Grand bargain talks can now begin in earnest

Now that the millionaire tax is dead, state leaders can finally get down to work.

The millionaire tax was a great excuse for doing nothing. As long as the question was on the ballot and its poll numbers remained high, the millionaire tax’s $2 billion-a-year haul was the answer to just about everything. Fix the T? Don’t worry, we’ve got the millionaire tax. Address education funding inequality among cities and towns? Don’t worry, we’ve got the millionaire tax.

Perhaps the millionaire tax’s biggest impact was on the negotiations for a “grand bargain” to remove three other questions from the ballot. As long as the millionaire tax was viable, the backers of questions raising the minimum wage to $15, requiring employers to provide paid family and medical leave, and cutting the sales tax had little incentive to compromise. All of the questions polled well, so why strike a deal until all the chips were on the table.

Now that the millionaire tax is gone, the grand bargain negotiations can move forward, but they won’t be easy. The business groups that support reducing the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent can be more flexible now that the millionaire tax, which they opposed, is gone. Conversely, the demise of the millionaire tax may make it harder for the union groups backing a minimum wage hike and paid medical leave to compromise.

A deal remains possible, but it will likely be costly. Everyone will have to give a little. The sales tax may be whittled back at a slower pace. A minimum wage hike and family and medical leave could be slowly phased in. State officials have a strong incentive to do a deal because a go-slow approach would make it much easier to absorb the revenue loss caused by a sharp cut in the sales tax.

None of the sides announced their bargaining strategy on Monday, but they indicated a willingness to sit down and talk. “The Retailers Association of Massachusetts remains prepared to take the sales tax reduction to the ballot this fall,” said Jon Hurst, the president of the association, in a statement. “At the same time, we remain open to negotiating a balanced legislative resolution that will give our Main Street businesses, and seniors and low-income families a helping hand.”

The early consensus in the press was that the SJC decision was a victory of sorts for Gov. Charlie Baker, who never took a stand on the millionaire tax. The negotiations for a grand bargain, if successful, could also showcase the governor’s skills as a problem solver.

But the death of the millionaire tax will also highlight the absence of any grand vision in his administration. With a millionaire tax, the possibilities were endless; without the tax, it will be steady as she goes, the usual grind.

“I’m not a big fan of raising taxes,” the Republican governor told reporters Monday, saying the court decision means “we have to move ahead, continue to invest in our Commonwealth, invest in our infrastructure, and invest in education as we have been, on terms that are consistent with the current tools that our available to us — which are pretty good.”



The Supreme Judicial Court knocked the millionaires tax off the November ballot, ruling the constitutional amendment violated rules requiring all of the elements of a question to be related or mutually dependent. The ruling was 5-2. (CommonWealth) Rachelle Cohen says the question seemed constitutionally suspect from the start and calls out Attorney General Maura Healey, who certified it go forward, for being “more tax hike cheerleader than objective arbiter of that which properly belongs on the ballot.” (Boston Globe)

Gov. Charlie Baker, who had pledged to send a helicopter and National Guard members to help secure the southern United States border, changed his mind, citing President Trump’s policy on separating undocumented children from their families. (State House News)


Boston officials unveil the first list of grant recipients to be funded through the Community Preservation Act surcharge on property taxes. (Boston Globe)


The Globe’s Annie Linskey says President Trump’s “pugilistic style and misdirections appear to be failing him” as criticism of his administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the US-Mexico border intensifies.

The Atlantic examines Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ attack on civil rights.

Lawyers for a woman suing President Trump for unwanted sexual advances are going after records of the former reality TV star’s numerous visits over five years at the Beverly Hills Hotel, his favorite hangout on the West Coast. (Washington Post)

Seismographs at a geological institute in Mexico detected a man-made earthquake Sunday caused by fans of the country’s soccer team jumping up and down to celebrate a goal against Germany in the World Cup. (U.S. News & World Report)


The Supreme Judicial Court upheld the constitutionality of a nurse staffing ballot question. (MassLive) CommonWealth took a deep dive on the issue last year.


The Northshore Mall in Peabody is evolving into something new, as the Sears store shuts down and is replaced by a Life Time fitness center complete with swimming pools and workout spaces. (Salem News)

Fishing industry members and related business officials in New Bedford pleaded with federal regulators to move faster on lifting their ban on commercial fishing in one sector, now seven-months old, triggered by the conviction of Carlos Rafael, the so-called “Codfather,” of money smuggling and exceeding the catch quota. The affected boats and businesses say hundreds of jobs have been lost and many owners may soon be out of business. (Standard-Times)


Layoffs are looming at Quincy College, which is reeling after the state shut down its nursing program and its president was forced to resign. (Patriot Ledger)

MIT has cleared author Junot Diaz to return to teaching following allegations of inappropriate conduct with women, saying the school has “not found or received information that would lead us to take any action to restrict Professor Diaz in his role as an MIT faculty member.” (Boston Globe)


The Trump administration is on the verge of issuing new rules that will allow small businesses to band together to offer health plans that can skirt many of the mandates of the Affordable Care Act. (New York Times)

Southcoast Health Systems has fired two employees over allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct involving not only female co-workers but also unconscious patients at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford. (Boston Business Journal)

The National Institutes of Health has terminated a federally-funded study of the potential health benefits of moderate alcohol intake directed by a Harvard Medical School professor because of inappropriate exchanges between researchers and alcohol industry representatives funding the study that suggest a biasing of the work to show benefits of drinking. (The Harvard Crimson)

Amid growing concern about brain injuries, the Fall River school Committee is requiring any organization using school facilities for sports must show they have provided concussion education to players, coaches, and parents. (Herald News)

As the state moves closer to becoming one of a handful to raise the age to buy tobacco to 21, questions persist about the rationale and the effect, especially on retailers who say their business will take a hit but it doesn’t stop kids from smoking. (Wicked Local)


A new state study suggests a rail link connecting North and South stations would be the second coming of the Big Dig, costing at least $12.3 billion. Former governor Michael Dukakis, a leading proponent of the project, said the cost estimate has “no relation to reality.” (CommonWealth)

The MBTA, starting August 1, will launch its own version of surge pricing at its parking lots and garages — charging more where demand is high and less, in some cases much less, at little-used lots and on weekends. (CommonWealth)

The MBTA reveals in a long-range planning document that it’s considering linking the Blue Line and the Red Line via a pedestrian walkway, presumably underground. (CommonWealth)

MassINC research director Ben Forman makes the case for regional rail and transit-oriented development in the state’s Gateway Cities as key elements to their revival. (American Prospect)

The billionaire Koch brothers are using their massive wealth and sophisticated voter identification system to kill public transit projects around the country while touting touting tax increases for highway funding which benefits their core business, Koch Industries. (New York Times)


The Gloucester Times, which has been closely monitoring the fate of four piping plover chicks, reports only one has survived.


The National Review takes issue with Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s declaration that “more people [are] locked up for low-level offenses on marijuana than for all violent crimes in this country.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will recommend his state join the growing rolls of those legalizing adult use of marijuana. (New York Times)


State Police officers, enlisted by Lawrence police chief Roy Vasque over the weekend, made 113 arrests. (Eagle-Tribune)

The Peabody man whose probation sentence on heroin distribution charges set off criticism against the judge’s handling of the case was arrested yesterday by immigration officials on charges of “violating the terms of his status in the US.” (Boston Herald)


Former employees from the Denver Post launched a new publication called the Colorado Sun, which is backed by the Civil Media Company. Civil Media’s sole investor is ConsenSys, a Brooklyn-based blockchain software technology company. (New York Times)