In the wake of stories about the House Speaker's credit card, which in January alone paid for more than $11,000 in meals, the Boston Globe this week dragged out an old term that's looking more and more apt: Taxachusetts.
Seems like even the limited budget debate Speaker DeLeo allowed meant the bloated bureaucrats on Beacon Hill worked up an appetite. Nobody outside of the Golden Dome knows exactly how much was spent during budget debate for food for lawmakers, though, as the House is exempt from the disclosure laws that apply to most state agencies.
You'd think these guys would brown-bag it the way the rest of us do. The state faces a $462M budget shortfall, and as you know, Massachusetts law says the budget must be balanced but it can carry over debt.
That's where the Taxachusetts talk comes in. Spending is out of control, and the desperate Legislature is looking for any solution, short of tightening their collective belt. That Boston Globe story mentions a few of the brainstorms brewing:
- Prop80, the graduated income tax which increases taxes by 80% on the state's highest earners
- A brand-new health care tax on employers to cover MassHealth overspending
- A big increase in the marijuana tax
- A service tax
- A surtax on sugary drinks
- A tax on AirBnB
For most of us, there's no such thing as a free lunch. For Massachusetts Legislators, the trick is, finding someone else to foot the bill.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee released its proposed budget for FY18 clocking in at $40.79B in spending, a 3.3% increase over FY17 spending. Unsurprisingly, the Senate's version of next year's spending plan would involve more taking from taxpayers.
First, the plan for taxing lodging and short term rental websites such as Airbnb is expanded. The Governor’s proposal set a threshold of 150 days or more of renting out a room or house annually. The Senate ups the ante and includes rentals of all durations. The Senate plan also jacks up taxes on internet-based room resellers, like TripAdvisor or Expedia.
The Senate also tinkered with the controversial plan proposed by the governor to tax employers to offset the rising cost of MassHealth, which accounts for 41% of the state budget. Governor Baker's gotten an earful of trouble on the his proposal, which established a per employer fee on companies of 10 or more that don't insure at least 80% of their workers. The Senate changed that threshold to companies of 25 or more and added a second option: increasing the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution, the tax already in place which helps pay for subsidized insurance plans and medical care for the uninsured.
Absent from the Senate version was any attempt to address the structural issues that create such astounding growth year over year in the MassHealth budget. We’ll keep you updated on amendments offered to the senate budget.
After our lunch, Kimberley was interviewed on WGBH's Greater Boston and appeared on the Howie Carr Show. Click on the links below to catch her interviews.
Greater Boston on WGBH