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Republican leaders don't draw the line on appropriations bills

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BOSTON (State House News Service) – While their caucuses wield new power over the fate of a multi-billion dollar spending and tax cut bill, top Republicans in the House and Senate are questioning what the proposal will do. Be cautious about digging up established positions on what should be included. Exclude.

Massachusetts lawmakers are in uncharted waters as they try to revive a $4 billion-plus economic development bill that was unanimously approved but not finalized this summer.

The Democrats in charge of the negotiations will need to involve all lawmakers in order to revive the bill. And for now, neither House Minority Leader Brad Jones nor Senate Minority Leader Bruce Turr want to freeze.

In an interview Wednesday, Jones said a permanent tax cut, including a property tax review and expanded credit for Bay Statesmen with renters, seniors and dependents, would be one of the bill’s most important features. He said he sees it as one. different forms.

But he didn’t want to declare these tax changes an absolute requirement of the revised spending package.

“Like any bill, we’d love to see how it ends up. Personally, I’d like a tax relationship. At the very least, we need a tax effort,” Jones said. “But look what someone says if the tax break isn’t there, if it’s not there, I’ll hold onto it. Everything there is just okay, even if I’m fine.” is not good enough — I think it’s dangerous. I think it’s irresponsible.”

“I’m not going to draw a line in the sand. Sometimes I think that drawing a line in the sand just creates a dynamic that people want to test it with,” he added a few minutes later. That said, I think it’s perfectly appropriate to say “Hey this is really important, I think it should be put here”. “

“It’s hard to say that anything will break the deal because everything is subject to negotiation,” Mr. Thah said.

“I don’t want to undermine the negotiations by presenting anything as a deal-breaker at this point,” he told The News Service. It’s very difficult for us to move forward on something that doesn’t have substantive tax cuts.”

Democrats hold a veto majority in both houses, limiting their need to work across the aisle with Republicans. But as Democrats this summer blindly introduced economic development and tax credit bills through tax credits mandated under the law known as Chapter 62F, the leftist advances against Republicans—and sometimes party bosses— Religious – gained further clout in the finals. product.

MPs plan to meet only in informal meetings until the end of their term, meaning one objection could halt progress on the bill.

The top Democrats have shown no signs of trying to suspend their own rules to reconvene in a formal session. It warned lawmakers could succumb to scope creep and start pursuing other priorities during a likely stretch of lame duck.

For additions that Jones and other Republicans may not like, he said, relying on Gov. Charlie Baker as a “backstop” might be a better approach than stopping the bill altogether.

With Baker getting an item veto to surgically remove any part of the appropriations bill, and lawmakers planning only informal meetings, Democrats have the roll call vote they need to overturn the Republican governor’s opposition. You will not be able to

“If there’s something there — there’s poison, there’s a stink there — fortunately if there’s something I think is bad, I hope the governor thinks it’s bad. too,” Jones said.

He pointed to possible changes to the mandatory tax cap law known as Chapter 62F as an example of such a proposal. A group of progressive Democrats introduced a bill on Wednesday seeking to impose a $6,500 cap on the amount a single taxpayer can receive in a refund set to begin flowing next month. increase.

Legislative leaders have suggested they hope not to consider changing the distribution formula until at least the next two-year session, but a forced bailout would be an unanticipated burden and could lead to rapid inflation. And a possible economic crisis has forced them to reconsider their spending calculations. A looming recession.

Jones urged his Democratic colleagues to “accept” about $3 billion in state governments returning to taxpayers instead of questioning how to “avoid” the refund.

“We’re at a point where we can have the biggest emergency fund, the biggest state budget, and we can do all of this,” he said.

“Remarkably status quo” negotiations

Despite the unusual circumstances, Mr. Jones called on the legislature to develop the plan, which consisted of meetings between the two chairs of the conference committee negotiating the bill, the Speaker’s Office, and the Senate Speaker’s Office. He said the approach taken by the leaders so far has been “pretty status quo”. office.

A North Reading Republican said he had “several conversations” with top Democrats about legislation, describing them as updates to the status quo rather than formal proposals on the way forward. Bills often stall in Beacon Hill, and Democrats in the House and Senate are struggling to find mutual agreement.

“I don’t know exactly what a hangup is,” said Jones.

Tarr suggested that external policy elements that either section factored into the bill, such as a Senate addition to eliminate waiting periods for state employees to access health care, could raise “issues.” .

The easiest option, he said, might be to set aside most covenants and go ahead with a bill containing only appropriations and tax cuts.

Tarr added that Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Michael Rodriguez, one of the two co-chairs of the Congress Committee, is in “good communication” on the progress of negotiations. .

“But obviously finding a consensus chemistry here is the hardest thing for us to do,” said Tarr of Gloucester. I’m sure we can still find the chemistry.”

House Ways and Means Committee chairman Aaron Miklevitz, who is leading the negotiations with Rodriguez, said last week that along with Section 62F return costs, “what we can and can’t pay” is still out. He said he was trying to decide.

“Going back to the fact that we took $3 billion off the point of discussion, this changes the equation, the math, that we were dealing with. I was.

That’s not a universally shared outlook. Baker estimates that lawmakers will need to deploy $1.5 billion of last year’s budget surplus, which is enough to cover the original economic development bill’s surplus spending, Tar said. He said lawmakers don’t think it’s necessary to look at one-time rebate checks and permanent taxes together. Already approved as an “either or either situation”.

“When the Governor filed the Supplement to the Closeout, he said that not only would it meet Chapter 62F, but it would fund all of the tax relief provisions included in the economic development bill and the expenditures included in the budget. We have made it clear that we have left enough money for the economic development bill,” said Tha. “I am very hesitant to say that one should be subordinate to the other at this time. not.”

Another piece of unfinished business

Jones said Democrats were preparing to fail because it took too long to craft and move forward with the original economic development and tax cut bill, and the decision to scrap it at the end of the formal legislative session. added, “It doesn’t help our grades.”

We also hope that action will come after Congress votes on the closing budget for fiscal year 2022, an annual fall mandate that allows the state government to close the books for the most recent spending cycle. said that

Baker introduced the spending bill on August 31st, and Comptroller William McNamara said lawmakers had until the end of September to give it one month to meet the October 31st reporting deadline. I wanted it to end.

The Democrats have failed to meet the Comptroller’s goal and show no signs of imminent action. It may be frustrating for McNamara, but it wasn’t unprecedented.

“The way we’re approaching it here is that whatever the last thing you did, it becomes something new.

Jones believes it will be “really, really difficult” to get both the closing budget bill and the economic development bill into law before the November 8 election. The Budget Bill has not yet been passed by either branch and should therefore be subject to amendment, and the final compromise, the Economic Development Bill, will not be subject to change should it become apparent. Combining these clauses into one mega-package “sets red flags,” he said. From the conference committee negotiations.

Putting the spending and tax cut bills on hold until Election Day is over could deprive voters of the opportunity to voice their dissatisfaction or evaluation of the final bill at the ballot box, but Jones doesn’t think that’s a big factor. said no.

“To be honest, I don’t know how much the average voter is paying attention to the eco-development bill. They may be focusing on certain parts of it,” he said. “There are certain voters who are very interested in doing something about property tax reform. All of this could go into effect on January 1, 2023, so I’m guessing — no big deal.”

Count tar among those who want quicker action.

“I hope to have it done by then, and I think I can do it by then,” he said.