FOR MONTHS NOW, pressure has been building on Beacon Hill lawmakers to provide some form of tax relief to residents.
Republicans pushed repeatedly for a gas tax holiday as prices at the pump soared. Gov. Charlie Baker backed a $700 million package that matched tax breaks for seniors, renters, and low-income taxpayers with cuts in taxes on estates and short-term capital gains. At their state convention on Saturday, Republicans again pressed for tax cuts, saying the state is rolling in money and can easily afford them.
Democrats on Beacon Hill have been slow to embrace the idea. The gas tax holiday was dismissed as a stunt and rejected multiple times. Baker’s proposal wasn’t embraced, but it wasn’t dismissed, either.
The Democratic candidates for governor split on the issue. Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz said she would oppose tax cuts and use any extra money to support the state’s budget priorities. Attorney General Maura Healey said the state could both address budget priorities and offer some form of tax relief.
And then April tax revenues came pouring in – $2 billion higher than forecasted and $3 billion above the previous April. Senate President Karen Spilka looked at the numbers and decided some sort of tax break was warranted, to be taken up after her chamber passes its budget this week.
Another hint of movement came Monday, when the Legislature’s Revenue Committee pushed decisions on dozens of bills until the last day of the legislative session on July 31 but approved an amendment setting a deadline for action on the governor’s tax relief bill for July 1.
Sen. Adam Hinds, a Pittsfield Democrat running for lieutenant governor, told State House News Service that the new deadline reflects the fact that conversations about tax relief are intensifying.
“For me, the proposals that truly target low-income filers are getting more attention, but there’s also been a lot of conversation about an estate tax adjustment,” Hinds said. “There are a lot of details of how you might design such proposals that you have to get right.”
The big question now is whether there’s enough time before the legislative session ends to gain consensus on what taxes to cut and how to cut them. House leaders have been the slowest to embrace the idea, but there appears to be growing recognition that a tax cut is affordable and could be politically advantageous.