Beacon Hill Roll Call, Nov. 7-11

Published: 11/17/2022 11:37:59 AM

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: Democrats maintained their super majorities in the House and Senate. The 2023-2024 160-member House legislative session will begin on Jan. 4, 2023, with 132 or 133 Democrats, 26 or 27 Republicans and one unenrolled, with no party affiliation. One seat is still up for grabs as a winner has not yet been declared. The 40-member Senate will open with 37 Democrats and three Republicans. In the meantime, the 2022 session continues.

Democrat Maura Healey will take over the governor’s office in January following last week’s victory over Republican Geoff Diehl.

There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. While the Legislature did provide significant tax relief this year, there were also several unsuccessful attempts in April and July by the Republicans to reduce taxes even further. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call reviews six of these unsuccessful attempts in the House to reduce taxes.

REDUCE ESTATE/DEATH TAX (H 4700)

House 30-126, rejected an amendment that would exempt the first $2 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. Under current law, only the first $1 million is exempt. Under the current $1 million threshold and under the proposed $2 million threshold, the tax on anything over the threshold is a graduated one that ranges from 0.8% to 16%. This tax applies to the entire estate value, not just the portion above the threshold. Most Republicans are against any such tax and coined the name “death tax” to imply that the government taxes you even after you die. Most Democrats support the tax and call it an “estate tax” to imply that this tax is only paid by the wealthy.

Amendment supporters said that in light of the high value of houses, with the average home price more than $500,000, the $1 million threshold of this “unfair and regressive” tax is too low and noted the federal tax exempts the first $12 million. They noted that Massachusetts is losing many residents, who move to Florida and other states where this tax does not even exist.

Amendment opponents said that this proposed tax reduction is one of many that are included in a separate stand-alone piece of legislation filed by Gov. Charlie Baker. They argued the amendment is premature and that the House should not act on this or any other tax reduction piecemeal here in the state budget but rather should wait until the Revenue Committee holds public hearing on the governor’s package as a whole.

(A “Yes” vote is for exempting the first $2 million of the value of a person’s estate from the state’s estate/death tax. A “No” vote is against exempting it).

Rep. Donald Berthiaume; Yes; Rep. Natalie Blais, No; Rep. Daniel Carey, No; Rep. Mindy Domb, No; Rep. Jacob Oliveira, No; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, No; Rep. Susannah Whipps, No

REDUCE CAPITAL GAINS TAX FROM 12 PERCENT TO 5 PERCENT (H 4700)

House 29-127, rejected an amendment that would reduce the short-term capital gains tax from 12% to 5%.

Amendment supporters said this will help investors in Massachusetts keep up with mounting inflation. They asked why the capital gains or any tax imposed should be charged at a higher rate than earned income, especially considering the multi-billions in historic revenue surpluses.

Amendment opponents again said that this amendment is premature and urged the House not to act on tax reductions one at a time but instead to wait and consider Gov. Baker’s comprehensive tax reduction package which might be voted on in a few weeks.

(A “Yes” vote is for reducing the capital gains tax from 12 percent to 5 percent. A “No” vote is against the reduction).

Rep. Donald Berthiaume, Yes; Rep. Natalie Blais, No; Rep. Daniel Carey, No; Rep. Mindy Domb, No; Rep. Jacob Oliveira, No; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, No; Rep. Susannah Whipps, No

INCREASE TAX BREAK FOR SENIORS (H 4700)

House 31-125, rejected an amendment that would increase by $1,005 (from $750 to $1,755) the maximum tax credit which seniors over 65 who qualify, can receive under the Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit Law. The law applies to seniors with homes valued at less than $884,000 and who earn $62,000 or less for a single individual who is not the head of a household; $78,000 for a head of household; and $93,000 for married couples filing a joint return.

Also to qualify, if you are a homeowner, your property tax payments, together with half of your water and sewer expense, must exceed 10% of your total Massachusetts income for the tax year. If you are a renter, 25% of your annual Massachusetts rent must exceed 10% of your total Massachusetts income for the tax year.

Amendment supporters said this will help seniors on fixed incomes who are having a difficult time as inflation and the cost of food and gas soar.

Amendment opponents again said that this amendment is premature and urged the House not to act on tax reductions one at a time but instead to wait and consider Gov. Baker’s comprehensive tax reduction package which might be voted on in a few weeks.

(A “Yes” vote is for the increased tax credit of $1,005. A “No” vote is against it).

Rep. Donald Berthiaume, Yes; Rep. Natalie Blais, No; Rep. Daniel Carey, No; Rep. Mindy Domb, No; Rep. Jacob Oliveira, No; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, No; Rep. Susannah Whipps, No

GAS TAX SUSPENSION (H 4700) — House 32-124, rejected an amendment that would have suspended the state’s 24-cents-per-gallon gas tax for 60 days. The measure also requires the state to use money from its General Fund to cover transportation costs, normally funded by the gas tax, such as road and bridge maintenance, during the two-month holiday.

Amendment supporters said that gas tax relief would help individuals with the rising costs of gas, transportation, groceries, goods and services.

Amendment opponents said the tax is currently paid by distributors, not directly by consumers at the pump. They noted that the amendment does not assure that the tax cut will be passed along to consumers.

(A “Yes” vote is for the temporary suspension of the gas tax. A “No” vote is against the suspension).

Rep. Donald Berthiaume, Yes; Rep. Natalie Blais, No; Rep. Daniel Carey, No; Rep. Mindy Domb, No; Rep. Jacob Oliveira, No; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, No; Rep. Susannah Whipps, No

FARM FUEL TAX REBATE (H 4700) — House 29-127, rejected an amendment that would provide a tax rebate to farmers for the cost of fuel taxes paid for the operation of farm equipment from July 1, 2022 through December 31, 2022.

Amendment supporters said the rebate will help hardworking farmers during this difficult economic time. They noted it will also help combat food shortages.

Amendment opponents said this rebate is a new idea and should be filed as a separate bill in order to hold public hearings on the measure.

(A “Yes” vote is for the rebate. A “No” vote is against it).

Rep. Donald Berthiaume, Yes; Rep. Natalie Blais, No; Rep. Daniel Carey, No; Rep. Mindy Domb, No; Rep. Jacob Oliveira, No; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, No; Rep. Susannah Whipps, No

$4.2 BILLION ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PACKAGE AND TAX CUTS (H 5077)

House 154-0, approved and sent to the Senate a $4.2 billion economic development package which provides $500 million one-time tax rebates to an estimated 2 million eligible people. A $250 rebate would go, by Sept. 30, to individual taxpayers and a $500 rebate to married taxpayers. Eligibility will be determined by annual income reported in 2021, with the minimum income required to be $38,000, and the maximum $100,000 for individual filers and $150,000 for joint filers.

Beginning in 2023, several permanent tax reductions would take effect including increasing the Child and Dependent Care Credit from $180 per child to $310 per child, as well as eliminating the current cap of $360 for two or more children; increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit from 30 percent to 40% of the federal credit; increasing the Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit from $750 to $1,755; increasing the rental deduction cap from $3,000 to $4,000; and increasing the estate tax threshold from $1 million to $2 million.

Supporters said this one-time stimulus program, along with the Essential Premium Pay Program from earlier this year, means that nearly three million residents will have received direct payments totaling nearly $1 billion this year. They noted the package also includes making permanent changes to the state’s tax system that will provide over $500 million in relief every year going forward.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill).

Rep. Donald Berthiaume, Yes; Rep. Natalie Blais, Yes; Rep. Daniel Carey, Yes; Rep. Mindy Domb, Yes; Rep. Jacob Oliveira, Yes; Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, Yes; Rep. Susannah Whipps, Yes

ALSO UP ON BEACON HILL

PRESERVE OPEN SPACE (S H 5381) — The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a conference committee version of a bill that would place into state law a current state policy regulation designed to ensure preservation of open space lands protected under Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution by ensuring there be no net loss of conservation land when a city, town or the state acquires conservation space and uses it to build on or develop.

The land must be replaced with land of comparable acreage, location, fair market value and natural resource value. The measure includes a provision that allows for a cash payment in lieu of replacement land, provided that the payment amount is no less than 110% of the value of the land and the money is used to purchase replacement land within three years.

The House and Senate approved different versions of the measure in July. It took four months for a conference committee version to be hammered out and approved last week.

“I am extremely proud that an agreement has been reached between the House and Senate on the landmark Public Land Preservation Act which will strengthen the state’s commitment to ensuring that there is no net loss of open space in the commonwealth,” said Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), the bill’s sponsor.

“With the passage of the Public Lands Preservation Act today, our public lands and open spaces will be preserved and protected for current and future generations to come,” said Sen. Mike Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

$3.76 BILLION SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PACKAGE (H 5374) — Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law a $3.76 billion spending bill to fund an economic development package and a supplemental budget to close out the state’s books on fiscal 2022.

Absent from the package is millions of dollars in tax relief that was part of the original conflicting version approved by each branch including $500 million one-time tax rebates to an estimated 2 million eligible people. A $250 rebate would go to individual taxpayers and a $500 rebate to married taxpayers. Eligibility would be determined by annual income reported in 2021, with the minimum income required to be $38,000, and the maximum $100,000 for individual filers and $150,000 for joint filers. Beginning in 2023, several permanent tax reductions would take effect including increasing the Child and Dependent Care Credit from $180 per child to $310 per child, as well as eliminating the current cap of $360 for two or more children; increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit from 30 percent to 40% of the federal credit; increasing the senior circuit breaker tax credit cap from $1,170 to $2,340; increasing the rental deduction cap from $3,000 to $4,000; and increasing the estate tax threshold from $1 million to $2 million.

“The bill I am signing today authorizes $3.76 billion in gross spending, including certain transfers, funded from a combination of state and federal sources,” said Baker. “I am signing nearly all of the spending, which supports many of the critical needs proposed by our Administration across multiple supplemental budget proposals.”

“I was disappointed that permanent tax relief reforms were not included in this bill,” continued Baker. “The measures that I proposed in January and that were supported by the Legislature in earlier versions of this bill are affordable and sorely needed by Massachusetts taxpayers.”

SPEECH PATHOLOGISTS (H 5094) — The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Baker a bill that would allow fully licensed speech pathologists to be granted a provisional license to practice in Massachusetts during their 36-month fellowship. Currently, Massachusetts is one of only eight states that does not provide a provisional license that allows their students to begin practicing during their fellowship.

Supporters said that by forbidding the right to practice during their 36-month fellowship, the state runs the risk of losing professionals educated in the Bay State to other states where they become valuable members of their community and welcome additions to the economy.

“There needed to be a regulatory fix to the commonwealth’s issue of losing new speech pathologists to other states as they begin their careers,” said sponsor Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham). “This legislation assures that there will be opportunities here when they leave their graduate programs and enter the workforce.”

BAN CHILD MARRIAGE (H 1709) — The House sent to a study committee a bill that would ban the marriage of anyone under the age of 18. Current law allows minors to get married if they have parental consent. Bills that are sent to a study committee bills are rarely actually studied and are essentially defeated. It is a way to kill a proposal without holding a vote on the bill itself.

Supporters of the bill were not concerned because a provision banning child marriage was already approved by the House and Senate in July as part of the fiscal 2023 state budget.

“[The bill] is a great step forward that now protects young women and girls from entering into a marriage contract before the age of 18, the age of majority,” said sponsor Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton). “Children have limited legal capacity, and early marriage undermines a child’s health, education and future economic opportunities. Minors who marry in their teens experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence.”

RAISE THE AGE OF JUVENILE JURISDICTION FOR SOME CRIMES (H 1826) — The House sent to a study committee a bill that would gradually, over a five-year period, raise the age that some defendants could be charged as juveniles. Currently, only youths who are under 18 can be charged as a juvenile. The bill would raise the age so that a defendant can be charged as a juvenile to include 18- 19- and 20-year-olds. The most serious offenses, including first- and second-degree murder, would be exempt and 18- 19- and 20-year-olds charged with those offenses would still be charged as adults.

“[The bill] would decrease crime and recidivism, continue to hold young adults accountable and benefit the state’s economy,” said sponsor Rep. Jim O’ Day (D-West Boylston). “Young men of color bear the harshest brunt of the current policies and this racial disparity impacts their economic potential. It is the Legislature’s responsibility to ensure that policies governing the commonwealth are equitable and promote the advancement of young people.” O’Day added that he looks forward to working with advocates and young people on this issue again next session when he refiles the bill.

MISREPRESENTATION OF A SERVICE ANIMAL (H 5364) — The House gave initial approval to and sent to the Senate a bill that would create a special commission to review current federal, state and local laws and procedures governing the use and misuse of service animals by individuals with disabilities in the Bay State. The commission would recommend possible introduction of legislation prohibiting and civilly penalizing service animal fraud and determining the feasibility of certification, registration or licensing of service animals.

“I am pleased that this bill is moving forward,” said sponsor Rep. Kim Ferguson (R-Holden) who noted that some 28 states have already created laws regarding misuse of service animals. “At this time there are no penalties for those who intentionally misrepresent (aka “fake” service dogs) which does harm to the true service dogs … Business owners have also been grappling with a range of issues when one of these dogs are brought into their business, restaurant etc.”

QUOTABLE QUOTES – With 95% of the votes counted, voters, by a narrow 52% to 48% margin (Yes — 1,229,630 votes. No — 1,134,238 votes) approved Question 1 — a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow a graduated income tax in Massachusetts and impose an additional 4% income tax, in addition to the current flat 5% one, on taxpayers’ earnings of more than $1 million annually. Language in the amendment requires that “subject to appropriation” the revenue will go to fund quality public education, affordable public colleges and universities, and for the repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and public transportation.

Here’s what each side said following the election:

“On Tuesday, Massachusetts voters seized a once-in-a-generation opportunity that was years in the making. “We’ve done what some thought was impossible: passed the Fair Share Amendment to create a permanently fairer tax system and deliver billions of dollars in new revenue for our public schools, colleges, roads, bridges and transit systems.”

Fair Share for Massachusetts Campaign Manager Jeron Mariani.

“The commonwealth has voiced its approval for tax justice and it couldn’t have come a moment too soon. The historic passage of Question 1, also known as the Fair Share Amendment, will unlock billions of new dollars each year for schools and transportation across the state.

Marie-Frances Rivera, MassBudget President.

“I hope none of those who voted to end the century-old flat income tax ever becomes successful enough to regret their decision. Citizens for Limited Taxation was founded in 1975 to oppose and defeat the fourth graduated income tax assault on the 1976 ballot and subsequently defeated the fifth attempt in 1994.

Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

“Governor-Elect Maura Healey made several promises to cut taxes, and we will hold her to her word. Question 1, which raises taxes 80 percent on the top earners, passed narrowly with her express support. Over the next four years, we look forward to supporting her measures to counteract the negative consequences this will have on the commonwealth, including the plummeting of Massachusetts’ ranking by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation to 4th worst business climate in the country and a return to our former reputation as ‘Taxachusetts.’”

Paul Craney, spokesperson for the Mass Fiscal Alliance.

Bob founded Beacon Hill Roll Call in 1975 and was inducted into the New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA) Hall of Fame in 2019.


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