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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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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I-Team: Consumer complaints prompt call for oversight of solar industry

By Ryan Kath; January 25, 2018; Boston.CBSLocal.com
Solar systems, like the one on the roof of John Collins’ Amesbury home, really can add up to big savings every month. “In the summertime, it would be close to $100,” he said.
But just a few years into his 20-year lease with Vivint Solar, his panels are not generating anything at all. “The technician told me squirrels had chewed through the wires underneath the solar panels. His words were, ‘you are lucky the house didn’t catch on fire,’” Collins recalled.
For safety, the system was shut down until it could be fixed. That was back in August. “Their famous response is, ‘we’ll get back to you’, and they never do,” Collins said.
The panels on Nicholas Bennett’s house in Framingham are producing electricity, actually more than he can use. When he agreed to his lease, he was given the impression that he would be able to cash in on that extra energy. He was wrong. “I am not able to sell it to the electric company,” Bennett explained. “I get a net meter credit, which ends up sitting there and can’t be used.” Over the course of a few years, Bennett has accumulated nearly $700 in worthless credit.
Representative Shawn Dooley of Norfolk is a supporter of green energy and has the panels on his own roof to prove it. But he’s hearing from a growing number of constituents who are regretting their decision to go solar. That’s why he has sponsored a bill to consider greater oversight of the solar industry. “Let’s make sure there’s rules and regulations and if there is a company out there overpromising and under-delivering. Let’s make sure there are repercussions for them,” he said.
This is an issue the I-Team has been tracking, from customers who paid thousands of dollars to a New England company and got nothing in return, to solar leases that held up home sales.
Peter DiGiano of Boston solar believes many of the complaints arise when customers do not fully understand the financial differences between owning and leasing solar. He is not opposed to oversight, if it’s done fairly. “Any policy we enact need to make sure that it doesn’t unduly burden companies that are operating efficiently and ethically,” he said.
A little efficiency is all John Collins is asking for. “It’s a great system. I just wish they were working,” he said.
When the I-Team contacted Vivint Solar, the company told us they fired the employee involved in John’s case and promised to get a crew out to fix his panels.\

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Opiates, budget, Senate presidency to dominate Legislature in 2018, Attleboro area lawmakers say

By Jim Hand; January 4, 2018; The Sun Chronicle

Local lawmakers are expecting a busy year addressing volatile issues ranging from dealing with opiate addictions to providing services without much growth in revenue.

They said there may not be one dominant issue, but several large ones will occupy their time.

State Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, said his top priority will be to pass legislation following up on an anti-opiate law approved two years ago.

He said one of the provisions he is supporting would give a doctor the authority to hold a person in a hospital for 72 hours after they have recovered from an overdose.

It makes no sense to immediately release a person who obviously has a problem, he said.

“Giving the doctors this tool as an option will save lives because just releasing the addicted person with a paper telling them where they can get help is nonsense,” he said.

“This is an epidemic and we should be treating it as such. We can defeat this and save lives if we all are willing to work together and make the insurance companies and hospitals treat it as a health crisis.”

Dooley said another issue would be adjusting state tax laws to address a federal measure that limits deductions for property and state taxes on federal income taxes to $10,000.

State Rep. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, said she expects budget issues to be prominent in the new year.

She said demand for services is increasing while revenue coming into state coffers is still not increasing at a pace that would be expected with a strong economy.

The Children’s Advocacy Center that serves Bristol County is just one of the many agencies she is concerned with, she said.

Meanwhile, rising health care costs are eating up more than 40 percent of the state budget, leaving less for everything else, she said.

“That’s really a big one,” she said.

One of the problems is that workers are leaving their company-provided health insurance to enroll in the less expensive Mass Health, shifting the burden to the state.

Gov. Charlie Baker had a proposal to tax businesses that do not insure enough of its employees, but the Legislature hasn’t adopted it.

While House representatives see a busy year ahead of them, nobody knows for sure what will happen in the Senate.

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, has stepped aside while his husband is investigated for sexual harassment and other charges.

Sen. Harriette Chandler, D-Worcester, is the acting president, and has mentioned health care, increased housing production and dealing with the loss of net neutrality on the Internet as priorities.

But, State Sen. Paul Feeney, D-Foxboro, said he does not know how the power shift in the Senate will impact the flow of legislation.

A number of other senators are looking at running to permanently replace Rosenberg. A major issue left over from last year that must be dealt with is the two different criminal justice bills passed by the House and Senate.

The Senate bill is considered more lenient on offenders and many House members are opposed to it.

A conference committee has to come up with a compromise between the two versions, but were unable to reach an agreement before the end of the year.

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Recreational pot a hot issue in area communities

By Stephen Peterson; December 20, 2017; Sun Chronicle

Attleboro area communities back medical marijuana. Recreational marijuana, not so much.

Several towns have voted to ban recreational marijuana businesses from opening up shop in their communities, or at least implementing moratoriums until the state comes out with regulations for such businesses. Other communities are considering taking one of the two actions, including Attleboro, North Attleboro and Plainville.

Residents at town meetings in Norton, Mansfield, Rehoboth and Seekonk have supported moratoriums on recreational marijuana businesses.

But in Foxboro, Wrentham and Norfolk, residents decided to outlaw recreational pot establishments.

“It would prevent the sale of marijuana in convenience stores and other establishments,” Wrentham Selectman Charles Kennedy said.

Only sale, distribution or cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes would be allowed.

That is also the case in Norfolk as voters there also voted a ban on recreational marijuana businesses, residents worried about the effect on youths and tarnishing downtown, among other concerns.

“We’re in the middle of an opioid crisis. This will put fuel on the fire,” said state Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk.

Wrentham, Foxboro and Norfolk voters narrowly had opposed legalization of pot at the November 2016 election. Communities that voted against legalization can vote to ban recreational marijuana busineses at town meetings, but those whose voters backed legalization have to go again to the ballot box to stop the businesses. The latter hasn’t had to be the case for area communities so far.

Personal recreational marijuana use is another matter and was legalized by 54 percent of state voters approving the ballot question. That was about the backing in the Attleboro area as well.

As a result, it is legal for people 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of pot on their person and up to 10 ounces at home. In addition, people are able to cultivate up to six marijuana plants for their own use.

So for towns and cities that ban sales, residents in those communities can use pot legally but would have to buy it elsewhere.
Attleboro city councilors plan to tackle the recreational marijuana issue but have not yet.

Meanwhile, medicinal marijuana operations seem to be being proposed left and right in the city. Medicinal pot businesses were authorized by voters before last November.

City councilors have approved a special permit for Bristol County Wellness Center to open a retail shop and growing facility in a former jewelry factory in Attleboro Industrial Park. Attleboro could reap about $1 million in revenue for the first three years of the business’s operation, and that doesn’t include property taxes.

Also, the city council has voted to give preliminary support for another such business, an indoor medical marijuana growing facility that would be located in a warehouse, also in the industrial park. It would not include a retail store.

Yet a third registered marijuana dispensary is also looking for city backing.

Sales of marijuana can be a boon for cities and towns and the state. Sales of pot would be taxed at the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax rate, plus a 10.75 percent excise tax. Local communities can add another 3 percent and extract an additional 3 percent of sales through user agreements with retailers.

In North Attleboro, an article up for the Jan. 22 town meeting would establish a temporary moratorium on recreational marijuana establishments.

Town officials have said they’re seeking the moratorium not to halt the will of the voters, as North Attleboro voters approved the ballot question legalizing marijuana last year, but because there are still several questions about the regulation of recreational marijuana that have not been explored. This will allow the town to set its own regulations such as zoning restrictions after the state regulations come out. The moratorium would be in effect until Dec. 31, 2018.

Over in neighboring Plainville, selectmen have discussed recreational marijuana at their last few meetings and have opted to wait until the state regulations come out, tentatively in March, before making any decisions, Town Administrator Jennifer Thompson said.

The town has a moratorium in place for recreational marijuana facilities until June 30, 2018 that was voted at the June annual town meeting. Selectmen had been considering taking more action at the next annual town meeting, possibly to extend the moratorium to the end of next December.

However, decisions coming from the state Cannabis Control Commission last week have disrupted those plans.

“By allowing establishments such as bars, restaurants, yoga studios and massage parlors being allowed licenses to dispense marijuana, it really changes the dynamic in my opinion,” Selectmen Chairman Rob Rose said. “We may be going in a different direction due to this new liberalization. People who may have been more inclined to allow recreational marijuana, may not anymore.”

 

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WATER, SEWER CITED AS IMPEDIMENTS TO HOUSING GROWTH

By Andy Metzger; December 19, 2017; State House News Service

While the state’s largest city has nearly doubled the statutory goal for affordable housing stock, officials from smaller communities argued Tuesday that their hometowns’ rural character makes it harder to accommodate new housing developments.

The lack of a public sewer makes growth challenging in Norfolk, the town’s affordable housing director said. The only lots left in Winchester are undesirable for building, according to a member of the town’s planning board. Dover lacks the public water supplies and road infrastructure needed to handle the type of growth promoted by a 1969 state law, a health official told lawmakers.

Supporters and critics of the Chapter 40B law squared off before the Housing Committee on Tuesday, where affordable housing advocates said laggard housing production has made mortgage and rent payments skyrocket in the state.

The law allows developers in certain communities to skirt local zoning rules if at least 20 to 25 percent of the units include long-term affordability restrictions, according to Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), which credited the law with creating more than 71,000 homes, of which 36,000 are income-restricted. The more flexible rules under 40B apply to cities and towns where less than 10 percent of the housing stock is deemed affordable. Local officials often complain that the law impedes control over local development.

In Boston, whose population numbers more than 670,000 people, about 19 percent of the housing stock is deemed affordable, according to City Hall.

In Norfolk, a town of about 11,000 about 11 miles southwest of Boston, it is “much more difficult” to reach that 10 percent threshold, Susan Jacobson, the affordable housing director, told the committee on Tuesday. She told the News Service it is harder to accommodate housing growth because the town has no public sewer system.

Rep. Kevin Honan, a Boston Democrat and co-chairman of the Housing Committee, said members heard concerns about the lack of water supplies outside of Boston “loud and clear,” suggesting that environmental officials should work on solutions to that problem.

Gov. Charlie Baker last April filed a $1.3 billion five-year bill (H 3925) to finance housing production and renovation around the state. Last week the governor proposed legislation to make it easier for municipalities to adopt pro-growth policies.

The housing bond bill will likely hit the House floor in January and the Housing Committee will likely hold a hearing on the governor’s zoning bill around the same time, said Honan, who said, “We as a committee are excited that he has put forth that proposal.”

Norfolk Rep. Shawn Dooley asked the Housing Committee to allow workforce housing with higher income thresholds to count toward the 10 percent affordable housing goal. Dooley said firefighters and police officers can’t afford to live in towns he represents but they make too much money to qualify for the subsidized housing created by 40B.

Most affordable housing created by 40B is restricted to households at or below area median income – meaning a four-member 40B household in the Boston area could make up to about $78,150 while a four-member family around Springfield could make no more than about $64,000 to qualify, according to MassHousing.

Under Dooley’s bill (H 3010), families could qualify for subsidized 40B housing if they make up to 150 percent of median income.

Milford Rep. Brian Murray asked his colleagues to expand the definition of low or moderate income housing under 40B to include single-family homes and condos valued at $200,000 or less. Home prices vary around the state. The median price in October was $360,000 for a single-family home in Massachusetts, according to the Warren Group. Murray said his bill would yield a more “accurate count” of the affordable housing in a city or town.

There is a “lot of anger” towards 40B because local officials are often unaware of other legal tools at their disposal to manage development, such as designating an area in town for growth, Rachel Heller, the CEO of CHAPA told the committee.

The 1969 law was “largely the result of a civil rights movement” to make cities and towns more open to new residents, said Ben Fierro, a lobbyist for the Home Builders Association of Massachusetts. He said local officials in some towns continue to make it difficult to build homes and “children seem to be toxic” in some communities where officials are worried about the cost of schooling. Using a term that former Sen. David Magnani employed years ago, Fierro said “vasectomy zoning” – requiring large lots and enacting restrictions on septic systems – is used to make towns unwelcoming to young families.

“We do not use exclusionary zoning,” said Gerald Clarke, chairman of the Dover Board of Health. Dover roads are single-lane and residents are on private wells, which can be adulterated by nearby developments, Clarke told the committee.

While Winchester lacks the density of closer-in suburbs, Maureen Meister, who is on the town’s Planning Board, said the town is “built out” and 40B developments are proposed for “land that is undeveloped for a good reason.”

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Officials break ground for $51M Millis school

By Scott Calzolaio; December 8, 2017; Milford Daily News

Dooley Clyde Brown 1 Dooley Clyde Brown 2After seven years of paperwork and some legal trouble, officials broke ground Friday for the new Clyde Brown School, the mark of a promising future in Millis, said Superintendent Nancy Gustafson.
“The outcome truly exceeds my dreams,” she said. “We will have a building that not only brings the fifth grade back into a more developmentally appropriate setting but also alleviates the crowding in the middle-high school.”
Every student from Clyde Brown came outside to watch the ceremony and to sing “This Land is Your Land” to a crowd of parents, supporters, and faculty members.
Speakers boasted that the new school building is a testament to Millis’ dedication to education in the 21st century. State Rep. Shawn Dooley, D-Norfolk, expressed his gratitude for the public’s vote to move forward with the project and thanked the Massachusetts School Building Association (MSBA) for its support.
“This school is going to be a beautiful thing for generations to come,” Dooley said. “It says to everyone that we put our children first and we put the future first.”
Executive director of the MSBA, Jack McCarthy, agreed, adding that the agency will be there to guide Millis every step of the way. “Benjamin Franklin once said ‘an investment in education pays the best interest.’ And we at the MSBA are proud to be your investing partners,” he said.
MSBA will put $20.95 million toward the project, leaving the town to account for $30.9 million, totaling about $51 million. Construction is estimated to be completed in 2019.
The annual increases to tax bills for the average home ($359,864) range from a high of $865 and a low of $377 (higher in the early years), although those increases won’t begin right away. During the first two years of the project the burden to taxpayers will be $100 to $200 for the average household. Average yearly increase rates will begin in 2020.
For more information on the project, visit www.millisschoolproject.org.

 

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