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CLT UPDATE
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Beacon Hill's Three-Ring-Circus Insanity


On the eve of the annual Senate budget debate, a group opposing tax increases is urging senators to "just say no" to any new taxes and to lock in the final step toward a 5 percent income tax rate.

According to Citizens for Limited Taxation, state spending has more than tripled to more than $40 billion since 1989 when an allegedly temporary income tax hike was passed. Since then, CLT says, the sales tax was increased 25 percent, the gas tax was raised twice and other revenue-raising "gimmicks" were passed....

State House News Service
Monday, May 22, 2017
Senators urged to back tax relief proposals


ANNOUNCEMENT: Senate President Rosenberg said, we are about to vote on the 'yes' bundle. If there is no objection, several amendments will be considered as one.

BY A ROLL CALL VOTE OF 37-0, THE 'YES' BUNDLE OF AMENDMENTS WAS ADOPTED. Time was 8:31 p.m. There was no explanation of which amendments were included in the bundle.

State House News Service
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Senate Debate on FY2018 Budget


The Massachusetts Senate, which often touts its efforts to operate transparently, packed an unspecified number of state budget amendments into a single amendment and adopted it without debate Monday night.

The so-called yes bundle came on the first day of deliberations on a $40.3 billion fiscal 2018 budget, which itself rests on shaky revenue supports due to sluggish tax collections. By Wednesday morning, 12 amendments had been marked as part of the bundle on the clerk's office website.

Senators were told Tuesday night that at least one proposed bundle would be ready for review between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, with the expectation that the bundle would be voted upon later Wednesday.

State House News Service
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Like House, Senate budget features major backroom component


Senators from both parties are in agreement that the $40.3 billion spending bill up for debate and amendments this week rests on shaky revenue supports but Senate budget chief Karen Spilka claimed at the outset of deliberations Tuesday that "we are clear-eyed about our current financial situation."

With two months left in fiscal 2017, tax collections are running nearly $500 million below targets that need to be hit to balance this year's budget. And with a new fiscal year just six weeks away, revenue growth is nowhere near the level it will need to reach to balance the spending plan that senators are debating and amending this week.

Spilka said there are still two months for fiscal 2017 revenues to rebound but also acknowledged that slow-growing revenues mean that a six-member conference panel may need to scale back fiscal 2018 spending plans. Spilka also gave voice to the major role that midyear spending bills play, apart from the annual budget, saying a supplemental budget may emerge in the next two weeks.

Senate Republicans have filed amendments to generate savings in fiscal 2018, according to Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, who asked Spilka whether the budget her Ways and Means Committee developed includes any cost-saving measures.

State House News Service
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Senate forges ahead on budget despite weak revenue supports


Senate Republicans on Tuesday night alleged that the proposed fiscal 2018 budget underfunds major spending accounts and is not balanced, but attempts to add funding to those accounts were rejected.

Holding a chart showing what he called the "Balance Beam of Imbalance," Minority Leader Bruce Tarr warned that while the Senate Ways and Means budget pursues program expansion in some areas, it neglects to fund things like public defenders, snow and ice costs, sheriff's offices, and the Group Insurance Commission, compounding the alleged imbalance.

"We're setting the stage for either the requirement of supplemental budgets for which there may or may not be funding in the future, or reductions in other things that are in the budget either through supplemental cuts or through the use by the governor of his 9C authority," Tarr said....

Gov. Charlie Baker's office has also raised concern that the Senate budget is imbalanced. A Baker spokeswoman said when the Senate rolled its budget out that "it is concerning that numerous accounts to pay for core services, like indigent legal services, are underfunded in this budget."

The House budget approved in late April and the Senate budget being advanced this week both rely on questionable revenue assumptions, and legislative leaders have already given voice to the potential that a six-member conference committee may need to reduce planned spending during private deliberations.

State House News Service
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Tarr: Dem's budgeting maneuvers leave spending vulnerable to cuts


In the midst of anxiety over potential overspending, House Democrats on Wednesday morning introduced a new spending bill which could emerge on the House floor for consideration Wednesday afternoon.

Senate budget chief Karen Spilka on Tuesday mentioned the possibility of a supplemental budget surfacing in the next two weeks, and the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday morning began polling its members on a spending bill....

Supplemental budgets are regularly processed by the Legislature, augmenting the annual budget. The impact of the added spending on the state's total fiscal picture, which has been marked by sluggish tax collections, is not clear since the Baker administration has been relatively mum about budget management.

State House News Service
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
House introduces new spending bill


The Massachusetts House is expected to take it first legislative action in response to the Trump administration Wednesday, the first fruit of Speaker Robert DeLeo's Trump working group.

Bills filed by Rep. Antonio Cabral of New Bedford and endorsed by the working group created to respond to the Trump administration -- dubbed by Majority Leader Ron Mariano "The Therapy Committee" -- are expected to come to a vote after 1 p.m.

One bill (H 3034) would prevent inmates in Massachusetts from being sent to labor on out-of-state projects, including Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson's proposal to offer inmate labor to help build a wall on the border with Mexico.

The second (H 3033) seeks to prevent the use of state resources to carry out agreements that delegate Immigration and Customs Enforcement authority to officers at the state or local level....

Hodgson last week said that if the Legislature passes the bills "it will show once again that personal political agendas are more important than keeping our citizens and legal residents safe."

State House News Service
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Immigration, inmate bill votes expected in House


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

I'd better get out what we know so far now, as there's no catching up with the Beacon Hill  Three-Ring Circus.  Remember how pretty much the only thing this Legislature has done since January was their obscene pay raise grab, then silence ever since?  This is how the game's played.  Now there's so much activity there's no keeping up with it, a frenzied blur of motion that nobody can follow.

Activity in every direction with little if any thought.  One hand doesn't know what the other is doing, just a lot of action.  While the Senate is ramming though an out-of-balance budget in one chamber, simultaneously the House is throwing together a "supplemental budget" to cover the overspending it passed in last year's budget, after passing its own FY2018 budget that also spends more than the state is expected to raise in revenues.

Below is just a brief (relatively) excerpt from yesterday's Senate budget debate, "full of sound and fury signifying nothing" but the approach of another fiscal crisis.

State House News Service
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Senate Debate on FY2018 Budget

CONVENES: The Senate convened at 10:17 a.m. with President Rosenberg presiding.

  [SNIP]

TARR AMENDMENT #12: Question came on an amendment restoring the income tax to 5 percent.

Sen. Tarr said, Well, well, well. We had a discussion earlier about tax increases that are temporary or permanent. The income tax in 1989 was a temporary 18-month increase. 16 years later it had not been reduced and the voters decided to act in 2000. The voters said it was temporary and it should be reduced. Low and behold, after 2003 there was a freeze and it has been a very slow thawing period. This would reduce the tax to 5 percent in January 2019. We are engaged in a budget with new programs. It seems we tend to forget the people who pay the bills. We offer this amendment to remind us all that we should pay more attention to the will of the voters. The tax rate is not what we mandated.

Sen. Eldridge said, Point of information. I'd like to know the reduction in revenues this would cost the commonwealth?

President Rosenberg recognized Sen. Tarr

Sen. Tarr said, We are calculating the precise amount. We'll reflect on the spending increases in the budget. It is less than that amount. We will develop that.

Sen. Tarr asked that the amendment be held.

Sen. Eldridge asked to make a statement.

Sen. Eldridge said, I understand the minority leader withdrew his amendment. Each time we reduce it, it's about $100 million. This amendment over two years would reduce revenue by over $200 million when we're facing a deficit.

Sen. Fattman asked if the amendment was withdrawn.

President Rosenberg said it was held.

Sen. Tarr said, I did not withdraw the amendment. I would suggest that if his information is correct, that it is a $200 million reduction. If we are in fiscal constraint, why does the budget increase by 3.3 percent?

  [SNIP]

TARR AMENDMENT #15: Question came on a 2017 sales tax holiday amendment

Sen. Tarr said, You were always ahead of the curve. This requires a sales tax holiday in mid-August. This would cost about $20 million. I hope it is adopted.

The amendment was REJECTED

  [SNIP]

ELDRIDGE AMENDMENT #16: Question came on an amendment enhancing the Earned Income Tax Credit

Sen. Fattman said I agree the EITC will help families but when people agreed to reduce the income tax that also would help families. And it was not merely just a suggestion. It was a mandate. And we have waited 18 years. Their will should not just be heard by this body, it should be heeded.

  [SNIP]

ANNOUNCEMENT: Senate President Rosenberg said, we are about to vote on the 'yes' bundle. If there is no objection, several amendments will be considered as one.

BY A ROLL CALL VOTE OF 37-0, THE 'YES' BUNDLE OF AMENDMENTS WAS ADOPTED. Time was 8:31 p.m. There was no explanation of which amendments were included in the bundle.

  [SNIP]

RECESS: The Senate recessed at 10:19 p.m., intending to return to order at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Just an hour ago the Senate finally got around to killing Sen. Tarr's amendments for an income tax rollback, a rollback of the sales tax; and a certain sales tax holiday was rejected yesterday.

Meanwhile, the House is not only voting to spend more in a supplemental budget for this fiscal year, but also whether to make Massachusetts a Sanctuary State!

It's bad enough that we have to watch this circus on live streaming video, but Chip Faulkner just discovered that the Senate wasn't showing the video of today's debate in real time that instead we were being treated to yesterday's debate video that we watched yesterday!  He called the Senate Clerk's office, was told they had "a glitch" in the system, were "working on it."  When live video of what was actually going on in the Senate returned, the debate over Sen. Tarr's amendment defeats was over.

Insanity and incompetency reigns on Beacon Hill.  There is no following it, no making sense of what is going on.  Not for us and not for rank-and-file legislators.

That's just the way they want it, as usual.  Keep the mushrooms in the dark and fertilized.

In the end, senators are voting on "bundled amendments" and nobody knows what's in those bundles.

"We have to pass the bill to find out what's in it"! 

Stay tuned folks more will definitely follow . . .

Chip Ford
Executive Director


 
State House News Service
Monday, May 22, 2017

Senators urged to back tax relief proposals
By Michael P. Norton


On the eve of the annual Senate budget debate, a group opposing tax increases is urging senators to "just say no" to any new taxes and to lock in the final step toward a 5 percent income tax rate.

According to Citizens for Limited Taxation, state spending has more than tripled to more than $40 billion since 1989 when an allegedly temporary income tax hike was passed. Since then, CLT says, the sales tax was increased 25 percent, the gas tax was raised twice and other revenue-raising "gimmicks" were passed.

CLT is supporting Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr's amendment (12) to reduce the income tax rate from 5.1 percent to 5 percent by Jan. 1, 2019, the level voters sought when they approved a ballot question in 2000, as well as amendments gradually reducing the 6.25 percent sales tax to 5 percent by Aug. 1, 2019 (13) and authorizing a sales tax holiday (15) on Aug. 12-13, 2017.

Gov. Charlie Baker and legislative leaders continue to struggle with the problem of tax collections falling short of expectations they've used to draw up spending plans. Democrats in the Legislature are advancing a possible 2018 ballot question imposing a 4 percent surtax on household income above $1 million, a proposal that Baker has not taken a position on. If approved, the measure could generate $1.6 billion to $2.2 billion per year.
 

State House News Service
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Like House, Senate budget features major backroom component
By Michael P. Norton


The Massachusetts Senate, which often touts its efforts to operate transparently, packed an unspecified number of state budget amendments into a single amendment and adopted it without debate Monday night.

The so-called yes bundle came on the first day of deliberations on a $40.3 billion fiscal 2018 budget, which itself rests on shaky revenue supports due to sluggish tax collections. By Wednesday morning, 12 amendments had been marked as part of the bundle on the clerk's office website.

Senators were told Tuesday night that at least one proposed bundle would be ready for review between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, with the expectation that the bundle would be voted upon later Wednesday.

Senators can pull their amendments from a proposed bundle in favor of floor debate if they would like. The Legislature this session has shown little interest in moving standalone legislation and one ramification of that is legislators are especially eager to tack their pet district, spending and policy priorities onto the state budget because they know it will reach Gov. Charlie Baker's desk.

The Senate plans to resume consideration of budget amendments at 10 a.m. Tuesday.


State House News Service
Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Senate forges ahead on budget despite weak revenue supports
By Andy Metzger and Michael Norton

Senators from both parties are in agreement that the $40.3 billion spending bill up for debate and amendments this week rests on shaky revenue supports but Senate budget chief Karen Spilka claimed at the outset of deliberations Tuesday that "we are clear-eyed about our current financial situation."

With two months left in fiscal 2017, tax collections are running nearly $500 million below targets that need to be hit to balance this year's budget. And with a new fiscal year just six weeks away, revenue growth is nowhere near the level it will need to reach to balance the spending plan that senators are debating and amending this week.

Spilka said there are still two months for fiscal 2017 revenues to rebound but also acknowledged that slow-growing revenues mean that a six-member conference panel may need to scale back fiscal 2018 spending plans. Spilka also gave voice to the major role that midyear spending bills play, apart from the annual budget, saying a supplemental budget may emerge in the next two weeks.

Senate Republicans have filed amendments to generate savings in fiscal 2018, according to Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, who asked Spilka whether the budget her Ways and Means Committee developed includes any cost-saving measures.

Spilka responded by listing planned investments in early education, training, and tax clinics that she said would save money by giving residents the opportunity to lead more self-sufficient lives.

The Senate minority leader replied that cost savings are in the "eye of the beholder."

Tarr also questioned Spilka about the budget's inclusion of new initiatives, such as an expansion of the housing courts, during a time of fiscal constraint. Spilka said the state "cannot afford" not to expand the housing courts, which she said are able to efficiently handle cases, providing housing stability for residents.

Mindful of the revenue squeeze, the Senate rejected an amendment suspending the 6.25 percent sales tax for a weekend in August, more commonly known as the sales tax holiday. Tarr, the amendment's sponsor, said $20 million in taxes would have been foregone.

The Senate also rejected a proposal to increase the earned income tax credit, billed by proponents as an anti-poverty measure.


State House News Service
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Tarr:  Dem's budgeting maneuvers leave spending vulnerable to cuts
By Colin A. Young


Senate Republicans on Tuesday night alleged that the proposed fiscal 2018 budget underfunds major spending accounts and is not balanced, but attempts to add funding to those accounts were rejected.

Holding a chart showing what he called the "Balance Beam of Imbalance," Minority Leader Bruce Tarr warned that while the Senate Ways and Means budget pursues program expansion in some areas, it neglects to fund things like public defenders, snow and ice costs, sheriff's offices, and the Group Insurance Commission, compounding the alleged imbalance.

"We're setting the stage for either the requirement of supplemental budgets for which there may or may not be funding in the future, or reductions in other things that are in the budget either through supplemental cuts or through the use by the governor of his 9C authority," Tarr said.

Tarr offered an amendment (#261) that would have added $181 million to the annual budget to "restore funding for all of the things that are currently not fully funded in the budget, so that it will have logical completeness and integrity." Democrats swiftly defeated his amendment without comment.

Later in Tuesday night's debate, Tarr attempted to add $500,000 to the Ways and Means budget plan to meet an obligation to pay the city of Chelsea an impact fee related to the Mass. Information Technology Center.

"This is a commitment that we've made, it's a 30-year commitment, it was funded in House 1, it was funded in House final and, Mr. President, it is mysteriously and conspicuously absent from the Senate Ways and Means version of the budget," Tarr said, warning that the center could have to reduce its full-time staff of 10 to two and a half.

The Chelsea amendment was also rejected without comment from Democrats.

Tarr said the Republican caucus would continue to point out where the proposed Senate budget is imbalanced but said the Chelsea impact fee issue is "symbolic and emblematic of why we may have difficulties down the road with the budget that we're currently debating."

Though Tarr offered on the Senate floor to provide his "Balance Beam of Imbalance" to anyone who was interested and suggested it be reprinted in the Senate journal, his office told the News Service on Wednesday that it is not available.

Gov. Charlie Baker's office has also raised concern that the Senate budget is imbalanced. A Baker spokeswoman said when the Senate rolled its budget out that "it is concerning that numerous accounts to pay for core services, like indigent legal services, are underfunded in this budget."

The House budget approved in late April and the Senate budget being advanced this week both rely on questionable revenue assumptions, and legislative leaders have already given voice to the potential that a six-member conference committee may need to reduce planned spending during private deliberations.


State House News Service
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

House introduces new spending bill
By Michael P. Norton


In the midst of anxiety over potential overspending, House Democrats on Wednesday morning introduced a new spending bill which could emerge on the House floor for consideration Wednesday afternoon.

Senate budget chief Karen Spilka on Tuesday mentioned the possibility of a supplemental budget surfacing in the next two weeks, and the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday morning began polling its members on a spending bill.

The legislation includes $14 million for the Department of Transportation, $15 million for the Department of Correction, $15 million for the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, and $1.5 million for the Department of Conservation and Recreation. The bill, which also addresses fund transfers and unexpended funds throughout state government, does not include any language outlining the purpose or need for the spending.

Supplemental budgets are regularly processed by the Legislature, augmenting the annual budget. The impact of the added spending on the state's total fiscal picture, which has been marked by sluggish tax collections, is not clear since the Baker administration has been relatively mum about budget management.

The committee asked its members, which regularly rubber-stamp bills recommended by chairman Brian Dempsey, to vote on the bill by 10:45 a.m.


State House News Service
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Immigration, inmate bill votes expected in House
By Colin A. Young


The Massachusetts House is expected to take it first legislative action in response to the Trump administration Wednesday, the first fruit of Speaker Robert DeLeo's Trump working group.

Bills filed by Rep. Antonio Cabral of New Bedford and endorsed by the working group created to respond to the Trump administration -- dubbed by Majority Leader Ron Mariano "The Therapy Committee" -- are expected to come to a vote after 1 p.m.

One bill (H 3034) would prevent inmates in Massachusetts from being sent to labor on out-of-state projects, including Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson's proposal to offer inmate labor to help build a wall on the border with Mexico.

The second (H 3033) seeks to prevent the use of state resources to carry out agreements that delegate Immigration and Customs Enforcement authority to officers at the state or local level.

The sheriffs of Bristol and Plymouth counties and the state Department of Correction have signed such agreements, though their officers have not yet received the training necessary to carry them out.

Hodgson last week said that if the Legislature passes the bills "it will show once again that personal political agendas are more important than keeping our citizens and legal residents safe."

Roll call votes are expected to begin at 1 p.m.

 

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


Citizens for Limited Taxation    PO Box 1147    Marblehead, MA 01945    508-915-3665

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