BOSTON – Finally!
With the acceptance of a conference committee report Thursday by the state Senate, the Legislature has planned a $6.76 billion spending package, which includes both the long-delayed economic development, the governor’s closing budget, and some $3 billion in assistance for residents paying state income. taxation, a reality.
It was not without some hindsight.
Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, expressed disappointment that the $1 billion in direct payments and permanent tax relief for low- and middle-income people included in the original economic development bill was missing.
He was not the only one.
“I have mixed emotions about the Economic Development Bill due to its omission of tax relief as many of our neighbors and businesses struggle, especially as we approach a winter of unprecedented energy costs,” Sen. Ryan Fattman, R-Sutton, said in a written statement.
“The legislator, who had promised tax relief when this bill was originally designed, completely removed it from the final version that was passed. The promises that were made were not kept.
Tarr also pressed the point, asking Michael Rodrigues, D-Westport, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, to sign an IOU to the taxpayers. The IOU, which he spoke about in the Senate chamber and promised to oversee, would ensure that the legislature addresses the subject of meaningful and permanent tax relief in the next session.
“I looked at the document, shook it upside down one way and shook it upside down another way, even tried to read it upside down” , Tarr said of the spending package, as he discussed finding the missing tax relief package.
The $3 billion in tax relief already available to residents who pay income tax was not new legislation. Upcoming refunds, about $9-20 for the lowest 20% of people in the state and up to $36,000 for those in the highest income brackets, are sent through a ballot initiative of 1985.
Funds for children and healthcare workers, hospitals, housing and clean energy
The $3.76 billion spending package has reserves for projects across the Commonwealth.
- $500 million for the State Department of Early Childhood Education and Care and Workforce Development
- $350 million for hospitals
- $304 million for housing production
- $250 million for clean energy incentives
- $225 million for a rate increase for social service workers
- $200 million for the COVID-19 response
- $195 million for state nursing and rest homes
- $80 million for community health centers
- $20 million to reduce gun violence
- $17.5 million for reproductive health care and family planning
Baker will read the bill
The bill is now on Governor Charlie Baker’s desk.
“We have to read it, talk about it, understand what’s in it,” Baker said Thursday, shortly after the deal was struck and the document accepted by the Senate. “I’m glad they were able to find an agreement.”
Central Massachusetts lawmakers have been successful in securing funds for special projects in their districts, ranging from $300,000 for Open Table, a food pantry in Maynard that serves the greater metro area, to $250,000 in Spencer for the modernization of sewers.
Fattman said he secured funding in the bill for local chambers of commerce, like the Blackstone Valley Chamber, which will help provide grants to local businesses to address some of the economic challenges they face.
Despite political and philosophical differences between Fattman and Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, both expressed disappointment with the lack of direct tax relief that had been included in the initial economic development package announced in July.
“I am absolutely disappointed that the legislature did not opt for more relief for working class families,” Eldridge said.
Last month, Eldridge joined Rep. Michael Connolly, D-Cambridge, and Rep. Jamie Belsito, D-Topsfield, in proposing a $6,500 cap on the refund for the state’s wealthiest taxpayers to redirect more relief to low-income residents.
But Eldridge is glad Open Table is getting funding to refrigerate its warehouse and better serve residents facing food insecurity issues.
“It’s become a regional food hub,” Eldridge said.
Winnings in his district also include $35 million for the UMass Memorial Health Care System, $300,000 for housing and housing production; and funds to install electric vehicle charging stations. There is money for a community arts organization and to beautify a favorite park.
“These are all initiatives that improve the quality of life and are appreciated by voters,” Eldridge said.
The bill included a provision to remove the development cap in Devens. Dubbed a technicality, the former military facility will house a nuclear fission test facility and bioproduction facilities.
Other domain wins for Sen. Anne Gobi, D-Spencer, along with Rep. Susannah M. Whipps, I-Athol, Jon Zlotnik, D-Gardner and Rep. Kimberly Ferguson, R-Holden:
- Templeton: $200,000 for economic development
- Holden: $200,000 for economic development, $150,000 for the development of an overlay village neighborhood and the mixed-use redevelopment of the public works department building on Main Street
- Paxton: $200,000 for economic development, $75,000 for reassessment of zoning regulations
- Westminster: $200,000 to revitalize the village core, redevelop it and make it more pedestrian-friendly
Gobi also included a provision that funds the rehabilitation of an electroplating site in Jefferson for redevelopment into commercial space. Funding was also extended for the historic Wood House in Rutland.
Gobi was also able to add an additional $30 million to relieve nursing homes to mitigate expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including testing and personal protective equipment and other expenses.