Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Representative Todd Smola Discusses Municipal Concerns Surrounding Public Records Reform

Representative Todd Smola (R-Warren), the Ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, spoke with WWLP-TV State House Correspondent Tiffany Chan yesterday about the concerns that his local town clerks have expressed to him about the costs associated with implementing proposed reforms to the state’s public records law.  The report is posted below, along with the news segment that aired last night. 

State lawmakers could revisit the decades-old public records law when they return from August recess. Municipal leaders fear a new law will create more work for city and town clerks.

“Just about every one of my town clerks has reached out to me with concerns,” said State Representative Todd Smola (R-Warren).

House lawmakers want to overhaul the state’s public records law to improve government transparency. The proposal would require city and town clerks to fulfill public records requests within fifteen days. Costly fines are attached if they don’t comply. Some state lawmakers worry a new law will drain resources from smaller communities.

“Particularly in western Massachusetts, when you look at municipalities that only have a few hundred or a few thousand people there, they don’t have a nine to five operation Monday through Friday,” added Rep. Smola.

Public records legislation was expected to come up for a vote in the House last month, but lawmakers put it off after cities and towns expressed major concerns. One state lawmaker believes updating the public records law is a good idea as long as there’s a financial backing.

“This is going to cost money. You know, the staff and the various clerks’ offices are going to have to do more and obviously that requires money. So, if we do in fact move forward on this, we need to make sure that it’s funded,” said Westfield Democrat John Velis.

State lawmakers have not updated the public records law in almost forty years. A special legislative committee is working with cities and towns to reach a compromise.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

House Minority Leader Brad Jones Discusses Upcoming Fall Legislative Agenda with WWLP

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) discussed the upcoming fall legislative agenda with WWLP-TV State House Correspondent Tiffany Chan in a segment that aired Monday night.  Tiffany’s report is posted below, along with the video.

The State House and Senate met for an informal session on Monday. That’s when lawmakers take up mostly local, non-controversial bills.

State lawmakers have been off Beacon Hill for the past few weeks for August recess. It’s a month when they can focus on constituent issues, draft legislation and spend time off with their families.

Some state lawmakers have stopped by the building to meet with advocacy groups and to pick up their mail, but 22News hasn’t seen many lawmakers from western Massachusetts. When the full House and Senate return to Beacon Hill in September, updating the state’s decades-old public records law could be the first issue on the agenda.

It may have been a quiet month at the State House, but House Minority Leader Brad Jones explains why that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “I think you can make a fair argument that maybe we shouldn’t be judged so much on the quantity of laws you pass, as opposed to the quality of laws that you pass. Some people would also argue that passing less laws is actually a good thing.”

House and Senate leaders have yet to schedule a formal session for the month of September.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Representative Brad Hill Calls for Review of Tuition and Fee Hikes at UMass Campuses

Assistant House Minority Leader Brad Hill (R-Ipswich) spoke with WWLP Channel 22’s Tiffany Chan yesterday about the need to revisit tuition and fee increases at the University of Massachusetts.  The report is posted below, along with the segment that aired last night.

It’s getting more expensive for people to attend the University of Massachusetts. Students will see their tuition and fees go up by five percent this upcoming school year. 22News found a few state lawmakers who are concerned by all of these expenses.

“It’s another potential economic crisis that, left unchecked, is going to effect a lot of young people for a very long time,” said Peru Democrat Paul Mark.

The UMass Board of Trustees approved the tuition and fee hike before the state finalized its spending plan. In July, Governor Charlie Baker signed a state budget into law that includes nearly $532 million dollars in funding for the UMass system. That’s $20 million dollars more than the previous year.

Senate President Stan Rosenberg sent a letter to UMass President Marty Meehan urging him to reconsider the student fee increase now that the university is getting more money. Rosenberg told 22News, “even if you have to wait until the second semester, try to plan some kind of a reduction because these charges are really just breaking the backs of kids.”

Ipswich Republican Brad Hill believes repealing the tuition hike makes sense because UMass is receiving more funding than they expected. He said, “we need to take another look at the fees that were increased because clearly in the view on many here on Beacon Hill, they should not have been increased.”

There are 22,000 undergraduates at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Representative Angelo D'Emilia: No to Proposed Tax Increase on State's Top Earners

Representative Angelo D’Emilia (R-Bridgewater) wrote the attached column for the Boston Globe regarding the “millionaire tax” ballot question proposed for the 2018 state election. This column ran in the Globe South edition on Sunday.

Special interest groups and their supporters have once again started the drumbeat for higher taxes. This time they are trying to rally people to their cause with some good old-fashioned class warfare as they are proposing to get rid of Massachusetts’ current tax system, replacing it with a progressive tax structure. Voters soundly rejected this idea by a 2-1 margin the last time it was proposed, and I hope that they will see through the propaganda and vote it down again.

Of course, the people who support a progressive income tax say that this tax will only affect the rich. However, these same special interest groups have already supported increases to the current income tax on every taxpayer, the gas tax, and the sales tax, which disproportionally targets low-income taxpayers. Their goal isn’t tax fairness or to close the wealth gap. Their real goal is the same as it’s always been: to increase taxes on all taxpayers and to fund more and more government spending. If we amend the Massachusetts Constitution to allow for a progressive income tax, we will be making it easy to increase the taxes on everyone, one tax bracket at a time.

Here in Massachusetts, we are leaders in science and technology, with a highly educated workforce. However, if this tax increase is passed, there will be a significant drag on our economy, which will have an impact on ALL citizens. In our increasingly global economy, the high-paying jobs that still exist in Massachusetts can easily be relocated to other states or countries. All one has to do is look at our neighbor, Rhode Island. It has a progressive income tax that at one time topped out at 9.9 percent. But the state in 2011 lowered its marginal tax rate to 5.99 percent, which makes it more attractive to businesses with high-earning employees..

I agree with Governor Baker when he stated that we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. According to the Tax Foundation, the average taxpayer in Massachusetts works until April 29 just to pay their taxes, later than in all but four other states. At the same time, we had the highest per capita state debt burden in the country as of fiscal 2012. We need to control spending and reform government in Massachusetts. We do not need to raise taxes and continue to saddle our future generations with debt.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Representative Brad Hill Discusses Sales Tax Holiday, Cell Phones with WWLP's Tiffany Chan

Assistant Minority Leader Brad Hill (R-Ipswich) was interviewed yesterday by WWLP Channel 22 reporter Tiffany Chan regarding the upcoming sales tax holiday and the ongoing efforts by members of the House Republican Caucus to pass legislation changing the way cell phones sales are taxed in Massachusetts. The report is posted below, along with the segment that aired last night. 

People rarely have to pay full-price on a cell phone nowadays, but you could be spending more money than you realize. The state sales tax is calculated based on the original price of the cell phone, not the discounted rate you may receive from your carrier. That could soon change. 

There’s a bill moving through the State House that would place the sales tax on the final price you pay for a cell phone. And if you’re thinking about replacing your mobile phone, this weekend could be the best time to buy a new one. 

The sales tax holiday is this weekend, on August fifteenth and sixteenth. You won’t have to pay the state sales tax on a new cell phone as long as it’s for personal use. State Representative Brad Hill of Ipswich told 22News “I’m urging people to go out and buy a cell phone so you don’t have to pay that tax, and you don’t have to pay the full tax on the cell phone price. This is the time to do it.” 

There are a number of items that are still subject to tax, however, such as cigarettes, cars, motorboats, gasoline, and items costing more than $2,500.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Representative Kevin Kuros Weighs in on Proposed 'Millionaire Tax' Ballot Question

Attached below is a copy of a column by Representative Kevin Kuros (R-Uxbridge) regarding the proposed “millionaire tax” ballot question. This column ran in the Globe West edition of the Boston Globe on Sunday.

While it’s no laughing matter, attempts to implement a Massachusetts graduated income tax feel like the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day.’’ In the movie, Murray’s character is trapped in a time warp, doomed to relive the same day over and over. Similarly, in 2018 voters may once again have to relive efforts to change the state Constitution to allow a progressive income tax rate.

Article 44 requires taxes “be levied at a uniform rate throughout the Commonwealth upon incomes derived from the same class of property.” Clearly, the Constitution’s framers understood a uniform tax rate means those earning more pay correspondingly more. Taxing at higher rates punishes success while doing little to help the less fortunate.

Proponents want to “modernize” the Constitution and implement a progressive tax on those earning over $1 million annually. I contend the Constitution has it correct, for several reasons:

First, $1 million is an arbitrary number requiring regular updating to reflect inflation. Presently, it is about 30 times the per capita average. In 1780 when per capita income was $400, the cap would’ve been $12,000. How often would we have had to amend our Constitution to “modernize” it since then?

Second, not all income is created equally. Many small-business owners operate as a sole proprietorship or as an S-corporation. From a tax perspective, their business revenue looks like income, so an owner with $2 million in revenue and $1.95 million in expenses would be taxed at the higher rate despite profiting only $50,000. This is inequitable to small-business owners, who create two out of every three jobs in Massachusetts.

Finally, if the objective is to close an income inequality gap, let’s consider the earned income tax credit. The fiscal 2016 budget increases the Massachusetts credit from 15 to 23 percent of the federal credit, allowing 400,000 qualifying residents an annual credit of up to $1,412. This has an immediate impact on reducing income inequality, can be easily updated by the Legislature, and doesn’t require a constitutional amendment.

Voters rejected previous graduated tax efforts in 1962, 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1994. I trust that groundhog day will repeat at the polls in 2018.