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Senate passes on tax relief, may consider before session end

Boston Herald logo Boston Herald 5/10/2022 Matthew Medsger, Boston Herald
BOSTON, MA - May 9: Governor Charlie Baker testifies along with Lt. Governor Karyn Polito before the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies at the State House on May 9, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. © Matt Stone/Boston Herald/TNS BOSTON, MA - May 9: Governor Charlie Baker testifies along with Lt. Governor Karyn Polito before the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies at the State House on May 9, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s tax cuts aren’t necessarily dead in the Senate, but the Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday revealed a budget that ignored them.

“We haven’t had serious discussions about tax changes,” Chairman Michael Rodrigues said. “We’ll have a holistic discussion and debate on that in the future.”

The Senate’s budget proposal, all $49.68 billion of it, focuses more on matters of money than on political priorities, Rodriguez said.

“We focus on fiscal matters in our budget, we are very light on policy,” he said.

Baker’s January budget was filed alongside a tax cut proposal his administration expects would cost about $700 million.

The Legislature hasn’t let the plan leave committee, but an April tax revenue report showing a $2 billion tax surplus had Senate President Karen Spilka suddenly calling on members to pursue tax relief this legislative session, which ends July 31.

“While the details remain to be worked out, I believe we can safely balance targeted spending investments to a number of crucial areas, such as housing, childcare and higher education, with tax relief for individuals and families who are feeling the effects of inflation and continued economic disruption,” Spilka said in a statement following the revenue report.

Tuesday’s budget could have been a good place to start the tax relief process, but Rodrigues said his committee didn’t consider the governor’s plan.

“I haven’t analyzed the good, the bad and the ugly of the governor’s tax proposals,” he said.

“I think when we talk about tax relief we’re going to talk about working families and what puts money in the pockets of working families,” he said.

Baker had proposed tax relief for renters, a lowering of the property tax ‘circuit breaker’ for seniors, adoption of no-tax status to match federal levels for low earners, and a lowering of the state’s capital gains and estate taxes.

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a nonpartisan watchdog group, endorsed Baker’s plan, calling it the right move to keep the commonwealth competitive.

Rodrigues seemed to indicate the Senate would have plans of its own for tax relief.

“The governor has submitted a number of good ideas,” he said. “But the governor doesn’t have a monopoly on good ideas.”

The House’s budget also left that chamber without any tax relief plans.

The two chambers will need to work out their differences before sending the budget to Baker. The Senate will begin debate on amendments on May 24, Rodrigues said.

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