The last day in July has typically been a frenzy in the Massachusetts legislature, as bills that have been tied up in back-room deals emerge for votes before the August recess. This time around, legislators squeaked out the FY24 budget agreement a full month after its due date, making it the second latest budget filed in 22 years. You heard that right, the annual budget was due on June 30th, but the dysfunctional legislature couldn’t meet its annual deadline and delayed. That’s about all they could do. As the one party ruled utopia in the House and Senate are continually at odds with one another, some modest tax relief measures that have been one step from the finish line since last summer have seen yet another goal post come and go. Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka are now saying they will address tax relief AFTER Labor Day, but their promises are only as good as their record. Meanwhile, those who are making life decisions to stay in our state or flee to a more economically competitive state, will have less reason to hang on here.
The House and Senate conference committee budget report was filed at approximately 8:12 p.m. on Sunday night, and lawmakers voted on and approved the budget less than 24 hours later Monday afternoon. Only State Representatives Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica) and Nick Boldyga (R-Southwick) voted against the newly concocted budget. Thank you Representatives Lombardo and Boldygya! It’s clear we need more lawmakers like these two brave elected officials if we ever want to see an improvement.
MassFiscal’s policy team went through the opaque budget and found some glaring concerns. In total, the budget comes in at a whopping $56.2 billion, up from the $52.7 billion they passed last year. Just two years ago the budget came in 18% lower, and if you compare this budget to the one Governor Baker signed his first year in office (2016), it comes in at an astronomical 47.5% increase! Although the House and Senate didn’t come to an agreement on the modest tax relief bill, they did set aside $581 million in this budget which is earmarked for whatever future tax relief agreement they can pass down the road. There are also some measures that we have flagged over the past few months that ended up making it into the final budget:
- Free instate tuition and financial aid for illegal immigrants who have attended at least three years in a Massachusetts high school, creating another compelling reason for illegal immigrants to flock our already overburdened state.
- $20 million for the “MassReconnect” program to make community college “free” to those over the age of 25 who don’t have a college degree.
- $12 million as seed money for Senate President Karen Spilka’s push to make community college “free” for all by next fall.
- “Free” phone calls for incarcerated inmates.
- Permanent universal “free” school meals.
This shows their true priorities. While taxpayers are once again left out to dry with more empty promises, the legislature continues to make very disappointing policy decisions which will require more taxpayer money for generations to come. Adding new programs and positions are sure to balloon the state budget at a hasty rate in no time. In stark contrast is New Hampshire, where their state lawmakers passed their annual budget which included an accelerated phase out of the state tax on interest and dividends to further accelerate the outward migration of Massachusetts taxpayers up north.
If the two chambers can’t get their act together to pass tax reform policies soon, our state will be left in the dust while trying to compete with the rest of the country.