By Bob Katzen
The Revenue Committee will hold a virtual hearing on January 12 on several bills including:
EXEMPT PERSONS UNDER 18 FROM PAYING INCOME TAX (S 1970) – Exempts residents and non-residents under 18 from paying an income tax.
“I filed this bill to provide our younger employees, who traditionally work low wage jobs, the ability to keep more of their money,” said Sen. Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth). “This will allow for better saving and investment opportunities for student workers that may solely rely on their income. In a time where the commonwealth has record surpluses, giving our young working residents, among others, a tax break that wouldn’t impact our bottom line makes a lot of sense.”
$4,000 TAX CREDIT FOR FAMILY CAREGIVER (H 2911) – Provides up to a $4,000 annual tax credit for a taxpayer who provides more than one-half of the support for an elderly relative who is age 75 and older — provided that the elderly relative resided with the taxpayer for more than six months of the year and the taxpayer has a maximum adjusted gross income of less than $30,000.
Supporters say this will save some money for caregivers. They note that Massachusetts has more than 800,000 unpaid family caregivers who are helping an aging parent or other loved one to live independently in their own homes. They argue that many of these caregivers have a regular full or part-time job and are overwhelmed by their caregiver duties. They note that a study from 2015 concluded that in Massachusetts, family caregivers provided 786 million hours of unpaid care valued at an estimated $11.6 billion annually.
“As someone who cared for my own elderly parents at home and being so grateful that I could do it for them, I know that it comes with a financial cost to the caregiver,” said co-sponsor Rep. Colleen Garry (D-Lowell). “Whether it be medications or supplies that you may pick up and pay for, or with caregivers who hold outside employment based on hourly wages having to take time off to bring them to medical appointments, etc., this bill will help compensate family members for just some of the financial losses they face while caring for their elderly relatives at home. Meanwhile, the senior gets loving care in the family home and the commonwealth does not see increasing MassHealth expenses for nursing homes for these folks.”
“With the price of medical equipment and outside caretakers, this will give those families relief, while allowing more people to take advantage of a cheaper option than placement at an elder-care home,” said co-sponsor Rep. Dave Robertson (D-Tewksbury). “In the end it encourages an option sought by many seniors, while saving the family and the public money—as subsidizing elder care is a large part of the state budget for care of those 65 and older.”
UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME OF $1,000 (S 1883) – Establishes a universal basic income pilot program run by Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) under which 100 persons would be given $1,000 per month over a two-year period. Participants would be a diverse representation of all demographics of the state including race, gender identity, sexual orientation and educational achievement. Recipients would be allowed to spend the money without restrictions except for a prohibition on the purchase of illegal drugs.
The program would be funded by a public-private partnership with local businesses, non-profits and/or private foundations and no state money would be used to fund the monthly grants. However, the administration of the program would be handled by the DTA which is funded with state money.
Following the completion of the program, DTA would have up to a year to issue a report including information about how the funds were spent; the socioeconomic background of the participants prior to entering into the study; how the participants’ quality of life evolved over the period of time of the study; and recommendations for permanent implementation of this program on a larger scale.
“During the response to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 we saw first-hand the positive impact of basic supports,” said Sen. Adam Hinds (D-Pittsfield), the bill’s sponsor. “Centrally, children were lifted out of poverty with documented long-term benefits related to elevated lifelong earnings, education attainment and health outcomes. This program could be a more efficient way for the government to provide a social safety net.”
MAKE A PIECE OF PRIVATE PENSIONS TAX EXEMPT (H 2839) – Exempts from taxation up to $12,500 of the private pension of a taxpayer over age 60 and up to $2,000 for one under 60.
“The goal of this bill is to provide some tax relief to retirees and seniors living on a fixed retirement income,” said sponsor Rep. Peter Capano (D-Lynn). “I have personally heard from countless retirees who have been living on private pensions for extended periods of time and are struggling. These individuals have not received cost of living increases and are having trouble making ends meet given rising property taxes and healthcare costs and diminished savings. It is my hope that the legislation will ease some of the burden on retirees and seniors across the commonwealth.
CREATE HAITIAN COMMISSION (S 1819) – Creates a 12-member Commission on the Status of Citizens of Haitian Descent. Sponsor Sen. Nick Collins (D-Boston) said the proposal is intended to create a state-established body charged with reviewing the status of residents of Haitian ancestry and offer recommendations regarding policy that would improve access to opportunities and equality.
“Massachusetts has the third largest Haitian population in the country and while the Haitian community can be proud of its contributions, there continues to be many nuances government can be educated on in order to better serve this constituency,” said Collins. As a representative of the most dense Haitian community in Boston I am proud to file this legislation and work with leaders, advocates and colleagues to bring this to fruition.”