House not looking to budget for tax reform

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.

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.”  

SHIRA SCHOENBERG

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

House proposes daycare aid: House officials say their budget proposal for fiscal 2023 will include additional funding to help daycares offering subsidized care to low-income communities. Additional funding for the private daycare system was not provided. “We have to begin somewhere,” said House Speaker Ron Mariano. Read more.

Lawmakers on board: Key lawmakers tell Gov. Charlie Baker they like his health care priorities – upping spending on primary care and behavioral health and reining in the high cost of prescription drugs – but indicate he will not get everything he wants. Read more.

OPINION

Why no gas tax relief? Paul D. Craney of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance slams lawmakers for refusing to provide drivers any relief from state gasoline taxes even though Beacon Hill is awash in federal and state cash and pushing for a surtax on millionaires. Read more.

Baker health care priorities: In his testimony to the Legislature’s Health Care Finance Committee, the governor explains why it’s necessary to revamp health care spending to put greater emphasis on primary care, behavioral health, substance abuse treatment, and geriatrics. Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker signs a law that lets older siblings and other relatives adopt younger relatives. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

A year after Mikayla Miller’s death made headlines, Hopkinton has changed for the better, with a greater focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. (USA Today Network)

Sandwich school officials are accused of turning a blind eye to racist acts. (Cape Cod Times)

A woman from New York who checked into the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge went missing shortly afterward. (Berkshire Eagle)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Wastewater data shows Boston area COVID cases are climbing again. (Boston Herald)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Philadelphia is reinstituting an indoor mask mandate. (New York Times)

Can New York City adapt as employers tell their workers they don’t have to return to the office? (New York Times)

President Biden plans to announce moves to lower the price of gas, by allowing the sale of a blended form of gasoline that includes ethanol this summer – a measure opposed by environmentalists. (Washington Post)

The Washington Post chronicles the unlikely bond between Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.

ELECTIONS

Boston Globe columnist Marcela Garcia says taxing millionaires at a higher rate will promote racial justice by taxing white wealthy residents more and using the money for education and transportation initiatives that would benefit low-income people of color.

Attorney General Maura Healey is far outpacing her gubernatorial race rivals in fundraising, while Sen. Eric Lesser leads the pack of hopefuls for lieutenant governor. (Salem News)

House Speaker Ron Mariano backs Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll for lieutenant governor. (MassLive)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Workers at two Starbucks stores in Boston and Brookline vote to unionize. (WBUR)

EDUCATION

The Boston City Council hosts a hearing on a possible state takeover of the city’s schools, and the idea is almost universally panned even though most agree the schools are showing little progress. (Boston Globe)

Worcester Schools Superintendent Maureen Binienda reflects on her plans to retire after 46 years working for the Worcester Public Schools – and doesn’t rule out a run for office in Worcester. (Telegram & Gazette)

South Coast area colleges are changing curricula and shifting strategies to attract new students amid declining enrollment. (New Bedford Light)

ARTS/CULTURE

Katherine “KD” Montgomery is hired as the first female executive director of the Essex Shipbuilding Museum. (Gloucester Daily Times)

The EcoTarium in Worcester pursues accreditation and is considering expanding the zoo part of the museum. (Telegram & Gazette)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA isn’t saying much about the death of a Red Line rider at Broadway Station who got his arm caught in a door and was dragged to his death. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A debate is raging over what to do with the waste from the closed Pilgrim Station nuclear power plant along Cape Cod Bay. (Associated Press)

The Weymouth compressor station is making upgrades to address unplanned natural gas release. (Wicked Local)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

An independent report for the town of Dalton blames “catastrophic miscommunication” from the police department to the district attorney’s office for the lack of prosecution of an alleged rape case. (Berkshire Eagle

MEDIA

Dan Kennedy says government initiatives to address the local news crisis appear to be fizzling out. (Media Nation)