Momentum building for some form of tax relief

For months now, pressure has been building on Beacon Hill lawmakers to provide some form of tax relief to residents. 

Republicans pushed repeatedly for a gas tax holiday as prices at the pump soared. Gov. Charlie Baker backed a $700 million package that matched tax breaks for seniors, renters, and low-income taxpayers with cuts in taxes on estates and short-term capital gains. At their state convention on Saturday, Republicans again pressed for tax cuts, saying the state is rolling in money and can easily afford them.

Democrats on Beacon Hill have been slow to embrace the idea. The gas tax holiday was dismissed as a stunt and rejected multiple times. Baker’s proposal wasn’t embraced, but it wasn’t dismissed, either.

The Democratic candidates for governor split on the issue. Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz said she would oppose tax cuts and use any extra money to support the state’s budget priorities. Attorney General Maura Healey said the state could both address budget priorities and offer some form of tax relief. 

And then April tax revenues came pouring in – $2 billion higher than forecasted and $3 billion above the previous April. Senate President Karen Spilka looked at the numbers and decided some sort of tax break was warranted, to be taken up after her chamber passes its budget this week. 

Another hint of movement came Monday, when the Legislature’s Revenue Committee pushed decisions on dozens of bills until the last day of the legislative session on July 31 but approved an amendment setting a deadline for action on the governor’s tax relief bill for July 1. 

Sen. Adam Hinds, a Pittsfield Democrat running for lieutenant governor, told State House News Service that the new deadline reflects the fact that conversations about tax relief are intensifying.  

“For me, the proposals that truly target low-income filers are getting more attention, but there’s also been a lot of conversation about an estate tax adjustment,” Hinds said. “There are a lot of details of how you might design such proposals that you have to get right.” 

The big question now is whether there’s enough time before the legislative session ends to gain consensus on what taxes to cut and how to cut them. House leaders have been the slowest to embrace the idea, but there appears to be growing recognition that a tax cut is affordable and could be politically advantageous.

 BRUCE MOHL

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

What now? A new review of the Boston Public Schools finds a system in deep disarray, in many ways worse off than it was in an earlier review two years ago. The latest review calls for “bold” action to address the many problems, but doesn’t specifically call for state receivership. Read more.

Take another look: The Supreme Judicial Court orders a lower court to more closely review the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s role in forcing down the price Wynn Resorts paid for the land on which its casino rests in Everett. Read more.

OPINION

The Book of Baker: Ed Lyons, a big fan of Gov. Charlie Baker, favorably reviews his new book, which was co-written with his former chief of staff, Steve Kadish. Lyons marvels at the Republican governor’s pro-government philosophy and says the book is a good guide for those who want to get things done. Read more.

What’s a landlord to do? Landlord Lior Rozhansky defends raising rents in Somerville and condemns the “bullying’ of local activists and elected officials. Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

Sen. Bruce Tarr leads a bipartisan effort to increase funding for regional school transportation in the Senate’s version of the budget. (Salem News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

The state and city of Boston are pushing an effort to find permanent housing for those who had been camping out in the Mass. and Cass area. (Boston Globe

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Mercy Medical Center in Springfield is laying off staff, including translators and nurses. (MassLive)

An internal analysis shows Black patients at Brigham and Women’s Hospital were, after adjusting for other factors that could affect the findings, 36 percent more likely to have hospital security called on them than were white patients. (Boston Globe

ELECTIONS

A coalition of business groups forms to oppose the millionaire’s tax constitutional amendment. (Salem News)

In a debate, the Democratic candidates for attorney general spar over outside spending and safe injection sites. (MassLive)

Attorney General candidate Quentin Palfrey says he would shut down the Springfield courthouse due to environmental hazards. (MassLive)

Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl condemns sexually explicit comments made by GOP secretary of state candidate Rayla Campbell at the GOP convention. (MassLive)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden released reports on two cases he inherited involving fatal shootings by police, ruling in both that the use of lethal force was legally justified. (Boston Globe) Former DA Rachael Rollins failed during her tenure to close any of the eight cases of police use of lethal force that her office was responsible for.