BOSTON, Mass. (SHNS)–Gov. Maura Healey said Wednesday that she’s “anxious to work on a tax package” after the Legislature delivered to her an overdue spending plan that left a blank line item for long-promised tax relief.
The Legislature on Monday approved a $56.2 billion state budget for fiscal year 2024, but broke for August — a typical vacation month without much legislative action — without leaving any indication on when they will deliver the tax cuts they and Healey have promised.
“What’s missing right now from the conversation â€“ but we know it is coming â€“ is the recognition that our job isn’t done until we pass tax relief,” Healey said Wednesday on WBUR. “We need tax relief to make our state more affordable for families and business; we need tax relief to make our state more competitive for employers. And it’s really important, and I do look forward to working with the Legislature to make that happen.”
Asked her target timeline for reaching a tax relief accord, Healey told the News Service, “as quickly as possible.” “I want us to get to work on that right away,” she said.
The Democrats who are privately negotiating the bills have suggested they’ve been working hard to get to a final deal and want a consensus bill soon, but they have also been promoting the importance of tax relief for well over a year without delivering on it.
The final budget sets aside $581 million for anticipated “tax relief initiatives” in fiscal 2024, which began July 1, but negotiators have shed no light on where they are on more expansive tax relief proposals that could push the package’s value past $1 billion in the long run.
Though Healey campaigned on providing tax relief for residents and businesses, she has been wary about publicly pressuring lawmakers to work faster.
During an unrelated event in Boston on Wednesday morning, the governor did bring up tax relief when asked about when she’ll sign the budget. “I’ve got a few days, the team and I, to review [the budget] … we’ll work that through over the course of the next week. And then I’m anxious to work on a tax package, both to make our state more competitive and less of an outlier,” she said.
When the governor introduced her first annual spending plan in March, she rolled out the budget alongside her tax plan with a flurry of media appearances where she promised the cuts would help low- and middle-income families and make Massachusetts businesses more competitive. Since then, there’s been much public debate about the role tax policy and other factors play in decisions that people and businesses make about moving into or out of Massachusetts.
Healey’s plans feature a new, streamlined credit for parents and caregivers, which would give taxpayers $600 per year for each dependent including children younger than 13, disabled adults and seniors. She wants to double the senior circuit breaker credit, increase the cap on rent deduction, and favors changes to triple the threshold at which the estate tax kicks in and slash the short-term capital gains tax rate from 12 percent to 5 percent.
The House and Senate this year overwhelmingly passed their own versions (H 3770 and S 2406) of Healey’s plan. A conference committee led by Sen. Michael Rodrigues of Westport and Rep. Aaron Michlewitz of Boston closed its deliberations to the public and has been unable to agree on a consensus bill over the past six weeks. The same two lawmakers last year led talks on a similar targeted tax relief bills that ended without resolution.
“We want to be attracting people to our great state and also make life more affordable for our residents,” Healey said during the Monday morning event. “So that tax package is really important and something that I’m anxious to get to work on.”
Healey, who must take action on the budget by Thursday, Aug. 10, told the News Service she doesn’t expect to sign the massive spending bill by this weekend, as the administration “still has a lot of work we’ve got to do.”
“At first glance, I’m really pleased to see that so many of our proposals, and really hallmark proposals, that we put forward are in there,” she said on WBUR. “This includes MassReconnect, which is workforce development to bring people back into the workforce through free community college, child care grants, universal schools meals, early college and also 1 percent of the budget going for the very first time to climate, to energy and the environment. So a lot of good stuff in there â€“ we have a job to do now to go through that in a more fine way and make some decisions.”
The governor, who had several back-to-back trips this summer and moved from Cambridge to Arlington over the past few days, said on the radio she doesn’t intend to take a vacation since “this is a big week with budget.”