Climate change bills: It’s not either/or
Baker, DeLeo proposals are not mutually exclusive
THE LEGISLATURE is currently considering two bills—one proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker, the other by House Speaker Robert DeLeo—allocating $1 billion in municipal climate change adaptation projects. Despite a shared commitment to improving resilience, the bills differ in terms of how they would go about financing adaptation. Whereas Baker’s proposal relies on a real estate transfer tax, DeLeo’s proposal uses bonds or borrowing.
As tempting as it is to pit the bills against one another, the two proposals are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, the most effective funding solution likely involves a combination of taxing and borrowing.
The costs associated with climate change adaptation will far exceed $1 billion. A recent report by the Center for Climate Integrity estimates the state will have to spend more than $18 billion to protect its coastline against rising tides and storm surges. This number does not even begin to account for the costs associated with the myriad of other climate-related hazards impacting inland communities, such as heat waves, drought, forest fires, and others. In turn, environmental advocates have called for an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to financing that includes a mix of taxes, bonds, and, if possible, private capital.
Diversifying funding streams provides greater flexibility to address short and long term adaptation goals. On the one hand, bond money can be quickly distributed to municipalities hoping to launch new and potentially costly projects. The urgency to act on climate is now. A competitive grant program funded through bonds will help cash-strapped municipalities get the funding they so desperately need to begin addressing existing vulnerabilities.
Rob A. DeLeo is an associate professor of public policy at Bentley University. He is the son of House Speaker Robert DeLeo.