House not looking to budget for tax reform

Baker proposed $700 million in tax breaks

THE CENTERPIECE OF Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget proposal in January was a bill to give Massachusetts taxpayers $700 million in tax breaks – with breaks for seniors, renters, low-income taxpayers, parents of dependent children, and anyone forced to pay the estate tax or tax on short-terms capital gains.  

Don’t expect the same when the House Ways and Means Committee releases its version of its budget on Wednesday.

Asked at a press conference Monday on whether the House budget would include tax relief, House Speaker Ron Mariano gave a straightforward answer: “No.”

House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz expanded on Mariano’s answer slightly. “We were very clear we feel the revenue growth we’ve seen here is an opportunity to reinvest for FY23,” Michlewitz said, referring to the 2023 fiscal year.

Asked whether there could be tax legislation considered by the House later this session, Mariano was noncommittal. “It could be, maybe,” he said.

The state is awash in money, from higher-than-expected tax revenues and federal COVID recovery aid. But how to spend it may come down to a philosophical difference between the Republican governor and the Democratic-led Legislature.

Baker wants to return the money to families. “This proposal will help working families keep more of their hard-earned money to pay for needs like childcare and housing,” Baker said at a State House press conference announcing his budget proposal.

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Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

But Michlewitz sees the opportunity to “reinvest” in areas of the economy that need more funding. Speaking at a press conference on early education funding on Monday, Michlewitz said the budget proposal “will reinvest in our workforce, will reinvest in early education, will reinvest in Massachusetts.” “We have an opportunity to target the middle classes with investments that benefit them for years to come,” Michlewitz said, pointing specifically to the need to create well-paying jobs that will help the economy in the long term.

The debate will likely be enhanced by the fact that it is an election year, with Republicans eager to boast about tax relief, while Democrats have tended to focus on enhancing projects and services. Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl said if he were governor he would refuse to sign off on any additional state spending until some form of tax relief is implemented. With state coffers overflowing, Diehl said in a statement, “It’s time for legislators to realize that this money belongs to the people, that people were overcharged, and that the people deserve to get their money back.”