UPDATE on Monday’s Meeting with Eversource

Here is a brief synopsis of the Eversource meeting I hosted at town hall this past Monday. This is my best effort to recap, sorry it is so long and/or if I missed anything. If you need any further info send me an message or call my cell 508-930-9988.

Eversource sent out their Chief of Operations, Government Affairs Director, and Director of Engineering. I thought this was a very good sign that they were taking our concerns seriously – as these are senior people who were coming out on their own time in the evening.

Pricing: Several things contributed to the price bump for some people. Few of the things were

#1- 2 week long stretch of well below normal hard freeze thereby increasing usage just to keep house at same temp as normal.

  1. Estimated bills as opposed to actual reads. My personal bill for Nov and Dec were estimated so the actual January read unfortunately showed that their previous estimate was low. ugh
  2. Longer bill cycle. Some people had a 35 day bill cycle which obviously added to the overall usage as compared to December.
  3. Department of Public Utilities (DPU) approved a rate increase last year of 7% on distribution to take effect 1/1/18. THis went into effect. But due to the Republican Tax Bill they have since reduced it by 4% (total increase of 3% from December) which will show on February’s bill.
  4. Since energy is now deregulated they must buy it on the open market and therefore do not control the pricing of the actual energy. Based on market conditions (they buy 4x/year) this created an increase of 2 cents per KW hour. This will change in July and historically goes down during the Summer – but too early to tell. Next purchase segment will be in May.

As far as power outages they were less sure but have taken action to hopefully resolve the issue. Norfolk is fed from Medway and Walpole and they have added in more switches and repeaters so if there is a problem they can isolate it and minimize the outage area.

While the auto switches are resetting this sometimes causes the lights to blink 2-3 times. This doesn’t help with having to reset your clocks but hopefully it does minimize who is without power.

They do not do rolling blackouts nor have they ever dialed down service to Norfolk. The dimming they think is a result of either a broken negative or a transformer that was not operating properly. They are going to try and determine if there is a problem with one of their components on the circuit that feeds the area that was experiencing this phenomenon. If it keeps happening – PLEASE LET ME KNOW ASAP

They are also attempting to bring in a few more automated swithes to upgrade the infrastructure we have in place and hopefully prevent further problems.

Norfolk is on a 4 year tree trimming cycle and they will be doing 1/4 of the town this summer. If you have a particular issue with trees on the lines (common areas, along road, etc) please let me know and I will hpoefully get yo uaded to the list.

Finally, if you are still having problems with your rate being historically out of whack, please tell me and I will reach out to them to have them test your meter.

Hopefully this answers most of the question. It should be up at NCTV’s youtube channel soon.

Thank you!

Shawn

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Massachusetts budget writer expects $65 million windfall from federal tax overhaul

By Shira Schoenberg; February 6, 2018; The Springfield Republican
The Massachusetts state budget will get a one-time windfall of $65 million due to federal tax reform, Secretary of Administration and Finance Secretary Mike Heffernan said Tuesday.
Heffernan testified before the Ways and Means Committee at their first hearing on Gov. Charlie Baker’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal. Lawmakers will use the testimony from the budget hearings to craft their own versions of the state budget. Additional hearings are planned for Amherst, Worcester, Everett, Fall River, Beverly and Boston.
After Congress passed a major tax overhaul at the end of December, their quick action left state legislators as well as individuals and businesses struggling to understand its implications.
Heffernan said the Baker administration has been conservative in what federal revenues it counts on. He said Baker’s budget proposal does include one bump from tax reform: $65 million from U.S. companies that earned profits overseas.
The tax overhaul lowers the rate companies pay on overseas profits but no longer allows companies to escape U.S. taxes by keeping the assets overseas. The result will be a one-time windfall in tax payments as the change goes into effect this year.
Overall, Baker has proposed a $40.9 billion state budget for fiscal 2019, which begins in July.
Lawmakers questioned Heffernan on several aspects of the budget.
“Developing the state budget is an enormous responsibility,” said Senate Ways and Means Committee chairwoman Karen Spilka, D-Ashland. “We must be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars while investing in the services necessary to support our most vulnerable residents and to foster a healthy and prosperous commonwealth.”
Spilka questioned a proposal to move 140,000 people from MassHealth to Health Connector insurance plans. Lawmakers rejected a similar proposal last year.
Heffernan said since the last proposal, the administration has improved the benefits available on the Health Connector plans. He said the savings to the state would be $60 million due to a larger federal match.
Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, asked Heffernan about the impact of Baker’s proposal to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit from 23 percent to 30 percent of the federal tax credit. Heffernan said the change is projected to cost the state $65 million in fiscal 2020. “It’s an incredibly effective way to get relief to folks in hard working lower income families,” Heffernan
said. “It’s a very effective way to deliver a lower tax burden and higher after tax cash flow to these folks.”
Heffernan was unable to provide specific data regarding the impact of a 2015 increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Rep. Thomas Walsh, D-Peabody, asked about a proposal to apply the existing hotel tax to people who rent rooms out for more than 150 days a year. Heffernan said the goal is to avoid taxing people who rent their homes out occasionally.
The administration wants to ensure that people who are using services like Airbnb to effectively run hotel businesses are paying the same taxes as people running a hotel.
Although it is not directly budget-related, House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, D-Boston, lectured Heffernan on the lack of diversity in the state police force. “The leadership and the ranks relative to African-American people and Hispanics is woefully inadequate,” Sanchez said, saying there is one Latino in state police leadership and no African-Americans.
Sanchez said he is happy a woman was appointed to lead the state police, but more must be done.
“I’d like to see what the administration is going to do to diversify the state’s police force that’s on the streets throughout the commonwealth on a day-to-day basis,” Sanchez said. “Unfortunately, there are real issues relative to the diversity of the state police workforce. On the ground and in leadership, I think there may be opportunities the administration is missing.”
Without offering specifics, Heffernan responded, “I know the administration shares your thoughts and goals.”

 

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LAWMAKERS URGE CAUTION AS STATE TAX COLLECTIONS SURGE

By Colin A. Young; February 6, 2018; State House News Service

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, FEB. 6, 2018….Stung in each of the last two fiscal years by overestimated tax collections that forced major eleventh-hour spending adjustments, state budget writers sounded a cautious tone Tuesday as they kicked off a series of hearings on the governor’s budget proposal.

The issues that plagued the last two state budgets have not cropped up yet this fiscal year and tax collections are outperforming expectations more than halfway through fiscal 2018. But as the fiscal 2019 state budget begins to take form, lawmakers said they are encouraged by positive revenue reports but are not expecting it to be a smooth budget year.

“For the coming fiscal year, modest tax growth, rising fixed costs and an anticipated reduction in the income tax and the uncertainty at the federal level all make balancing a fiscally responsible budget that addresses the needs of the commonwealth … a difficult task,” House Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez said at the first budget hearing Tuesday.

His Senate counterpart, Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka, said she is “heartened” by recent revenue reports that show the state has a cushion of $810 million above projections after seven months of fiscal 2018.

“After several years of concerning revenue, this clearly is positive and it’s positive signs of growth,” Spilka said. “However, we are all aware of the continued fiscal challenges and of the uncertainties. We recognize the realities of economic and financial uncertainty, especially in light of all of the potential changes on the federal level and how they may or may not impact the state.”

Sanchez also cheered the latest revenue figures, but warned that it is important that the Ways and Means Committee “make(s) sure that we’re cautious about assuming that the entire December revenue bump is a real increase.”

“Some of it will likely prove to be taxes paid early and borrowed from future months, so we need to continue examining revenue trends to understand the full impact,” Sanchez said of the December revenue report which catapulted revenues to $728 million above benchmark.

With that context in mind, Administration and Finance Secretary Michael Heffernan laid out the governor’s $40.9 billion budget proposal — “a thoughtful and careful roadmap” of fiscal 2019 — which raises state spending by 2.6 percent and is built around the assumption that state tax collections will grow at a 3.5 percent clip next fiscal year.

“In a strengthening economy, there are opportunities to make new investments in areas such as education, workforce development and economic development to help more of our residents share in this prosperity,” Heffernan said.

Heffernan, who served as revenue commissioner before being promoted to A&F secretary last year, said the governor’s budget relies on $95 million in one-time revenues and increases the Stabilization Fund by $96 million to bring it to a balance of $1.463 billion.

The rainy day fund had a $1.652 billion balance in 2011, after the last recession, but was drawn down in recent years despite a growing economy. The Baker administration has said that if the Legislature goes along with the governor’s latest proposal, the Stabilization Fund will have grown by more than 30 percent since Baker took office in 2015.

Among the “highlights” of the Baker budget proposal that Heffernan singled out for lawmakers Tuesday were more than $100 million in scholarship funding, $45.9 million in annualized rate increases for early educator salaries, $10.3 million to support summer jobs for about 3,600 at-risk youths, an increase of $5.2 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, and almost $150 million for the Department of Public Health to combat the opioid crisis.

Spilka was most interested in how the administration’s budget addresses MassHealth, the behemoth of a program that is consuming more revenues that could be invested elsewhere.

To control costs at MassHealth, Baker’s budget recommends the transition of 140,000 non-disabled adults between 100 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty line off MassHealth and onto comparable plans at the Massachusetts Health Connector, a shift Heffernan said is expected to save $60 million.

Lawmakers rejected a similar proposal last year, but Baker said the new version aims to address concerns raised at that time.

In his questioning, Sanchez continued to prod Heffernan about uncertainty around the budget and the state’s financial picture, asking how the administration keeps current with developments in Washington, D.C., and whether he is aware of any changes that the Ways and Means committees should be aware of. Heffernan said there are not.

There are more than 50 lawmakers on the Democrat-controlled Ways and Means committees, but only two other lawmakers — Reps. Shawn Dooley and Thomas Walsh — had questions Tuesday for the administration’s lead budget manager.

Dooley inquired about the cost of the governor’s proposal to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit from 23 percent to 30 percent of the federal level and Heffernan pegged the cost at $65 million annually beginning in fiscal 2020.

Walsh asked about the administration’s proposal to extend the room occupancy tax to short-term rentals made through platforms like Airbnb and how the administration settled on 150 days as the minimum number of days a year an operator would have to rent a room before being required to collect and remit the tax.

The administration is “not trying to impose a tax on folks who should not be taxed who are occasional renters,” Heffernan said. The real target of the proposal, he said, are people who have “created a business in the digital economy.”

The Joint Ways and Means Committee budget hearings continue next Tuesday in Worcester. Lawmakers will hold a total of eight hearings on the governor’s budget proposal around the state through mid-March before the House rewrites the budget and debates its version of the spending plan in April. The Senate is expected to follow suit and debate its own budget bill in May.

 

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State Rep. Shawn Dooley to Host a Forum with Eversource Energy


NORFOLK –
State Representative Shawn Dooley is happy to cordially invite all area residents to a forum with Eversource Energy:

State Representative Shawn C. Dooley

Forum with Eversource Energy

Monday February 12th, 2018

Norfolk Town Hall, Room 124

1 Liberty Ln; Norfolk

7:00 PM

The forum will give residents the opportunity to hear from Eversource on the recent rate hikes and power outages in the area as well as the chance to ask any questions and to express their frustration with price, performance, and any other issues they may be having with Eversource.

“I am happy to be able to bring Eversource to Norfolk to discuss the variety of issues my constituents have been facing over the past several months from the rate hikes to the rash of power outages” said Dooley. “I hope we are able to engage in a meaningful dialogue to gain a better understanding of the situation. I encourage all area residents, not just those in Norfolk, to attend.”

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Plainville officials want more liquor licenses for the town

By Jim Hand; February 4, 2018 ;The Sun Chronicle
Selectmen will ask special town meeting voters for the authority to seek more liquor licenses from the state Legislature.
The special town meeting will be held Feb. 12, at 7 p.m., at Wood School.
Voters will also be asked to approve $19,800 for a new hovercraft for the fire department. The current one is unsafe to operate, Chief Justin Alexander has said.
The craft is used in rescue operations.
The liquor license issue will be one of the first voters will deal with.
Article 2 on the agenda seeks authorization for selectmen to petition the Legislature for more licenses.
If voters approve, the board will have a home rule petition, or bill, written, and filed with the House and Senate.
Several cities and towns across the state have sought similar permission in recent years, including Foxboro.
Gov. Charlie Baker had proposed to leave it up to cities and towns to set their own liquor license limits, but the Legislature did not go along with the idea.
State Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, who represents Plainville, said he has filed his own bill that would give cities and towns control over the issue.
“It doesn’t make any sense that the towns have to go through the hoops of asking people who have no interest in their town for their permission,” he said.
The request is just one of several items on the Plainville special town meeting agenda.
Several items deal with water and sewer projects.
Article 4 requests $174,000 for work on the sewers along Kelly Boulevard.
Article 6 would raise $185,000 for a rehabilitation of the Moran Street sewer substation.
In Article 11, the town is seeking $150,000 to clean the Sharlene water tank.

 

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THE ARGUMENT: Should any increases in major state taxes be on the table in state budget talks for next year?

NO: Shawn Dooley – State representative for the 9th Norfolk district, Norfolk Republican

In an ordinary year, increasing the taxes of the hard working men and women of Massachusetts should only be on the table after all other options are exhausted. But as we all know, it is not an ordinary year and raising taxes should definitely be off the table for this year’s budget debate.
The reality is that the world has changed dramatically over the past year and fiscal year 2019 is on track to follow course. The new federal tax plan that was passed last month creates a tremendous amount of uncertainty for many of our fellow citizens and has the potential to have a negative impact on the Massachusetts economy. Fortunately, it appears the benefits might minimize these negatives but at this moment it is too early to tell.
The creation of the $10,000 cap for state and local tax deductions in the new federal law is going to send shockwaves through our state. If we couple this with the proposed additional 4 percent tax on earnings above $1 million — the subject of a state ballot question this fall — and our punitive death tax, Massachusetts is poised to be a costly state for taxpayers. To add additional tax increases onto this already excessive structure would be pure folly.
While the Commonwealth is anticipating increased revenue collections, we must still remain vigilant in weeding out waste and abuse. As legislators, we need to make the tough choices to streamline programs and ensure that we spend our neighbors’ hard earned money efficiently.
Having a foolhardy approach toward spending, justified by a tax increase, only sets the groundwork for disaster when the economy eventually adjusts.
Massachusetts is a wonderful place to live; but if we are not fiscally prudent, it will simply become too expensive to raise a family or run a business here. New Hampshire is already trying to poach our current and future businesses by touting their low taxes and inexpensive cost of living. If we vote to raise taxes this year, it will send the message that Massachusetts is not “open for business;” and instead we are embracing the old “Taxachusetts” moniker.

 

YES: Ted Steinberg – Needham resident, community organizer, former Congressional aide, member of Progressive Massachusetts

It’s déjà vu on Beacon Hill.

The decades-long hostility towards raising additional revenue strikes again. It was just last fall that the Legislature let stand $210 million of the $320 million Governor Charles Baker vetoed from the fiscal 2018 budget. The slashing of that crucial spending was, unfortunately, a predictable byproduct of the Legislature’s refusal to implement new taxes or fees in fiscal 2017.
Even with those cuts, this year’s state budget is again facing a potential deficit. The government was forced to rely on temporary revenues and the underfunding of essential programs – like MassHealth, services for homeless families, and snow and ice removal – all while hoping there will somehow be an end-of-the-year surplus. No wonder US News and World Report ranks Massachusetts 48th for balancing its budget.
Budgets are supposed to reflect priorities, but instead of thinking big and investing in our future, we are stuck playing catch-up from previous shortages. The Commonwealth has a variety of complex problems requiring investment. Our transit system malfunctions regularly (even when it’s warm outside), schools grapple with overcrowding, affordable housing remains woefully insufficient, and the opioid crisis continues to devastate our communities.
But we also want to do more than put a band-aid on wounds that require surgery. We want to expand MBTA service, strengthen our schools, provide shelter for struggling families, and move towards universal health care. The last thing we need to do is shut the door on sources of much-needed revenue.
As we look to improve upon state services and protect the laws that make Massachusetts feel like home, we should look for creative opportunities to increase spending capabilities. Whether it be from pollutant fees or new corporate taxes, marijuana sales or tax-deductible donations to government institutions, there are innovative ways to generate sufficient revenue for a responsible budget that won’t hurt the people’s pockets. It would be irresponsible not to even consider, let alone refuse to explore new potential sources of revenue or raising existing ones.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo should work on a game plan rather than punt the ball on first down. Tax increases should definitely be on the table as we look to fix our broken budget.

 

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