WHEN LEGISLATIVE LEADERS this week pushed discussions of tax breaks from this year into next, one reason they gave was so the discussion “will be informed by the views of a newly elected Legislature and governor.”
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and the Democratic-led Legislature had agreed in concept (with some differences in details) to increase tax breaks for families with children, renters, seniors, and low-income households and to adjust the estate tax so it kicks in at a higher level. Baker wanted to lower the short-term capital gains tax, but lawmakers disagreed. All those tax breaks were left out of the economic development bill lawmakers voted on Thursday, although residents are benefiting from $3 billion in rebates being sent out as part of the 62F tax refund law, which was triggered by high state revenues.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl has said he’s all in for lowering taxes. He’s pledged not to raise taxes and has campaigned on an anti-tax platform.
But what will tax policy look like if Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey, who is leading in all the polls, is elected? Healey said Thursday that she supports tax relief and “it will absolutely be priority day one to work with the Legislature on those reforms.”
Healey has voiced support for both raising and lowering taxes. She supports Question 1 on the ballot, which would raise the tax rate on income over $1 million by four percentage points and earmark the money for transportation and education.
But Healey has also said she supports the tax breaks proposed by Baker. “I think they make a lot of sense and are progressive and they’re directed at seniors, low income, middle income folks, really, really important things,” Healey said in a debate sponsored by WCVB/Channel 5 last month.
Karissa Hand, a Healey spokesperson, said Healey was disappointed the economic development bill does not include “much needed” tax reform. “As governor, it will be a top priority of hers to get this done with the Legislature,” Hand said.
Yet despite that disappointment, Healey campaigned with one of the main decision makers – House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz – on Thursday, visiting Mike’s Pastry, Modern Pastry, and other businesses in Michlewitz’s North End district.
Asked what specific tax breaks she would support, Healey said she would start by looking at Baker’s proposal, which she described as “tax relief for seniors, for low-income folks, for middle-income folks, for renters, also changing the limits for the estate tax and supporting things like the Earned Income Tax Credit.” Healey also mentioned her proposal to create a $600 per child tax credit. Today, the dependent care tax credit is $180 per child capped at two children, and a tax credit for childcare expenses is capped at $240 per child for up to two children.
Healey was noncommittal on Baker’s proposal to lower the tax rate on short-term capital gains, which would help taxpayers who sell investments within a year. Baker proposed it to boost economic competitiveness, and it would help mainly middle and upper-income taxpayers. “I have to look more at that,” Healey said. “In general, I thought the package that Governor Baker put forward made a lot of sense.”
Healey said her campaign stop with Michlewitz focused on the neighborhood, not tax relief. “But look, I’m going to continue to talk with leadership, talk with members of the Legislature, making sure that we act and provide relief to families through tax reform, through a variety of measures,” she said.
Healey also would not say whether she would seek to change the 62F law, which distributes tax refunds proportionally to how much a taxpayer paid. Some progressives have called for distributing the money in a way that favors lower income taxpayers. Healey said she would look at that further, but “I think there’s some more immediate things that we need to work on,” including tax relief and any additional items left out of the economic development bill.