Mass. tax relief timeline remains unclear as Senate tees up budget proposal

On the steps of the Massachusetts State House, Senate President Karen Spilka talks to the press. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
On the steps of the Massachusetts State House, Senate President Karen Spilka talks to the press. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

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After a frustrating loss on Sunday, the Celtics are back at the TD Garden tonight for Game 5 against the Philadelphia 76ers with the series notched 2-2. Tip is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. But first, the news:

We’ve reached roughly the halfway mark in the state’s budget process, with the Senate Ways and Means committee expected to release their spending proposal today. But the timeline for tax relief remains a bit unclear. WBUR’s Steve Brown reports Senate President Karen Spilka remains committed to “permanent progressive tax relief that is smart and sustainable.” But unlike the House, Spilka says the Senate will take up their tax bill sometime “after the budget.”

  • The big picture: Massachusetts’ top lawmakers — Gov. Maura Healey, Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano — remain united in support of a tax cut bill, despite the news last week that April tax revenue came in $1.6 billion lower than expected. The trio says some degree of economic slowdown was expected.
  • The final details are still TBD. But the bill that the House passed this spring has a lot of similarities with the measure the Senate signed off on last summer — boosting the earned-income tax credit, as well as tax benefits for parents, low-income seniors and renters.
  • Under pressure: After last week’s revenue report, the progressive group Raise Up Massachusetts called on the Senate to drop some of the more contentious parts of the tax bill — at least among Democrats — like cuts to the estate tax and long-term capital gains tax. (Spilka said Monday no tax cuts have been “ruled out” or “ruled in.”)
  • ICYMI: Healey emphasized Sunday on WCVB that last month’s revenue drop “absolutely shouldn’t” affect tax relief and that cuts to social services are “not going to happen.” “I want to be clear to my progressive friends,” Healey said, adding her tax cut bill is “not going to hurt the investment that we need to make in our people.”

Moves to make community college less costly: The Boston Globe reports the Senate’s budget proposal would devote $55 million to make tuition free for a wide swath of community college students — a first step in Spilka’s push to make community college free for everyone in Massachusetts.

  • The plan includes $20 million to cover community college tuition for residents 25 and up — which the House and Healey also both proposed, “all but ensuring it will become law,” the Globe reports.
  • But the Senate would like to go a bit further, using revenue from the state’s new millionaire’s tax to cover costs for those attending nursing programs at the state’s community colleges.
  • What’s next: If the Senate passes the measure, leaders will have to convince House negotiators in a “conference committee” to get on board, too.

From the State House to City Hall: Boston city councilors may be forced to redraw their new political district maps. Last night, a federal judge put the new maps — which the Council and Mayor Michelle Wu approved last year — on hold, after some residents sued. “The ball is back in the City Council’s court,” Judge Patti Saris wrote.

  • What’s the problem? Critics argue the maps violated the Equal Protection Clause because race was too heavily weighed when councilors redrew two districts in Dorchester.
  • What’s next: Saris says that argument has a good chance of winning as the lawsuit plays out. But the decision also creates potential confusion about district boundaries with elections ahead this fall — and a wide-open race in one of the affected districts.

School bus drivers in Marlborough are on strike for a second day today, as their union fights for a new contract with North Reading Transportation (NRT) Bus Inc.

  • That means another day of headaches for parents, after traffic backed up around Marlborough schools yesterday afternoon as classes let out. School officials advised those picking up their kids to “allot for extra time and exercise patience.”

P.S.— The hazy skies from wildfire smoke blowing all the way from western Canada made for some accentuated sunsets last night — and the sunrise this morning wasn’t bad either!


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Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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