Showing posts with label Commonwealth Magazine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Commonwealth Magazine. Show all posts

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Sharing 2 articles from the rebranded CommonWealth Beacon; Dizoglio audit & Danielle Allen interview

Via CommonWealth Beacon (formerly CommonWealth Magazine):

"Campbell says DiZoglio lacks legal authority to audit Legislature"
"ATTORNEY GENERAL Andrea Campbell notified state Auditor Diana DiZoglio on Thursday evening that the auditor’s office lacks the legal authority to audit the Legislature without its consent.

The decision by Campbell deals a major setback to DiZoglio’s crusade to scrutinize the policies and procedures of the House and Senate chambers where she used to serve, but it doesn’t end it.

In addition to seeking Campbell’s legal opinion on her authority to audit the Legislature, DiZoglio is pursuing a ballot question that would establish a law giving her that power. Campbell, who certified the question as legally suitable to go on the ballot, said in effect that her response to DiZoglio’s request is an interpretation of existing law and is unrelated to the quest for a new law.

“I believe transparency is a cornerstone of good government, but that transparency must be achieved through methods that are consistent with the law,” Campbell said. “As the chief law officer of the Commonwealth, it is my office’s role to determine the legal position of the state by looking at the law as it exists on the books today, and evaluating what that law allows, and what it does not. After a thorough review of the statutory text, pertinent Supreme Judicial Court decisions, and relevant history, we have concluded that current law does not allow an audit of the Legislature over its objection.”


State Auditor Diana DiZoglio, surrounded by past audits by her office of the Legislature or legislative committees. (Photo by Bruce Mohl)
State Auditor Diana DiZoglio, surrounded by past audits by her office of the Legislature or legislative committees. (Photo by Bruce Mohl)

"Danielle Allen says we have work to do on Massachusetts democracy"

"MASSACHUSETTS IS rightly proud of its “revolutionary tradition,” but according to democracy scholar Danielle Allen, the health of the state’s democratic structures isn’t all rosy in practice

“A healthy democracy depends on a couple of critical values,” Allen, a Harvard professor of political philosophy, ethics, and public policy, said on a live episode of The Codcast. “There’s the value of inclusion, really achieving full inclusion, the value of engagement or participation, and then the value of competitiveness. And on each of those dimensions, we can see room for improvement in Massachusetts.”

Allen is focused on what she calls the work of “democratic renovation,” in part through her role as president and founder of Partners in Democracy. The organization pushes for reforms to bolster running for office, voting in elections, and making government systems more transparent. Allen herself made a short-lived bid for governor last year, pushing for many of these reforms."

Continue reading the article online, or listen to the Codcast Episode with the Danielle Allen conversation.

Friday, October 27, 2023

CommonWealth Magazine: "Somerset offshore wind plant clears major hurdle"

In our recent Making Sense of Climate discussion, Ted and I discussed this Somerset Zoning Board decision. While the news seems positive with the reversal of their earlier vote, according to the article, some of the residents will continue to challenge this ruling. 

"A PROPOSED TRANSMISSION cable manufacturing plant in Somerset to serve the US offshore wind industry cleared a major hurdle on Thursday when the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to revise one of the conditions that had become a sticking point with the company.

The board in mid-September voted unanimously to require Prysmian to only use vessels capable of running on electricity when in port picking up cable. The shore-to-ship electricity condition was designed to prevent vessels from pulling into Brayton Point, the site of the proposed factory, and running their dirty diesel engines during the lengthy loading process, which can require the ship to operate 24 hours a day for 10 to 14 days."
Continue reading the article online

Making Sense of Climate episode where this issue was discussed

CommonWealth Magazine: "Somerset offshore wind plant clears major hurdle"
CommonWealth Magazine: "Somerset offshore wind plant clears major hurdle"

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

CommonWealth Magazine: "Healey administration backs Somerset project"

"WITH A CRITICAL vote nearing in a divided town, the Healey administration urged officials in Somerset to keep moving forward with a factory at Brayton Point that could become a major supplier to the US offshore wind industry.

At a press conference on Monday, Gov. Maura Healey was asked if she has a message for Somerset this week. She referred the questioner to Rebecca Tepper, her secretary of energy and environmental affairs, but added: “Clean energy is something this administration has been very invested in and making that work for all involved is something we’re invested in.”

Tepper issued a statement of support for the project Monday night. “The proposed Prysmian manufacturing facility is a chance for tremendous economic development that will supply wind projects along the entire East Coast,” she said. “A former dirty coal power plant can be transformed into a cutting-edge cable manufacturing facility, bringing good-paying jobs, tax revenue, and economic growth to Somerset and the South Coast region.”
Continue reading the article online at CommonWealth Magazine ->

This happens to be one of the topics Ted McIntyre and I cover in our latest "Making Sense of Climate" episode ->

A rendering of the Prysmian subsea cable manufacturing facility proposed for Brayton Point in Somerset.
A rendering of the Prysmian subsea cable manufacturing facility proposed for Brayton Point in Somerset

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

"Current law complicates effort" How to transition a complicated matter

Via CommonWealth Magazine

"THE COMMONWEALTH HAS established itself as a national leader in addressing climate change by setting an aggressive goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A host of strategies have been adopted and proposed to move us forward in meeting this goal. This is cause for celebration given that leaders in some states refuse to acknowledge climate change and are blocking any attempts to address it.

One such proposal is Senate bill 2218, filed by Sen. Brendan Crighton, calling for 100 percent of new vehicles purchased by the Commonwealth to be electric by 2026 and 100 percent use of zero emissions vehicles by public entities by 2035. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program is offering $5 billion in grants and rebates over five years to schools to electrify their bus fleets. (Five Massachusetts school districts received rebates through this program in 2022.)

Electrifying school buses as an immediate first step should be a no-brainer. They travel a known distance each day and are parked in a central location overnight, easing the logistics of route planning and charging. What’s more, electric buses are quieter and reduce students’ exposure to tailpipe emissions, which has been shown to be a leading cause of asthma.

However, current laws do not make this so easy. The heart of the challenge facing school districts is the requirement under current law that they procure fuel sources separately from vehicles. While that may seem like a minor bureaucratic detail, it runs the risk of greatly complicating districts’ move to cleaner bus transportation, and could lead to violations of procurement regulations and law."
Continue reading the article online

(Photo via Creative Commons/Flickr by ThoseGuys119)
(Photo via Creative Commons/Flickr by ThoseGuys119)

Divided Somerset grapples with ship electrification mandate"
"ONE OF THE BIGGEST prizes of the emerging offshore wind industry – an onshore subsea cable manufacturing facility providing jobs, tax revenue, and the beginnings of a US supply chain – is in danger of slipping away at Somerset’s Brayton Point because of a dispute over a zoning condition.

Prysmian Group, based in Italy, is proposing to build a $250 million factory employing nearly 300 people and generating local taxes of $9 million, which would represent about 12 percent of Somerset’s current budget. The factory would supply transmission cables to offshore wind farms up and down the Atlantic Coast and help reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.

President Biden recognized the symbolic importance of the Prysmian facility in July 2022, when he used Brayton Point – the former site of one of New England’s largest coal-fired power plants — as the backdrop for a speech outlining his vision for addressing climate change. He described Brayton Point and the Prysmian cable manufacturing plant as being “on the frontier of clean energy in America.”
 Continue reading the article online

A rendering of the Prysmian subsea cable manufacturing facility proposed for Brayton Point in Somerset.
A rendering of the Prysmian subsea cable manufacturing facility proposed for Brayton Point in Somerset.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Legislature overrides 24 of 35 budget vetoes; restoration of civics education - "an example of 'civics in action'”

"MATT WILSON calls it an example of “civics in action.” 

After Gov. Maura Healey vetoed $1 million from the budget appropriation for a fund dedicated to expanding civics education in the state, a coalition of nonprofits, educators, and other groups focused on civics education sprang into action, meeting with legislative leaders and urging lawmakers to restore the funding. 

Last week, the Senate followed the House lead and overrode Healey’s veto. It means the state’s Civics Education Trust Fund, first established in 2018, will see an infusion of $2.5 million this year, a $500,000 bump from last year’s $2 million appropriation. 

“It really confirms for us the longtime support of civics education that legislators have shown over the last five years,” said Wilson, advocacy director for the Massachusetts Civic Learning Coalition."
Continue reading the article online

"OVER THE COURSE of two weeks, the Legislature overrode the majority of Gov. Maura Healey’s vetoes from her first budget, restoring about $80 million across 24 overrides targeting child care, early education, suicide prevention, and anti-poverty funding. Current revenue levels, plus the recently signed tax cut package, make the package of overrides fiscally sound, lawmakers said.

The budget passed by lawmakers, House Ways and Means chair Aaron Michlewitz told representatives in late September, “was fiscally responsible, while also making sure we protected the programs our most vulnerable populations relied on.”  

Gov. Maura Healey used a light touch with the veto pen in her first budget cycle, but legislators in both chambers made quick work of several vetoes that had caused public consternation.

The governor made 35 vetoes, slicing about $270 million in total spending from the $56 billion budget for fiscal year 2024. Most of the cuts, she said, left programs at necessary levels or removed redundancies. "
Continue reading the article online


Legislature overrides 24 of 35 budget vetoes, restoring civics - "an example of 'civics in action'”
Legislature overrides 24 of 35 budget vetoes, restoring civics - "an example of 'civics in action'”

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Tax relief package set for MA House/Senate votes Weds/Thur

"Hailing it as a historic win for taxpayers, Massachusetts lawmakers will begin voting Wednesday on a $1 billion tax package that would boost tax breaks for families, seniors, and others while slashing state taxes on profits from short-term investments, a change that had divided Democrats.

The package would save hundreds of thousands of taxpayers a collective $561 million this fiscal year, according to legislative officials, with expectations that the total savings would eventually climb to just over $1.02 billion once it goes into full effect in fiscal year 2027, which begins July 1, 2026.

Its emergence follows nearly two years of debate and months of closed-door negotiations about how best to ease the burden on taxpayers squeezed by the state’s rising cost of living and bring the tax code more into line with other states.

The House is expected to vote on the measure Wednesday, and the Senate on Thursday, and it is expected to pass and move on to Governor Maura Healey, who has championed the need for tax relief."
Continue reading the article (subscription may be required)

Senate President Karen E. Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano (right) unveiled the tax relief deal during a press conference in the Senate Reading Room.PAT GREENHOUSE/GLOBE STAFF
Senate President Karen E. Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano (right) unveiled the tax relief deal during a press conference in the Senate Reading Room. PAT GREENHOUSE/GLOBE STAFF

Commonwealth Magazine provides their coverage ->

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Healey Administration seeks funds for migrants, Augustus on The Codcast talks housing overall (audio)

"THE HEALEY ADMINISTRATION said it needs another $250 million to keep the emergency shelter program afloat and will probably need additional funds if the number of migrants coming into the state continues to rise.

Under the right to shelter law, Massachusetts is required to provide shelter and support services to homeless families with children and pregnant women. The budget for the current fiscal year, which is less than three months old, appropriated roughly $325 million to provide services to 4,700 families.

With an influx of migrants from other countries and fewer people transitioning out of the program because of a shortage of housing, the number of families participating has grown to more than 6,300 and the $250 million is needed to help cover that extra cost. The $250 million represents a 77 percent increase in funding."
Continue reading the article online -> 

Boston Globe coverage of this bit of news (subscription maybe required) ->

Healey Administration seeks funds for migrants, Augustus on The Codcast talks housing overall (audio)
Healey Administration seeks funds for migrants, Augustus on The Codcast talks housing overall (audio)

Also this week on The Codcast the housing issue is discussed:
“I don’t think there’s any silver bullets,” Ed Augustus, who heads up the new Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities, said on The Codcast. “There’s not one obvious thing that, geez, if you just did this, this would unlock housing production. But I think it’s a series of smaller policy changes, additional funding, and new partnerships and strategies that hopefully collectively help move the needle and get us closer to that 200,000 number.”

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

The Codcast: "Right to shelter: Is it a migrant magnet?" (audio)

"FOR 40 YEARS, Massachusetts has had a right-to-shelter law, which requires the state to provide shelter to families with children as well as pregnant women. The law is attracting a lot of attention right now because the number of families seeking shelter has more than tripled since the start of the year, the cost to the state is up to $45 million a month, and Gov. Maura Healey recently declared a state of emergency, urging the federal government to address immigration reform and to streamline the process for obtaining work permits.

Rep. Peter Durant, a Republican from Spencer who is running for a seat in the state Senate, and Evan Horowitz, the executive director of the Center for State Policy Analysis at Tufts University, outlined very different perspectives on right to shelter on The Codcast but agreed that the state needs to do a much better job gathering information on the impact of the law, its cost, and the role of migrants in the recent crisis."

Continue reading the article online ->

Listen to The Codcast ->

Thursday, August 10, 2023

MA State budget signed, one of the line items cut is "Hey Sam"

"GOV. MAURA HEALEY on Wednesday signed into law her first state budget, setting a different tone than the Republican who held the corner office for the previous eight years.

She invited Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano to join her at the signing ceremony, signaling a united front among the top three Democrats on Beacon Hill. It was a departure from past practice under former governor Charlie Baker; Mariano called it a new precedent.

Overall, the $56 billion budget gives all three Democrats items they can crow about. Healey trumpeted a measure she initiated to cover “last-dollar funding” so students over age 25 can attend community college for free. She also highlighted a big boost in funding (1 percent of the state budget) for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the largest increase ever in K-12 school funding, and a 48 percent increase in funds for the state’s emergency shelter program."

The Mass Municipal Assoc also provides coverage ->

Boston Globe provides coverage of the signing ->

Via Senator Rausch wasn't pleased with one of the line items cut
"I am pleased that @MassGovernor signed much of the FY24 budget today, but concerned about several significant cuts, incl. complete elimination of funding for Hey Sam, a 100%-successful youth mental health text line, amid an ongoing #mentalhealth crisis. My full statement"
Senator Rausch statement on "Hey Sam"
Senator Rausch statement on "Hey Sam"

Saturday, June 24, 2023

CommonWealth Magazine: "2022 numbers paint bleak picture, with renewed calls for supervised injection sites"

"THE STATE WAS already swimming upstream against the opioid epidemic, but new numbers showing record high opioid-related overdose deaths brought an undercurrent of despair to Healey administration discussion of how to stem the toll.

There were 2,357 confirmed and estimated fatal opioid-related overdoses in Massachusetts last year, or 33.5 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to the Department of Public Health. The figure marks a 2.5 percent increase from 2021 and a 9 percent jump from 2016’s pre-pandemic peak, which itself capped a startling rise in deaths over the prior five years. Populations of color and rural areas have seen the largest jumps in opioid overdose deaths.


Public health officials warn that drug dealers mixing synthetic opioids like fentanyl and other substances into their offerings have created an extremely dangerous cocktail. 

“We have a toxic drug supply,” said Deirdre Calvert, director of the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services. “And it doesn’t matter if you’re using opiates or not. You’re at risk if you’re using drugs that are bought illicitly.”
Continue reading the article online -> 

CommonWealth Magazine: "2022 numbers paint bleak picture, with renewed calls for supervised injection sites"
CommonWealth Magazine: "2022 numbers paint bleak picture, with renewed calls for supervised injection sites"

Friday, June 9, 2023

Senate President Spilka Statement on Tax Relief Package

Below, please find a statement from Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland):

"As promised, the Senate's tax relief package is progressive, smart, sustainable and permanent—and it centers equity while chipping away at the headwinds that threaten our competitiveness," stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "Everywhere I go, the two pressing issues I hear about the most, from employers and residents alike, are workforce and housing. Our tax relief package intentionally targets housing affordability so we can not only maintain our economic competitiveness but ensure our residents can stay where they want to work, live, raise families and pursue their dreams. I'm proud this proposal—which will help seniors, renters, parents with young children, and low-income workers and many others—is fiscally responsible and squarely focused on the hardworking people of the Commonwealth."

CommonWealth Magazine has covered of the Senate tax relief package ->

Direct link to the Senate proposal ->


Senate President Karen Spilka and Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues. (Photo by Bruce Mohl)
Senate President Karen Spilka and Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues. (Photo by Bruce Mohl)

Thursday, May 18, 2023

CommonWealth Magazine: "Split-in-two committee to hold dueling hearings this week"

"Those interested in testifying on bills dealing with offshore wind and energy storage may have to do double-duty this week.

The feuding House and Senate chairs of the Legislature’s Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee are splitting the panel in half, with the House members taking testimony on bills dealing with offshore wind and energy storage on Thursday and Senate members holding their own “parallel hearing” on the same bills on Friday.

The two feuders – Rep. Jeffrey Roy of Franklin and Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington – both say they are acting on principle in a fight about the rules that govern their legislative committee.

Roy said his concerns trace to the end of the legislative session last year, when Barrett used the powers provided under the rules to control which bills were released from committee. He said action on major energy legislation was delayed and hundreds of other bills were blocked, which means they ended up with the label “ought not to pass.”

Barrett said he is refusing to engage in any legislative business with Roy until the House chair either agrees to new rules or abides by the rules that were in force last year, which require the consent of both chairs to schedule a hearing or an executive session where legislation is acted on."

Continue reading the article online -> 

The golden dome of the State House. (Photo by Andy Metzger)
The golden dome of the State House. (Photo by Andy Metzger)

Friday, May 12, 2023

CommonWealth Magazine: "New study calls WooSox stadium a bad deal for Worcester"

"The WooSox may have hit a home run with huge attendance numbers at their new home in Worcester, but a study says the city has whiffed when it comes to shelling out public dollars to fund the team’s new stadium. 

The Red Sox Triple-A farm team moved from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, to Worcester in 2021, setting up shop in Polar Park, a new $160 million stadium owned and largely paid for by the city of Worcester. 

Last season, the team’s second year in Worcester, the Worcester Red Sox drew more than 500,000 fans, second among all 120 minor league teams in the country. And the WooSox arrival has unquestionably contributed to the upbeat buzz about the state’s second-largest city. 

But Robert Baumann, an economics professor at College of the Holy Cross, says the stadium still adds up to be a loser for the city’s finances. In a new paper, Baumann and co-author J.C. Bradbury, an economist at Kennesaw State University, conclude that Polar Park will cost the city $40 to $60 million over 30 years."
Continue reading the article at CommonWealth Magazine

CommonWealth Magazine: "New study calls WooSox stadium a bad deal for Worcester"
CommonWealth Magazine: "New study calls WooSox stadium a bad deal for Worcester"

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

MA Senate releases their FY 2024 budget

May 9, 2023

Dear Members of the Massachusetts State Senate,

     For the fifth time as Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, I have the honor to present the Committee’s annual recommendations for the General Appropriations Act—the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY 2024) Budget. 
     Thank you to Senate President Karen Spilka for her ongoing friendship, sage counsel, steady leadership, and continued confidence in me to lead the Committee as we work together to move Massachusetts forward towards a more inclusive and resilient post-pandemic future. 
     I would like to also thank our partners in the House, Chair Aaron Michlewitz and his team in the House Committee on Ways and Means, and in the Healey-Driscoll Administration, Secretary Matthew Gorzkowicz and his team in the Executive Office for Administration and Finance. Without their collaboration, cooperation and partnership throughout the budget development process, support for our residents, our communities, and our long-term economic health would not be possible. 
     Together, over these last four years, we have carefully navigated the COVID-19 pandemic and its many challenges. Adapting to a new normal utilizing an approach rooted in collaboration with our partners across state government, we addressed urgent needs and protected our most vulnerable populations. We maintained stability, built up our reserves, and made meaningful investments to support an equitable recovery for our people. 
     It was an approach that worked. Today, our Rainy Day Fund is projected to close FY 2024 with a historic balance of $9 billion, and we have $1.7 billion in surplus resources available for future use. More recently, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) ratings agency upgraded our state’s bond rating, a recognition that our long-standing adherence to sound fiscal discipline and efforts to reinforce the Commonwealth’s economic foundation is paying dividends.

Continue reading the Message from the Chair - Michael J. Rodrigues, Chair, Senate Committee on Ways and Means online => 

Mass Municipal Assoc covers the budget release ->

Senate President Karen Spilka and Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues. (Photo by Bruce Mohl)
Senate President Karen Spilka and Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues. (Photo by Bruce Mohl)

Friday, April 21, 2023

CommonWealth Magazine: jury greenlights transmission line; Boston combines library branches and affordable housing

Maine jury delivers hydro relief for Mass
"BAY STATE and many New England policymakers breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday after a jury in Maine voted 9-0 to green light the completion of a Massachusetts-financed transmission line carrying hydroelectricity from Quebec into New England.

The transmission line and the power it will carry are of pivotal importance if Massachusetts is going to reach its climate change goals, but the project has been in legal limbo since 2021 when 59 percent of Maine voters approved a ballot question that retroactively killed it."

Continue reading the article online ->

Boston pitches libraries, affordable housing as perfect match

"In three Boston neighborhoods, home could soon be where the stacks are.

The city is set to join a handful of other places that combine public libraries with affordable housing, a popular pairing that addresses increasingly pricey housing markets and limited land for new development."
Continue reading the article online ->


The Fields Corner branch of the Boston Public Library. (Photo by Michael Jonas)
The Fields Corner branch of the Boston Public Library. (Photo by Michael Jonas)

Friday, April 14, 2023

CommonWealth Magazine: "Mass. House approves unaltered tax plan"

"THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to pass its $1.1 billion tax relief bill exactly as pitched earlier this week. A provision that would adjust an obscure tax giveback law dominated most of the tax plan debate but ultimately made it through to the final bill unchanged.

The mid-afternoon vote, which approved the package, 150-3, advances a measure that top House Democrats say will bolster the state’s competitiveness and affordability and bring tax rates in line with those in other states. Its top-line features are cuts in the short-term capital gains tax from 12 percent to 5 percent and raising the estate tax exemption from $1 million to $2 million, along with tax deductions targeting parents, caregivers, seniors, and lower income renters. 

“Let’s hope it makes us more competitive and people will hesitate before moving,” House Speaker Ron Mariano said earlier in the week about the tax package. “We don’t want you to leave. We want you to stay here.”

The tax debate will now move to the Senate."
Continue reading the article online at CommonWealth Magazine -> 

The legislation text can be found online ->

CommonWealth Magazine: "Mass. House approves unaltered tax plan"
CommonWealth Magazine: "Mass. House approves unaltered tax plan"

Thursday, April 13, 2023

The MA House Ways & Means budget: via Commonwealth Magazine, Boston Globe, and direct link to budget

Via CommonWealth Magazine: What follows is an explainer about what’s in the House Ways and Means budget proposal for fiscal 2024.

"How big is the House Ways and Means budget?

It comes in at nearly $56.2 billion, and that’s before lawmakers start adding earmarked spending during the budget debate that starts April 26. The budget is about $170 million higher than Gov. Maura Healey’s proposal because the governor wants to give more money back in the form of tax relief while the House would phase in many of its tax breaks over time, allowing the branch to spend more money now.

That spending total seems like a lot of money.

It is a lot. For perspective, the state budget in fiscal 2016 was $38.4 billion. Over the last eight years, the state budget has grown by $17.8 billion, or 46 percent."
Continue reading the article online ->

Boston Globe coverage on the budget -> 

The House Ways & Means budget can be found online -> 

MassBudget provides a budget browser to view comparisons between and among categories and years

The MA House Ways & Means budget: via Commonwealth Magazine, Boston Globe, and direct link to budget
The MA House Ways & Means budget: via Commonwealth Magazine, Boston Globe, and direct link to budget

Friday, March 10, 2023

CommonWealth Magazine: "The dirty truth of Northfield Mountain’s ‘clean’ energy"

"ON FEBRUARY 11, CommonWealth published a commentary by FirstLight Power CEO Alicia Barton bragging of the Christmas Eve grid-rescuing heroics of her company’s Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station. She went on to describe Northfield as a “zero-emissions” power plant that helped save New England from a natural gas energy squeeze. There were holes in her contentions, and she failed to mention all the other elephants in the room.

Northfield Mountain, located on the Connecticut River in northwest Massachusetts, is actually a gas-powered plant. It’s a massive, net-power-loss electric machine, run off ISO-New England’s imported natural gas and nuclear-dominated energy grid. Its daily use halts, cripples, and reverses miles of the Connecticut River. Its turbines annually kill hundreds of millions of eggs, larvae, and juvenile and adult fish, and other assorted aquatic species in a four-state river system."
Continue reading the article in CommonWealth Magazine ->
CommonWealth Magazine: "The dirty truth of Northfield Mountain’s ‘clean’ energy"
CommonWealth Magazine: "The dirty truth of Northfield Mountain’s ‘clean’ energy"

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Governor Healey and Lieutenant Governor Driscoll Unveil $750 Million Tax Relief Package

Governor Maura T. Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kimberley Driscoll today unveiled a $742 million tax relief package that provides significant savings for families, renters, seniors, farmers, commuters and more. The proposal, announced at the Demakes Family YMCA in Lynn, also includes key reforms to the tax code that will bring Massachusetts in line with other states, making it a more attractive place to live, work and do business.

“Everywhere we go, the Lieutenant Governor and I hear from people who are struggling to get by as the cost of living continues to skyrocket past them – the family watching their grocery bill grow each week, the young mom who wants to return to her dream job but can’t afford child care, the recent college graduate who can’t afford both his rent and student loan payments, the seniors who want to keep the home where they raised their family,” said Governor Healey. “We’re filing this tax relief package for each of them. This proposal centers affordability, competitiveness and equity each step of the way, delivering relief to those who need it most and making reforms that will attract and retain more businesses and residents to our great state.” 

“Massachusetts is a national leader in so many ways – in education, business, science and technology, democracy and civil rights. But we’re not leading when it comes to affordability,” said Lieutenant Governor Driscoll. “If people can’t afford to live and work here, we’re not going to be able to maintain our economic edge. Our tax relief package will put more money back in the pockets of those who need it most while also making key reforms in areas where we are an outlier among other states.” 

“The Healey-Driscoll Administration has made a values-driven decision to utilize the resources at our disposal to deliver economic relief to those who are struggling to make ends meet in the face of rising costs,” said Administration and Finance Secretary Matthew J. Gorzkowicz. “The Healey-Driscoll Tax Relief Package is both progressive and fiscally responsible, directly addressing many of the most urgent needs of our residents and setting the state up for economic growth.”  

This package of tax reforms for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) will be filed on Wednesday as companion legislation to the administration’s FY24 budget (H.1). The proposal is built around relief that will go directly to families, seniors and those dealing with the high costs of housing. 

That includes Healey’s Child and Family Tax Credit, a new benefit that will provide families with a $600 credit per dependent, including children under 13, people with disabilities, and senior dependents aged 65 and older. It combines two different benefits, the Household Dependent Tax Credit and the Dependent Care Tax Credit, removes the cap on dependents, and increases the benefit. At a cost to the state of $458 million, this would put money directly back into the pockets of 700,000 taxpayers in connection with more than 1 million dependents, helping families keep up with rising costs for child and senior care and bringing people back into the workforce to meet employer demand. 

This package also proposes to increase the rental deduction, currently capped at 50 percent of rent up to $3,000, to $4,000. At a cost of $40 million, this increase will help offset the high cost of housing for 880,000 renters. Additionally, the administration is proposing to double the senior circuit breaker credit from $1,200 to $2,400 for low-income seniors with high property taxes or rent, helping seniors in 100,000 households stay in their homes. 

To drive Massachusetts’ economic competitiveness, the package proposes reforms to two taxes in which the state is currently an outlier. It would reduce the short-term capital gains tax from  

12 percent to 5 percent. Wisconsin and South Carolina are currently the only two other states that tax short-term capital gains at a higher rate than long-term capital gains, as Massachusetts currently does. This reform would have a gross revenue impact of $117 million in FY24, but would be budget-neutral due to excess capital gains not being used to support FY24 spending. 

It would also eliminate the estate tax for all estates valued at up to $3 million with a credit of up to $182,000. Massachusetts is one of only 12 states that has an estate tax and shares the lowest threshold of those twelve with Oregon. This reform would reduce the tax burden on smaller estates, which historically have filed over 70 percent of estate tax returns, and helps seniors and families age in place and be able to stay in Massachusetts. 

Other components of this tax package include: 

  • Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP) - Increase the $10 million annual cap on HDIP credits to $50 million in the first year, and $30 million per year moving forward for developers as an incentive to produce more market-rate housing in the state’s Gateway Cities.  
  • Apprenticeships Tax Credit – Improve access to apprenticeships for workers by expanding the list of occupations that qualify for employer tax credits and doubling the statewide cap on credits to $5 million.  
  • Dairy Tax Credit – Increase the statewide cap from $6 million to $8 million to protect the state’s dairy farmers from fluctuations in wholesale milk prices.  
  • Live Theater – Promote local live theater productions with a new credit for a share of payroll, production and transportation costs for qualifying productions.  
  • Title V – Double the maximum credit to $12,000 (40 percent of $30,000) for expenses incurred at a primary residence for repair or replacement of failed cesspool or septic systems.  
  • Lead Paint Abatement – Double the allowable deductions to $3,000 for full lead paint abatement and $1,000 for partial abatement. 
  • Local Cider – Promote more locally produced hard cider and still wine by allowing higher-alcohol content ciders and wines (up to 8.5 ABV) to qualify for lower tax rates typically reserved for low-alcohol content products. 
  • Student Loan Repayment – Exempt employer assistance with student loan repayment from income taxation for student borrowers. 
  • Commuter Transit Benefits – Add regional transit passes and bike commuter expenses, such as bike-share memberships, purchases and storage, to those that qualify for tax deductions, alongside existing expenses like tolls and MBTA passes.  
  • Brownfields - Extend the brownfields tax credit program, currently set to expire in 2023, through 2028. This program allows taxpayers to claim a credit for costs related to cleanup of contaminated properties. 

Statements of Support: 

“Healthy, affordable homes are vital to a bright future for the Commonwealth. Hand in hand with housing production, providing immediate relief for renters and senior homeowners with low incomes, cleaning up Brownfields sites for new homes, making lead remediation more affordable, and helping people commute by regional transit and bike will support health, housing affordability, and vibrant neighborhoods.” -Rachel Heller, CEO, CHAPA 

“MCOA applauds the Healey-Driscoll Administration on their proposed tax package. The increase in the Senior Circuit Tax Breaker will help 100,000 more older households remain in their communities. Each tax season, COAs assist older adults in accessing this tax credit and the increase will support the economic security of older people across the Commonwealth.” - Betsy Connell, Executive Director, Massachusetts Councils on Aging (MCOA) 

“We are extremely grateful to Governor Maura Healey, Lt Governor Kim Driscoll and their teams for the proposal made today to increase the dairy tax credit from $6 million to $8 million dollars. The Administration today demonstrates their deep understanding of the dairy industry’s long history and its importance to the Massachusetts economy. The tax credit has been a key factor in stabilizing and saving the industry the last 15 years, and this proposed increase will greatly help offset the forecasted difficult times ahead in dairy costs of production and pricing.” - David Shepard, President, Massachusetts Dairy Farmer’s Association 

“Associated Industries of Massachusetts is pleased that the first budget of the Healey-Driscoll administration addresses threats to the Commonwealth’s competitive edge. At a time when the cost of living in Massachusetts exceeds most other states, this package wisely identifies ways to help residents cut costs, reducing the financial burden on working families, while at the same time implementing tax changes that prevent Massachusetts from being an outlier. Based on this budget, it is clear that the Administration shares AIM’s concerns about the Commonwealth’s competitive future and this is a critical first step towards ensuring sustained growth and economic strength.” - Brooke Thomson, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs, Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) 

"Massachusetts is among the most expensive states to live and do business, and people are leaving at alarming rates. For an economy that has historically been built on access to the best talent in the world, this is a threat to the state’s long-term competitiveness. Tax relief is an important piece of the strategy to recruit, retain, develop, and diversify our talent pool and pipeline and the Roundtable is grateful to Governor Healey and Lt. Governor Driscoll for proposing a thoughtful and comprehensive set of tax proposals and investments to kick off this legislative session’s competitiveness policy discussion. The Roundtable looks forward to working with the Administration and Legislature to pass policy proposals targeted toward the people and employers that make our economy hum and ensuring the long-term economic vitality of the Commonwealth." - JD Chesloff, President and CEO, Massachusetts Business Roundtable 

“Throughout the campaign, the Governor spoke about the need to make early education more affordable for Massachusetts’ families.  Today’s expansion of the Child and Family tax credit is an important step in that direction as it offers parents a straightforward and easy-to-understand approach that prioritizes their bottom line.” -William J. Eddy, Executive Director, Massachusetts Association of Early Education & Care 

"Expanding the Housing Development Incentive Program could help build more than 12,000 new multi family homes worth $4 billion over the next ten years in Gateway Cities. This could create vibrant, walkable downtowns all around the state and foster a more equitable pattern of regional investment." - Joe Kriesberg, CEO, MassInc

The tax package details can be found ->

This press release can be found ->

CommonWealth Magazine coverage ->

Boston Globe coverage ->

Maura Healey (Photo by Michael Jonas)
Maura Healey (Photo by Michael Jonas)

Saturday, February 25, 2023

From CommonWealth Magazine - climate points of view: waterfront resilience & decarbonization roadmap gaps

"Waterfront resilience is ground zero in climate fight
Nature-based solutions lend themselves to resiliency strategies" 
"GOV. MAURA HEALEY’S recent appointment of the Commonwealth’s first cabinet level climate chief –Melissa Hoffer, joining from the Environmental Protection Agency – reflects the new administration’s belief that resiliency is a priority issue that spans public health, equity, the economy, and environmental sustainability.

With key federal, state, and local players committed to rapidly advancing our efforts to address climate change, Massachusetts has both the scientific prowess and innovative spirit to be a global leader in addressing this critical issue.  We also have an influx of new federal dollars, including funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act  and the Inflation Reduction Act, available to municipalities, states, and community-based organizations to fund resiliency efforts."

Vikki Spruill is President and CEO of the New England Aquarium.

"Decarbonization road map has some gaping holes
Power reliability and cost need to be addressed"
"GOV. MAURA HEALEY has gotten off to a good running start on implementing the Commonwealth’s plans to combat climate change by establishing an Office of Climate Innovation and Resilience within the governor’s office and appointing a climate chief. The state’s long range climate change plans are embodied in the “Massachusetts 2050 Decarbonization Road Map,” which aims to reduce Massachusetts greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent of the 1990 baseline by 2050 and  achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, through a near-total reliance on renewable energy sources and battery storage for electricity.

If implemented, the plan will require a huge transformation of the electricity generation sector, shifting away from reliance on natural gas and other fossil fuels to generate electricity and instead relying on solar and wind sources.  It would also require 100 percent electrification of building space and water heating and a massive increase in the number of electric vehicles, among other initiatives."

Arnold R. Wallenstein is an attorney who represents independent power producers in Massachusetts and other states. He is on the board of advisers of a solar photovoltaic company and is the principal member of the in Boston.

From CommonWealth Magazine - climate points of view: waterfront resilience & decarbonization roadmap gaps
From CommonWealth Magazine - climate points of view: waterfront resilience & decarbonization roadmap gaps