By Bob Katzen
The Senate 8-31, rejected a motion to strike from the bill a section that allows cities and towns and regions to raise local taxes to fund transportation projects outside of Proposition 2½, which limits property tax increases in cities and towns.
“Legislating by local tax ballot initiatives hampers our ability to serve our communities in a uniform, progressive, equitable way,” said Sen. Diane DiZoglio (D-Methuen), who led the charge to delete the section. “Some of the tax options put forward in this regional tax increase proposal, including the sales tax and property tax components, have nothing to do with transportation but are extremely regressive and would damage our Main Streets. Now, in the middle of a global pandemic, it is astounding to me that we think this is the time to be adding more of a financial burden to our local mom and pop shops.”
“It’s clear that more and better public transit is needed across the state, and it is important to give local communities and regions the ability to raise funds when they identify particular needs,” said Sen. Cindy Creem (D-Newton). “Improving access to business districts that are not currently accessible by public transit is good for workers, small businesses and the overall economy. We are giving communities this option if the voters choose to use it.”
“The attacks on Proposition 2½ under any guise are relentless, always intent on chipping away at city and town taxpayers’ protection,” said Chip Ford, Executive Director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, which created the law overwhelmingly approved by voters in 1980. “Section 5 of the Senate’s transportation bond bill created a new exclusion for the citizens’ referendum law. It especially did not belong secreted into a massive borrowing bill, slipped in at the 11th hour without public notice never mind hearings,” Ford added. “Just business as usual on Beacon Hill. Citizens beware—those are the people you elected to the Senate to allegedly represent your interests.”
“This is about regional empowerment,” said Sen. Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow). “This is about acknowledging that a lot of infrastructure development in our communities happens by region. It’s not all about top-down from Beacon Hill or top-down from the Statehouse, and it allows local communities to take some control and some autonomy over projects that are vital to them.”
“The Senate is not letting the pandemic slow them down,” said Paul Craney, executive director of the Mass Fiscal Alliance. “They feel they are immune from the economic hurt around them. Creating new taxing authorities is not how we’re going to get our economy running again. This is just a backdoor attempt to try to circumvent the will of the voters and undermine Prop 2 ½. These senators should be thinking about ways to reduce spending, cut taxes, and help small businesses and workers get back on their feet. In the past four months, countless Massachusetts residents lost their jobs and cannot pay their mortgages. Today’s response by the Senate is tone deaf to the financial hurt being felt around the state.”