No Tax Cut From The Massachusetts Legislature; Referendum Tax Rebates Still Expected

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The Massachusetts Legislature has abandoned proposed tax cuts, wrapping up the two-year formal legislative session early Monday morning with no vote on a bill that would have provided them.

Lawmakers were talking about having the state government send out $250 rebate checks to taxpayers. But the bill died with no action.

State taxpayers are still in line for an approximately 7 percent rebate or credit on state income taxes they paid for 2021, because of a state law approved by voters in 1986 that limits the amount of tax revenue the state can take in if wages and salaries don’t keep pace.

That obscure law known on Beacon Hill as Chapter 62F – which came into play once in 1987 and never since then – took state legislators by surprise when it was publicized last week.

Massachusetts House Speaker Ron Mariano (D-Quincy) said he thinks the state government can’t afford the tax cuts the legislature was planning along with the tax rebate mandated by the referendum law.

“We have 62F that’s the law of the land and it’s gonna happen,” Mariano said early Monday morning, according to State House News Service. “The governor has said it’s the law of the land and that’s worth, he thinks, $2.5 billion but he’s not even sure, and he thinks he can get it out this year. So I think that’s an important return to the taxpayers.”

While Governor Charlie Baker initially said the value of the referendum-mandated tax cut would be “north of $2.5 billion,” administration officials have since  put the total value at a little less than $3 billion, though the exact figure likely won’t be clear until September.

On Friday, July 29, Mariano said he was open to changing or even ditching the referendum tax-rebate law. But state legislators couldn’t manage that so late in the legislative session without the governor’s approval, since if the governor vetoed the necessary bill the legislature wouldn’t have had the opportunity to override the veto and enact the law on its own.

The $250-per-taxpayer rebate that state legislators were initially planning to approve would have totaled about $1 billion.

But leaders of the state legislature opted against the smaller tax rebate. “We were going to be spending too much money,” Mariano said, according to State House News Service.

The governor disagrees. He said last week that given the level of tax receipts, the state government could easily manage both sets of tax cuts.

“The tax breaks that are currently pending before the legislature are eminently affordable, within the context of the rest of this. I mean, you’re talking about a tax year this past year in which tax revenue went up by over 20 percent, which came on the heels of a tax revenue increase in the previous year that went up by 15 percent. I mean, these are sort of unprecedented increases in tax revenue, which is, in some ways, exactly what this thing was designed — to ensure that people of Massachusetts participated in that windfall,” Baker, a Republican, said Thursday, July 28.

Mariano, asked Monday morning why state legislators wouldn’t go along with both sets of tax cuts, told State House News Service:  “Because we’re a bit more fiscally prudent and we’re gonna be here at the end of this year when, if the economy makes a downturn, we’re gonna be talking about reductions in line items, potential cuts in budgets, and maybe even if it gets bad eventually tax increases.”

Baker on Thursday, July 28 signed the state budget bill for fiscal year 2023 — at $52.7 billion, a 9.3 percent increase in spending over last fiscal year. (Fiscal year 2023 runs from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023.)

Paul Craney, spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, which supports tax cuts, said Democrats on Beacon Hill reverted to form when it comes to reducing the tax burden.

“Let’s face it, the Speaker and Senate President have never had any record on giving back money to the taxpayers, so early morning news that they failed to act once again should surprise no one. Instead of spending the last few days passing tax relief, they spent them trying to hold onto as much taxpayer money as humanly possible. Despite record tax collections, Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka have proven once again they are so greedy, they rather scrap an entire economic development bill than having to give even a penny more back to taxpayers,” Craney said in a written statement Monday.


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