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Baker urges swift passage of new $5B bond bill

Gov. Charlie Baker speaks to press in June of 2021. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Gov. Charlie Baker speaks to press in June of 2021. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Gov. Charlie Baker is seeking the Legislature's approval to borrow nearly $5 billion to maintain, repair and modernize state buildings and assets, to modernize the unemployment insurance online system, to replace 300 State Police vehicles per year and to invest in cybersecurity and IT infrastructure initiatives.

The $4.991 billion general government bond bill would support $2.4 billion in existing Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance resilience and maintenance projects through fiscal year 2028 including $400 million in energy efficiency projects and directs efforts to reduce gas emissions in Massachusetts facilities in keeping with an executive order that Baker issued in April. The bill would authorize another $1.8 million for DCAMM to "meet new facilities' needs and mitigate future risks" including adapting spaces to reflect lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, Baker's office said.

"The majority of our facilities are more than 30 years old, and this bond bill represents an important next step in ensuring the Commonwealth assets meet the needs of those who use them. The facilities improved by this bill will serve some of the Commonwealth's neediest citizens, help educate our future workforce, prepare for climate change, help us meet key environmental objectives, and keep our communities and workers safe," Baker wrote in his filing letter. He added, "The prompt passage of this legislation will ensure that the Commonwealth continues to deliver core services to its citizens uninterrupted. Accordingly, I urge you to enact this legislation swiftly."

The governor's latest bond bill (HD 4731) also includes $185 million in authorization for the Executive Office of Technology Services and Services to, among other things, "modernize the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Online system and build out an integrated eligibility and enrollment system to streamline the benefits application process across multiple state agencies." Another $100 million would be used to replace 300 State Police vehicles a year with half planned to be hybrid vehicles, and $50 million would be used to update virtual and physical security infrastructure at Trial Courts facilities.

A slew of popular state grant programs — the Workforce Skills Capital Grants Program, the Community Compact IT Grants Program, the Cultural Facilities Fund, the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, the Housing Stabilization Fund and the Housing Choice Capital Grants Program — would be given a combined $496 million boost under Baker's bill, his office said.

The Capital Debt Affordability Committee determined last month that Massachusetts could afford $2.78 billion of bonding for capital spending in fiscal year 2023 alone, an increase of about 4.7% or $125 million over the current year.

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