Last Thursday, the House passed their budget by a vote of (143-14-2). The roll call vote is available by clicking here.
Republican Minority Leader Brad Jones voted for Speaker DeLeo’s budget, but a bi-partisan group of House lawmakers opposed it, and two Democratic lawmakers voted “present.” You can view the final rollcall by clicking here.
Hundreds of budget amendments were offered and many were quickly withdrawn before they could be debated openly, or simply disappeared in one of the massive consolidated amendments which addressed swaths of amendments at one time. Massachusetts is one of the few legislatures in the country that exempts itself from both the public records law and the open meeting law. We are the only state in the country that exempts the legislature, and the Governor’s office from the state’s public records law. Even though the pandemic has forced the legislature to start meeting via Zoom, Speaker DeLeo continues to refuse to open up those meetings to the public. Instead, he uses private Zoom calls to conduct his backroom deals with lawmakers and has taken debate and review of legislative actions even further out of the public eye.
Last week, we alerted you to the amendment filed by Democratic Socialist State Representative Mike Connolly. The socialist from Cambridge proposed raising the capital gains tax from 5% to 9% (an 80% increase). This amendment was defeated by a vote of 127 - 30. This is wonderful news because big government lawmakers and socialists like Rep. Connolly see this type of tax increase as low hanging fruit. They feel empowered to raise taxes on what they perceive as the “rich.”
Union bosses had an amendment filed that would give any essential worker the ability to not use their sick time, or any other paid leave off benefits, if they get sick with COVID. Instead, they could stop working and get UI benefits. National organization routinely highlight Massachusetts’ standing as the most generous state in the country for UI benefits, and the most in need of reform. Thankfully, this amendment was withdrawn. However, if it passed, it would do catastrophic economic damage to an already severely damaged state economy.
Although Governor Baker has publicly stated he doesn’t support raising any “broad” taxes this year, his budget in October included several increases that did not make it into the House budget. The Governor’s hikes to fees for Uber and Lyft along with a 15 percent levy on opioid manufacturers was all dropped.
Although there were small wins, once again the budget grew by hundreds of millions of dollars and the process was almost entirely orchestrated behind closed doors and after the election. This House budget ended up totaling $46 billion, of which an additional $27.9 million was added through the amendment process. For comparison, just five years ago, the budget stood at $36.5 billion.
The state senate starts debate on their very similar budget on Tuesday. It is still very possible tax hikes can be included before the year is out, we also expect tax hikes will be a big focus in next year’s budget, which will start being crafted very soon.
As always, MassFiscal will be there to expose their tax increase schemes, then defeat them. Stay tuned.