Last week, the legislature had its busiest week in recent memory, scrambling to get promised pieces of major legislation out the door before the hovering deadline of July 31st.
Bills dealing with economic development, housing zoning vote threshold changes, gambling, an interim budget, health care, extending formal sessions past the July 31st date, and climate change all made an appearance.
Extending the Legislative Session
For starters, by law, the legislature stops meeting in formal sessions after July 31 on the second year of a two-year formal session. This rule has been in place for decades and has deterred the legislature from passing new taxes in a lame duck session after the elections. However, the House and Senate voted to extend their formal sessions until the end of the year, which means anything goes between now and then.
The State Budget
That brings us to the budget. Typically, the fiscal calendar year ends on June 30th and the legislature is hard at work in the months prior, thinking of ways to stuff it with earmarks and pet projects. This year, they have been passing temporary budgets, continuing our current fiscal year spending levels until they have more information on what our fiscal climate will look like, although we know there is a predicted revenue shortfall of up to $8 billion. The first temporary budget was a $5.25 billion one-month budget passed in June, and the latest temporary budget was quickly passed through the House and Senate on Tuesday, funding the next three months at $16.53 billion. In the first four months of the current fiscal year, they will have passed $21.78 billion in budgeting measures, which would stick us around $65 billion for the year if spending keeps up. For perspective, Governor Baker’s initial budget that came out earlier this year was for $44.6 billion. Some legislators claim that the annual budgets are always front loaded and that costs come down as the year goes on, but for people who closely watch spending on Beacon Hill, there is no indication these legislators will change their behavior. The timeline for the latest temporary budget will fund the government until the end of October. The election is scheduled for November 3.
Massachusetts state politicians like to tell the public they have a rule that requires them to balance their budgets but what they don’t tell you is that they do so by borrowing. In fact, it’s such a pervasive problem at the State House, that impacts the decisions of Republicans as much as Democrats, that according to the Tax Foundation, Massachusetts is usually the most indebted state in the county per capita. Every Massachusetts resident owes nearly $15,000 due to borrowing from State House leaders.
To that end, legislators have taken up several borrowing bills including an IT infrastructure bond bill, a transportation bond bill, and an economic development bill that also included a long-awaited push by Governor Baker to lower the threshold for a zoning change in our cities and towns from 2/3 to a simple majority. The Senate version of the transportation bond bill also includes a provision to raise taxes by cities and towns coming together in an effort to bypass Prop 2 ½. These bond bills also tend to be where the legislators took it upon themselves to file their reelection year earmarks. This included $10 million for the New England Aquarium, $20 million for Commonwealth Zoological Corporation and even $500 thousand for maintenance for a carousel. These pet projects will be funded through borrowing, adding further to our state debt.
Climate Changes Bills (and the TCI authorization)
Late Friday, the House passed a climate change bill that was released with no notice earlier this week. The bill is a gift to the climate alarmists and Left-Wing legislators. It sets arbitrary goals for emissions reductions, allowing for executive branch mandated taxes to get there, and puts in place CA style regulations on appliances. The legislation is a roadmap for the next 30 years, which include new taxes, higher taxes, and layers of regulations. The House bill is similar to the former Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) that was passed on a voice vote in 2008. Nothing in it will make Massachusetts residents feel the pain up front, but they will certainly feel it down the road. It puts in place arbitrary goals to lower greenhouse gas emissions (the loftiest in the nation, with no regard as to whether it’s realistic to meet these goals) and gives full power to the executive branch (whoever it may be at the time) to do anything to make sure these goals are met. To give you an example of how this played out with the GWSA, Governor Mitt Romney resisted pressure to enter Massachusetts entered into a multistate agreement called the Regional Greenhouse as Initiative (RGGI). Unfortunately, Governor Deval Patrick entered us into it when he became governor. RGGI acts as a cap and trade system for emissions from the electricity sector. This results in higher prices for electricity. This is one of the reasons MA pays some of the highest electricity rates in the country. This legislation gives further cover to enter us into the latest multistate tax scheme called TCI that would impose new fees on gasoline and diesel fuels with absolutely no legislative input. The goals set in this bill are more egregious than California. The passage of this bill would be as monumental as the introduction of the sales tax or income tax; you just might now feel it right away. It’s a new way of taxing people: quietly shaded by layers of government protection, all in the name of reducing an extremely insignificant portion of global emissions.
You can see a copy of the roll call vote on this bill by clicking here.
While this news may sound dreadful, please know that the vast majority of Massachusetts residents do not support these Left-Wing policies. These policies coming out of our State House leaders are due to decades of special interest pressure from organizations, big government politicians, and out of touch mainstream media personalities. For the average Massachusetts resident, like your neighbor, they just want an affordable state, that provides a good education for their children, opportunity to prosper, and a just state that works for everyone.
Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance will continue to hold these State House leaders accountable to their constituents. If they advance policies that are too far removed from their constituent’s interests, the ramifications will be felt.