BOSTON (SHNS) – Gov. Charlie Baker signed off Tuesday on a $250 million deposit into the state’s pension liability fund and the creation of a $350 million trust fund to help pay for school financing reform over the next five years, but the Republican vetoed 10 bills that lawmakers finalized a day earlier in spite of the governor’s concerns.
The flurry of action came after the House and Senate on Monday sent back to the governor 16 proposals that had originally been included in the fiscal 2022 state budget, but were returned by Baker with amendments. Among the bills Baker vetoed was legislation (H 4014) controlling how funding for regional transit authorities would be dispersed and another (H 4007) that would substantially increase the number of hours retired state employees collecting a pension can work.
The Legislature has just embarked on a summer recess until after Labor Day, but leaders could choose to try to override Baker’s vetoes when lawmakers resume formal sessions in the fall. The additional funds for pensions and the Student Opportunity Act surfaced when budget negotiators chose in July to increase revenue projections by $4.2 billion for the fiscal year that began July 1.
They based the new estimate on the strength of tax collections over the prior year, which is expected to yield a significant surplus that Baker initially said would be a better source for the new spending on pensions and schools. While Baker went along with those big-ticket items (H 4004), he vetoed a bill that seeks to distribute $3.5 million of the $94 million allocated for RTAs based on factors such as ridership, territory size, and population.
Baker had tried to reduce the funding levels for RTAs in the budget to $90.5 million, with $3.5 million distributed through grants based on performance metrics. The Legislature overrode his funding veto, and then reacted its version of the grant program. The governor’s initial objection to the RTA funding level in the budget sparked the ire of many legislators, but Baker said the 15 transit agencies had received billions in federal support through multiple stimulus bills and all ended the year with “significant cash reserves.”
Baker also continued to object to increasing the number of hours a public retiree can work from 960 to 1,200 hours per year, preferring a more modest increase to 975 hours to give municipalities workforce flexibility, and he vetoed the bill (H 4008) that would repeal three tax credits. The governor supports the repeal of the energy patent deduction because he said it has never been claimed, but he said the state should keep the harbor maintenance tax credit and a medical device user fee tax credit.
Baker also signed H 4003 hate crimes task force, H 4006 ACP liens, H 4013 sexual assault evidence kit testing, H 4015 regional tourism councils and H 4017 nursing home licensure. He vetoed H 4005 water supply protection trust, H 4008 tax expenditures repeal, H 4009 optional pass-through entities excise, H 4010 DCR parking fees, H 4011 EAEDC asset limit, H 4012 TAFDC asset limit, H 4016 commission on poverty, and H 4018 higher education affordability task force.