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CLT UPDATE
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Income tax hike withdrawn in Three-Ring House Circus


HOUSE SESSION MONDAY, APRIL 24, 2017
House Budget Debate - Tax Amendments

The House convened at 10:02 a.m. with Rep. Donato presiding.

[ . . . ]

AMENDMENT : Rep. Provost offered Amendment #42

Rep. Provost of Somerville said:

The amendment is just as simple and even more modest than the amendment just offered. This would freeze the falling state rate of personal income tax at 5.1 percent, where it is now and has been since last year.

I had already filed this amendment by last week but I was reading the business section of the Boston Globe and was stunned to see the headline saying next recession could make state budget explode. This would be a surprise to none of us.

We have struggled with 9C cuts. You like me are hearing from colleagues about cuts in appropriations to programs and services that everyone relies on, public education, public higher education, services to the elderly and developmentally disabled, to all the people in need. The budget the State House News describes today as one in a string of austerity budgets.

We have the second highest per capital wealth in this nation. We are a national leader in the income inequality gap. The Globe points out we have cut taxes year after year. We have not taken action to instigate some cuts because of the legislation we created to implement the reduction of the income tax to 5 percent. We had experienced automatic rate reductions. We have met the growth triggers that were set up as a safeguard. They were set up before anyone anticipated the Great Recession.

With the reductions, we have got into a pattern of experiencing 9C cuts, lower appropriations in our state budgets or level funding, which makes a difference to services. In July I had a lady blind and disabled, 94 years old, die while on the waiting list for home care. We have since ended the waiting list but this didn't help that lady.

The solution here is a modest one. It is not a new tax, but the same rate we are paying now. It's much reduced from prior years. Threee quarters of a percent decrease in the rate of our biggest revenue source, $3.5 billion. Unless we want to cut even further . . .

Rep. Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield said:

In my district I get zero calls for lowering the income tax but dozens of calls to restore programs. Can you let me know what would we be saving this year in revenue by not implementing the next rollback?

Rep. Provost said:

For this Jan. 1 we did not experience a rollback. The value for a half year would be $83 million, $162 million for a whole year.

Rep. Balser of Newton said she supports the amendment:

It would give us more revenue to fund the essential services that it's government's job to fund.

The logic behind the triggering to go back to 5.0 was that there was a voter initiative back in 1998 I believe that moved the rate back to 5.0. There has been an idea that we should honor the will of the voters. We are here to honor the will of the voters every day. Something I say when I bring students here is the Legislature and the voters can pass laws. Whether by the Legislature or voters, either way it's like any other law and it can be amended. We have a flexible system. Every two years there are new legislators and new opportunities for ballot questions.

Voters passed a campaign finance reform bill which several years later we repealed. Voters passed a marijuana bill and we are looking at how to tweak or amend it. I make the point that we have a flexible democratic system that responds to changes and new needs.

Paul Cellucci went around promising that if the voters passed it there would be no cuts. He was talking from a 1998 perspective. We were in a boom. It was possible to make that argument. Paul Cellucci had no way of knowing what would happen in 2001 when our nation was attacked and our financial system collapsed. Our constituents have sent us here to adapt to new situations.

I get calls for more investment in education and public safety and environmental protection and the arts and civil legal aid. I hear the will of the voters and my constituents have asked me to be flexible. We could use the new revenue to support essential services that people need and deserve.

Rep. Atkins of Concord said she agreed with the ladies from Somerville, Pittsfield and Newton:

Property taxes have gone up like a fighter airplane and it's because the state does not have the revenue. I have not received calls to lower the income tax. I receive call after call about programs and services.

Every call I get on this budget is to add to an account, not to take away from it. We have a foundational, fundamental billion dollar deficit that we have been struggling with for the last decade and a half. We need the revenues to clean that up. I support this amendment.

Rep. Mike Connolly of Cambridge said he supports the amendment.

Rep. Donato banged the gavel and declared a brief recess and asked the gentleman to come to the rostrum.

Rep. Donato then recognized Rep. Provost.

Rep. Provost received unanimous consent to withdraw her amendment. There was no objection.

Transcription by State House News Service


House Democrats on Tuesday beat back a Republican proposal that would have required adult public housing applicants to provide their Social Security numbers or alien registration numbers.

Rep. Shaunna O'Connell, a Taunton Republican, offered the measure as an amendment to the $40.3 billion House budget, telling her colleagues that housing authority directors had asked her to do so and that the move would align state rules more closely with federal guidelines.

O'Connell said current law, which does not require public housing applicants to submit Social Security numbers, allows people who are not in the country legally to be given preference over citizens and those with legal status.

"Think about how many constituents call your office desperate for housing and they cannot get in because there are waiting lists of two, three and five years long," O'Connell said. "This is the right thing to do."

Several Democratic representatives pushed back strongly against the idea. Rep. Marjorie Decker of Cambridge called it "mean-spirited" and said would "pile on the vulnerability and the hardship many immigrants already face." ...

The House voted 124-36 to adopt a further amendment, offered by Assistant Majority Leader Byron Rushing, calling to instead study the issue. Rep. Christopher Markey of Dartmouth said a study would allow lawmakers to make "a deliberate, thoughtful decision" instead of a "political statement" focusing on "a constituency that has this as its one political issue."

House Republicans criticize Democrats, who make up the majority of the chamber with 125 members, for using studies to kill controversial amendments without taking an up-or-down vote on the underlying issue. The recommended studies, lawmakers say, are never undertaken.

Rep. Shawn Dooley of Norfolk accused the majority party of "playing gamesmanship" to avoid a vote that could be used against them in an election, and Rep. James Lyons of Andover called it a "charade."

State House News Service
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
House derails "mean-spirited" bid for public housing applicant info


House Democrats on Tuesday rejected a proposal designed to limit cost growth in MassHealth and place the state's largest program under the oversight of a control board.

The proposal, offered by Rep. James Lyons (R-Andover), was rejected on a series of voice votes. Lyons tried to force a roll call but his colleagues, including some Republicans, did not support that attempt.

"It is remarkable, 40 percent of the state budget and we're trying to come up with a solution and yet we cannot even get a roll call. That is simply amazing. This budget has blown up in the last six years and we can't even get a roll call to discuss one of the most important parts," Lyons said after his final attempt to secure a recorded vote failed. "If anyone wants to know why this budget has exploded, it's simply because of that. We're not serious about the way we look at spending our tax dollars." ...

As representatives broke for dinner on Tuesday, several told the News Service they did not expect work on the budget to be completed Tuesday night.

State House News Service
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Bid to impose MassHealth controls fails in House


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

What a couple of days it's been watching the shameless shenanigans going on in the House up on Beacon Hill.  When I think it's time to get an Update out to our members something else has popped up.  The Republican minority is getting steamrolled as usual.  Just about every, if not every amendment they've proposed not only wasn't adopted but had a "further amendment" attached to it that passed overwhelmingly which shipped it off to be "studied."

This is the usual shameless dodge the majority Democrats fall back on more and more when they don't want their vote to be recorded on an issue that may put them at risk when they run for re-election, come back and bite them.  Voting to send a proposal to be "studied" is the end of the proposal.  Nothing is ever "studied."  It's a sham and everyone up there knows it.  As Rep. Jim Lyons (R-Andover) accurately noted:

Every time we want to give money back to the taxpayers, we study it. Every time we wants to raise taxes or fees or regulations, we vote on it. This is another example of us doing what we have consistently done. We take a piece of legislation that would help the taxpayers and we study it. Do we have a date when the study would be done?

He later added:

Well, we're two for two on further amendments today. Every time we want to raise taxes, wide open, let's vote. No studies needed. Seven years, I haven't seen one study yet. I think its unfair. What's wrong with taking a vote? But the fact that you want to study it so you don't have to vote on it is unfair to the taxpayers.

And later yet:

The democratic leadership is now batting 1000. Three for three. Three times we have tried to roll back taxes or have a discussion to roll back taxes, but no you have decided to study it.

Any legislator who voted to send an amendment for "study" killed that amendment, in fact voted against the amendment.

But the strangest thing that happened on Monday during the tax amendments debate was when Rep. Provost's amendment to kill our rollback of the "temporary" income tax hike, halt it at 5.1 percent, was brought up.  After an all-out speech to justify it, after a number of her uber-liberal allies stood up and spoke out in support of her treachery for no apparent reason at the end she abruptly pulled her own amendment, "Never mind."  What?  We've never seen anything like that.

None of our contacts on Beacon Hill, nobody at the State House News Service or Beacon Hill Roll Call, could explain it either.  One response I received from someone who was there was:  "Not certain, but probably the votes were not there."

"In my district I get zero calls for lowering the income tax but dozens of calls to restore programs," Rep. Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield said.  "I have not received calls to lower the income tax. I receive call after call about programs and services," added Rep. Atkins of Concord.

Obviously their fellow Democrats must have heard differently.

But there will be no reform and no fiscal responsibility in what comes out of the House, and the Senate will only be worse.  Even blatant, indefensible waste, fraud, and abuse were endorsed by the Democrat majority.  Public housing for illegal aliens ahead of elderly citizens was endorsed by the Democrat majority, and reform of the state's leading budget-buster, MassHealth/Mediciad, was rejected by them and even some Republicans enough of the minority party joined the Democrats to prevent a roll call vote on the latter, even a vote to send it for "study."

I'd better get this out for your consumption before more news breaks.

More to follow, I'm sure . . .

Chip Ford
Executive Director


 
Transcript by State House News Service

HOUSE SESSION MONDAY, APRIL 24, 2017
House Budget Debate - Tax Amendments


The House convened at 10:02 a.m. with Rep. Donato presiding.

[ . . . ]

AMENDMENT : Rep. Provost offered Amendment #42

Rep. Provost of Somerville said:

The amendment is just as simple and even more modest than the amendment just offered. This would freeze the falling state rate of personal income tax at 5.1 percent, where it is now and has been since last year.

I had already filed this amendment by last week but I was reading the business section of the Boston Globe and was stunned to see the headline saying next recession could make state budget explode. This would be a surprise to none of us.

We have struggled with 9C cuts. You like me are hearing from colleagues about cuts in appropriations to programs and services that everyone relies on, public education, public higher education, services to the elderly and developmentally disabled, to all the people in need. The budget the State House News describes today as one in a string of austerity budgets.

We have the second highest per capital wealth in this nation. We are a national leader in the income inequality gap. The Globe points out we have cut taxes year after year. We have not taken action to instigate some cuts because of the legislation we created to implement the reduction of the income tax to 5 percent. We had experienced automatic rate reductions. We have met the growth triggers that were set up as a safeguard. They were set up before anyone anticipated the Great Recession.

With the reductions, we have got into a pattern of experiencing 9C cuts, lower appropriations in our state budgets or level funding, which makes a difference to services. In July I had a lady blind and disabled, 94 years old, die while on the waiting list for home care. We have since ended the waiting list but this didn't help that lady.

The solution here is a modest one. It is not a new tax, but the same rate we are paying now. It's much reduced from prior years. Threee quarters of a percent decrease in the rate of our biggest revenue source, $3.5 billion. Unless we want to cut even further . . .

Rep. Farley-Bouvier said:

In my district I get zero calls for lowering the income tax but dozens of calls to restore programs. Can you let me know what would we be saving this year in revenue by not implementing the next rollback?

Rep. Provost said:

For this Jan. 1 we did not experience a rollback. The value for a half year would be $83 million, $162 million for a whole year.

Rep. Balser of Newton said she supports the amendment:

It would give us more revenue to fund the essential services that it's government's job to fund.

The logic behind the triggering to go back to 5.0 was that there was a voter initiative back in 1998 I believe that moved the rate back to 5.0. There has been an idea that we should honor the will of the voters. We are here to honor the will of the voters every day. Something I say when I bring students here is the Legislature and the voters can pass laws. Whether by the Legislature or voters, either way it's like any other law and it can be amended. We have a flexible system. Every two years there are new legislators and new opportunities for ballot questions.

Voters passed a campaign finance reform bill which several years later we repealed. Voters passed a marijuana bill and we are looking at how to tweak or amend it. I make the point that we have a flexible democratic system that responds to changes and new needs.

Paul Cellucci went around promising that if the voters passed it there would be no cuts. He was talking from a 1998 perspective. We were in a boom. It was possible to make that argument. Paul Cellucci had no way of knowing what would happen in 2001 when our nation was attacked and our financial system collapsed. Our constituents have sent us here to adapt to new situations.

I get calls for more investment in education and public safety and environmental protection and the arts and civil legal aid. I hear the will of the voters and my constituents have asked me to be flexible. We could use the new revenue to support essential services that people need and deserve.

Rep. Atkins of Concord said she agreed with the ladies from Somerville, Pittsfield and Newton:

Property taxes have gone up like a fighter airplane and it's because the state does not have the revenue. I have not received calls to lower the income tax. I receive call after call about programs and services.

Every call I get on this budget is to add to an account, not to take away from it. We have a foundational, fundamental billion dollar deficit that we have been struggling with for the last decade and a half. We need the revenues to clean that up. I support this amendment.

Rep. Mike Connolly of Cambridge said he supports the amendment.

Rep. Donato banged the gavel and declared a brief recess and asked the gentleman to come to the rostrum.

Rep. Donato then recognized Rep. Provost.

Rep. Provost received unanimous consent to withdraw her amendment. There was no objection.

[ . . . ]

A QUORUM ROLL CALL INDICATED 154 MEMBERS PRESENT at 2:11 p.m.

[ . . . ]

O'CONNELL AMENDMENT 666 ANNUAL SALES TAX HOLIDAY

Rep. Kulik offered a further amendment.

Rep. O'Connell said:

I was unable to hear the clerk. I'd like a copy of the amendment so I can read it.

Rep. Donato said:

The clerk's office will provide you a copy of the further amendment.

Rep. O'Connell said:

The further amendment, of course, is a study for the sales tax holiday and what the underlying amendment aimed to do was created an annual sales tax holiday. Coincidentally, this amendment is 666 so I guess I should have taken that as a sign of things to come.

I bet you thought I was going to talk about the pay raises and how it was the first order of business and passed very quickly with an emergency preamble and was going to cost taxpayers $18 million. But I was not going to talk about those things. I was going to talk about fairness and how taxpayers need a break.

They're paying more in property taxes and health insurance and there are just two days a year when they ask to keep a little more in their pocket. This is a time when parents are out buying school supplies, and some parents really struggle when they have three or four kids. I don't think it's too much to ask and not too much of burden on us to relieve the burden on taxpayers. I hope the further amendment is not adopted.

Rep. Lyons said:

Every time we want to give money back to the taxpayers, we study it. Every time we wants to raise taxes or fees or regulations, we vote on it. This is another example of us doing what we have consistently done. We take a piece of legislation that would help the taxpayers and we study it. Do we have a date when the study would be done? I would urge that the further amendment be defeated.

The further amendment was ADOPTED.

Rep. O'Connell doubted the vote and asked for a roll call.

BY A ROLL CALL OF 115-38, the further amendment was ADOPTED.

The underlying amendment 666 was ADOPTED, as further amended by Rep. Kulik.


[ . . . ]

DIEHL AMENDMENT 809 ANNUAL MEALS TAX HOLIDAY

Rep. Kulik offered a further amendment referring the proposal to a study.

Rep. Diehl said:

This proposes a meals tax holiday here in Massachusetts. The idea is simple but profoundly important. We are proposing to suspend the meal for just one week in March to support the restaurants and save the taxpayers a little money. It's somewhat of a traditional in this chamber to suspend the sales tax to stimulate the economy, but the sales tax holiday has always eliminates the tax on goods for a couple of days but has never touched the tax on food. That leads to the question, why not?

Why not pass this amendment? Why not give restaurants the same break we give other businesses. They may look different and cater to different customers but they still have a bottom line, their sales are important to the economy and many of them are small businesses owned locally. The convenience fees for credit cards also takes a bite out of the bottom line. It's not difficult to see why many of our restaurants go out of business. They're an important part of the fabric of our community and I say its high time we establish a meals tax holiday during what is traditionally the most sluggish time of year for our eating establishments. It could make the difference between serving food and hiring workers or closing the doors. Let's act and let's take a vote.

Rep. Diehl asked for a roll call. There was sufficient support.

Rep. Lyons said:

Well, we're two for two on further amendments today. Every time we want to raise taxes, wide open, let's vote. No studies needed. Seven years, I haven't seen one study yet. I think it's unfair. What's wrong with taking a vote. But the fact that you want to study it so you don't have to vote on it is unfair to the taxpayers.

A roll call was ordered.

BY A ROLL CALL OF 117-39, the further amendment was ADOPTED.

The underlying amendment 809 was ADOPTED, as further amended by Kulik.


[ . . . ]

DIEHL AMENDMENT 815 -- An Amendment to Restore the 5% Sales Tax

Question came on a Rep. Diehl amendment with a Rep. Kulik further amendment pending.

Rep. Donato recognized Rep. Diehl.

Rep. Diehl said:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Unfortunately, I doubt the presence of a quorum.

QUORUM ROLL CALL: At 2:56 p.m., Rep. Donato called for a quorum roll call vote. The quorum roll call vote reported 151 members present at 3:03 p.m.

Rep. Diehl said, Thank you. I ask that when I speak against the further amendment the roll call be taken by a call of the yeas and nays.

There was consent.

Rep. Diehl said, My amendment would roll back our sales tax rate from 6.25 percent to 5 percent. I have a history of arguing in favor of tax cuts and fiscal responsibility. That was true when i argued against a permanent increase of the gas tax. I led a successful measure at the ballot box to defeat that tax increase and roll it back.

We are in a similar situation with the state sales tax. We first imposed a tax on sales in 1966, it was 5 percent for more than half a century. But in 2009 the House voted to raise it to 6.25 percent as an emergency measure. We were told it was necessary to fund the things we care about. It was a Beacon Hill money grab. It is as wrong now as it was then.

Sales and use tax is now the second greatest source of tax collections in our state. It comes from every single person who buys a taxable item in our state. You're paying the sales tax. Since 2009, you've been paying an extra premium to feed our state's never ending appetite for spending money.

Since 2009 the unadjusted amount spent in our budget has grown by a third, that's right a third. We need to vote against this further amendment because it means the budget is balanced on the backs of hardworking people in our state. Remember: the sales tax takes a string bite out of the pockets of the low-income families in our state.

We have a spending problem, our state does not have a revenue problem. It is is time to correct the error of our ways. It is time to restore the sales tax rate to 5 percent and give the taxpayers a break.

We've voted on this before and usually it's to send it to study, like today. We all know that means sending it to a legislative wasteland while there is real pain among our constituents around the state.

Families are still scrimping and saving to get by. It is more expensive to live here and raise a family here. Not only did the Legislature vote to raise the sales tax but last year they didn't even approve a sales tax holiday. If we roll it back, it's not a tax decrease, it is real relief. Let's not study this anymore, let's take a vote. I urge a vote against the further amendment.

Rep. Donato recognized Rep. Lyons.

Rep. Lyons said:

Do you want to instruct me again? Mr. Speaker, I know what a sports fan you are and the gentleman from Uxbridge reminded me the last time we had a .400 hitter in the major leagues, that was 1941 with Ted Williams, he hit .406 in 1941. I was there in 1960 when he hit that last home run. The democratic leadership is now batting 1000. Three for three. Three times we have tried to roll back taxes or have a discussion to roll back taxes, but no you have decided to study it. I don't know if that puts you in Ted Williams' class but you're batting 1000. Thank you.

BY A ROLL CALL VOTE OF118-39 the further amendment was ADOPTED. Time was 3:16 p.m.

The underlying amendment 815 was ADOPTED, as further amended by Kulik.


[ . . . ]

RECESS: The House recessed at 9:06 p.m., intending to return at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday with roll calls beginning at noon.
 


State House News Service
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

House derails "mean-spirited" bid for public housing applicant info
By Katie Lannan


House Democrats on Tuesday beat back a Republican proposal that would have required adult public housing applicants to provide their Social Security numbers or alien registration numbers.

Rep. Shaunna O'Connell, a Taunton Republican, offered the measure as an amendment to the $40.3 billion House budget, telling her colleagues that housing authority directors had asked her to do so and that the move would align state rules more closely with federal guidelines.

O'Connell said current law, which does not require public housing applicants to submit Social Security numbers, allows people who are not in the country legally to be given preference over citizens and those with legal status.

"Think about how many constituents call your office desperate for housing and they cannot get in because there are waiting lists of two, three and five years long," O'Connell said. "This is the right thing to do."

Several Democratic representatives pushed back strongly against the idea. Rep. Marjorie Decker of Cambridge called it "mean-spirited" and said would "pile on the vulnerability and the hardship many immigrants already face."

Decker, who grew up in public housing, said the requirement would displace people rather than creating more opportunities to house people in need.

The House voted 124-36 to adopt a further amendment, offered by Assistant Majority Leader Byron Rushing, calling to instead study the issue. Rep. Christopher Markey of Dartmouth said a study would allow lawmakers to make "a deliberate, thoughtful decision" instead of a "political statement" focusing on "a constituency that has this as its one political issue."

House Republicans criticize Democrats, who make up the majority of the chamber with 125 members, for using studies to kill controversial amendments without taking an up-or-down vote on the underlying issue. The recommended studies, lawmakers say, are never undertaken.

Rep. Shawn Dooley of Norfolk accused the majority party of "playing gamesmanship" to avoid a vote that could be used against them in an election, and Rep. James Lyons of Andover called it a "charade."

Lyons said he also grew up in public housing and called it "crazy" to suggest the Republicans "want to throw people on the street."

O'Connell said the House had previously voted to require Social Security numbers for short-term housing assistance and rental assistance for low-income or elderly individuals. She said said some housing authority directors told her the change would affect a "small number" of people but would nonetheless make needed housing available for people in need.

Rep. Antonio Cabral, a New Bedford Democrat, said he found it "fascinating" that housing authority directors would quantify to O'Connell how many residents or applicants did not have Social Security numbers. He said such information should not be released without the resident or applicant's permission and asked O'Connell to identify the housing authorities that had done so.

"They ought to be taken to court, and perhaps the lady probably could be a witness to that since she has that information," Cabral said.


State House News Service
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Bid to impose MassHealth controls fails in House
By Michael Norton


House Democrats on Tuesday rejected a proposal designed to limit cost growth in MassHealth and place the state's largest program under the oversight of a control board.

The proposal, offered by Rep. James Lyons (R-Andover), was rejected on a series of voice votes. Lyons tried to force a roll call but his colleagues, including some Republicans, did not support that attempt.

"It is remarkable, 40 percent of the state budget and we're trying to come up with a solution and yet we cannot even get a roll call. That is simply amazing. This budget has blown up in the last six years and we can't even get a roll call to discuss one of the most important parts," Lyons said after his final attempt to secure a recorded vote failed. "If anyone wants to know why this budget has exploded, it's simply because of that. We're not serious about the way we look at spending our tax dollars."

Slow-growing tax revenues, combined with rising enrollment and costs associated with a program that now serves nearly 2 million residents, are placing enormous pressure on the rest of the state budget.

The House budget, which is expected to pass on Wednesday, authorizes Gov. Charlie Baker to move ahead with an assessment on certain employers to generate revenue to keep pace with rising MassHealth costs.

As representatives broke for dinner on Tuesday, several told the News Service they did not expect work on the budget to be completed Tuesday night.

Representatives on Tuesday night were provided with catered sandwiches from Figaro's of Revere. Monday night, reps enjoyed chicken Marsala and chicken Parmesan provided by D'Amelio's, also of Revere. House Speaker Pro Tem Patricia Haddad also treated colleagues to savory Lebanese pies from the South Coast.

 

NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml


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