made in their local bylaws,” noted sponsor Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont).

CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO HOUSING (H 29) — The Housing Committee held a hearing on a proposed constitutional amendment requiring that the state provide “sufficient and comprehensive planning, for affordable, well-constructed and reasonably varied housing for all residents.” The housing policies would focus on restoration, rehabilitation and new construction of housing units to all identifiable population groups, without discrimination.

“Housing needs to be a right, more than just ‘shelter’ and ultimately, looking at improved building codes, that would encourage construction of longer-lasting and better-quality housing that will help to keep our often expanding workforce, and their families, with dignity and quality,” said private citizen Vincent Dixon who sponsored the bill under a state law that allows a private citizen to ask their state legislators to file bills on his or her behalf.

CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO EMPLOYABLE SKILLS TRAINING (H 39) — The Labor and Workforce Development Committee held a hearing on a proposed constitutional amendment providing that “each and every inhabitant of the commonwealth of Massachusetts, has a right to employable skills training.”

“Employable skills training must be a flexible and dynamic goal of economic, and professional mechanisms for the success of the Massachusetts workforce,” sponsor Vince Dixon said. “Looking forward, updating skills for workers in many fields, including those that change dramatically, will strengthen the lifelong ladder of workforce success and provide employers with better quality worker skills, and greater opportunities for success.”

BRING BACK THE ANNUAL TIP OFF CLASSIC TO SPRINGFIELD — Rep. Angelo Puppolo (D-Springfield) and other Springfield officials have begun a campaign lobbying National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) President and former Bay State Gov. Charlie Baker to return the annual Tip-Off Classic game to Springfield, the home of the Basketball Hall of Fame. The city hosted the games for some 26 years at the former Springfield Civic Center from 1979 to 2005.

“Basketball has been a part of the city since it was invented by Springfield College instructor and graduate student James Naismith in 1891 and has grown to a worldwide fan favorite through the years,” Rep. Puppolo wrote in a letter to Baker. “On the heels of a very successful Final Four Tournament, and given your commitment and dedication to Springfield and western Massachusetts as governor of the commonwealth, I am respectfully requesting that you now return the NCAA Tip-Off Classic to the City of Springfield, the city where basketball was born.”

Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at bob@beaconhillrollcall.com]]>