HOUSE SESSION – MONDAY, APRIL 24, 2017
House Budget Debate - Tax Amendments
The House convened at 10:02 a.m. with Rep.
[ . . . ]
AMENDMENT : Rep. Provost offered
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
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
Rep. Atkins of Concord said she
agreed with the ladies from Somerville, Pittsfield and
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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