By Bob Katzen

The House and Senate leadership unveiled legislation that would use some of the state’s estimated $3.6 billion surplus to give one-time tax rebates to an estimated 2 million eligible people. The package is estimated to cost $500 million.

A $250 rebate would go, by September 30, to individual taxpayers and a $500 rebate to married taxpayers. Eligibility will be determined by annual income reported in 2021, with the minimum income required to be $38,000, and the maximum $100,000 for individual filers and $150,000 for joint filers.

“Whether it is the rising price of gas, groceries, or summer clothes for kids, the Massachusetts Legislature has heard loud and clear that increased costs due to inflation have cut into family budgets,” said speaker of the House Ron Mariano, Senate President Karen Spilka, House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz and Senate Ways and Means Chair Mike Rodrigues, in a joint statement.

The statement continued, “These rebates represent the Legislature’s commitment to delivering immediate financial relief directly to residents of the commonwealth, rather than to large oil companies that continue to profit off economic uncertainty and international conflict and follow our efforts to provide $500 in premium pay for lower income front-line workers during the pandemic. As we recognize the need for structural change as well, we continue to work on potential changes to the tax code with the goal of providing additional relief to residents.”

“The Legislature’s ‘Taxpayer Energy and Economic Relief Fund’ proposal is a good start in reimbursing taxpayers for the muti-billion-dollar over-taxation revenue surpluses bonanza of the past two years,” said Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. “Anything that reduces taxpayers’ burden especially in this economy is welcomed, but this will only reduce the pain for a few weeks in the fall. Gov. Baker’s tax relief bill offers broader and long-overdue structural tax reforms. It also needs consideration and adoption. Clearly there is sufficient surplus revenue for both.”

“This is a poorly thought-out gimmick being done right before the election simply to score points with voters, plain and simple,” said Mass Fiscal Alliance spokesman Paul Craney. “Meaningful relief should be broad based and focused on lowering taxes on the people they most effect. Picking winners and losers through arbitrary brackets, as well as penalizing married couples more likely to have families depending on them, is a poor way for our out of touch Legislature to show solidarity with the privations their ill-conceived economic policies are currently forcing Massachusetts families to contend with.”

Critics also took a swipe at the measure because it doesn’t provide a rebate for lower-income taxpayers earning less than $38,000. Marie-Frances Rivera, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, said that rebates that exclude people earning less than $38,000 is not targeted tax relief to people who need it the most and are struggling to pay rent every month.

Mariano responded at a press conference and pointed out that the Legislature several months ago had already spent $490 million on low-income folks who were adversely affected by the COVID loss of jobs. “So we felt we had addressed a lot of the needs there,” said Mariano. “The next step was to move up and take care of the folks who are in that middle income area that so often is neglected.”

Some opponents said it is also unfair to exclude people earning over $100,000 from the rebate. They noted that if you have three children and earn $100,000 you are not exactly rich.

$400,000 FOR FARMS – The Baker Administration announced the granting of $400,000 in grants to several Bay State farms to improve their operations.

“[The] administration remains committed to the Massachusetts agricultural industry to ensure our local farmers continue to succeed and have the support they need to provide invaluable products for the public to enjoy,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card. “These Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program Improvement grants will further strengthen the commonwealth’s food supply system making it more resilient now and well into the future.”

“The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) is steadfast with its commitment to our commonwealth’s farming families,” said MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux. “Through the … program we have been able to conserve critical farmland, preserve Massachusetts agricultural history and provide support to help keep these farm businesses sustainable now and for future generations.”

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