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Where does New Bedford’s state delegation stand on Governor Healey’s proposed tax bill?

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Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey recently filed a bill that would allow municipalities the option to increase certain taxes on its residents. The “Municipal Empowerment Act” would allow cities and towns in Massachusetts to increase their hotel, motel, and other rental tax from 6% to 7%, and their meal tax from the set .75% to 1%. The bill would also let cities and towns increase their motor vehicle excise tax by 5%.

We asked legislators that Represent New Bedford and the south coast whether they would support this bill and its intentions to raise taxes on residents in their region. We reached out to:

– Senator Mark Montigney
– Rep. Antonio Cabral
– Rep. Christopher Hendricks
– Rep. Christopher Markey
– Rep. Paul Schmid
– Rep. William Straus

Representatives Paul Schmid and William Straus did not respond to our request for comment. Below is where the rest of the State Legislators stand on this bill.

Representative Antonio Cabral

I spoke on the phone with Rep. Antonio Cabral and he does not believe that this bill has much support. He told me, “It’s the governor’s proposal giving various ways that communities can get additional revenue. At this point it doesn’t seem like it has overwhelming support. I believe leadership has questions on it.”

Cabral went on stating, “I’m not sure if it will be productive to the city the way the governor is proposing it. Overall, I believe that any kind of tax proposal should be uniform across the state.”

To make sure I had his opinion on the bill clear, I asked him directly “Do you support this bill?”. Representative Cabral told me, “At this point I’m not in support of any piece individually, generally I would say that any excise tax should be uniform and applied across the state equally.”

The remaining legislators gave me written statements to the following questions. “What are your thoughts on this bill? Do you support raising these taxes?”

Representative Christopher Markey

“I do not support the bill as is. While I appreciate the effort of the Governor, I think for good or bad, the revenues generated in the state should be the responsibility of the state legislature. I don’t look forward to this budget season, but it is our responsibility to balance a fiscally responsible balanced budget.”

Senator Mark Montigny

“The Governor’s recently filed legislation offers many different ideas on how to bring more support to cities and towns, all of which my staff and I are carefully reviewing. We will continue to look at it and weigh the feedback from constituents that we receive, but the provisions that would make it more difficult to own a vehicle are a non-starter with me. I will fight to oppose any increase in the vehicle excise tax and vote against it if it’s before the Senate.”

Representative Christopher Hendricks

“If you’ll recall last year, the legislature crafted and passed a comprehensive tax-break bill. This was a very hard-fought issue that required a lot of compromise. In this bill, we increased the deductions for the child dependent tax credit from 180-310, cut all estate taxes under $2 million, increased the Earned Income tax credit from 30% to 40% of the federal credit, we doubled the senior circuit breaker from 1200 to 2400, increased the rental tax deduction from 3k to 4k, and lowered taxes on short term capitol gains.

Also, I advocated hard for the Fair Share Amendment, which passed via ballot measure in 2022.

The reason I bore you will all this is because I think we have done enough on tax policy within the last year. I do not support these new meals and excise fees in this bill. We cut taxes in 2023 to keep Massachusetts competitive in response to the Fair Share Amendment; so, adding these additional fees would be a reversal in statewide policy that was hotly debated and resolved last year. Also, these additional fees would only burden working people, especially in the gateway cities like New Bedford. Boston folks have the option of forgoing a car because of its subway and bus system. New Bedford residents do not have that luxury. Despite the recent progress we have made in public transportation, we still need cars in New Bedford and these fees would only burden the city’s hardest working people.

So, further taxing meals and transportation (excise) would negate all the aforementioned tax breaks we put in last year, thereby making them superfluous (which is inherently wrong). The MA House of Representatives also made it clear that we, as a body, are not interested in putting in new, burdensome fees for our residents

That said, I do hope that the Governor’s provision on creating new property tax exemptions for seniors with the Senior Means Tested Property Tax Exemption gets through this session, as well as the provision that increases existing senior property tax exemptions. In New Bedford, we have too many seniors on fixed incomes not being able to pay their property taxes (a huge contributor to gentrification which is what we are trying to avoid). Therefore, I would support the measure that helps seniors with this issue.

I would also support the civil service reforms in this bill. This provision would allow municipalities to hire police outside the civil service (up to 50%). The bill would also allow cities to have public safetly cadet programs without and special law or act. As you know, we desperately needed more police officers in NB and these two provisions could really help.”

About Steven Richard

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