Keller at Large
Keller: The GOP’s Botched Gas Tax Uprising
On this week’s Keller at Large, Jon Keller takes a hard look at the recent GOP push to suspend the state’s gas tax amid rising costs at the pump. Keller’s take: “This episode doesn’t speak well of the GOP’s ability to capitalize on what should have been a platinum political opportunity.”
Today | Mass. Gaming Commission is due to report February gaming revenues and the state’s tax haul.
10 a.m. | Feed Kids Coalition hosts a legislative briefing to discuss federal child nutrition waivers for school meals that are set to expire at the end of the school year.
11 a.m. | Seal and Motto of the Commonwealth Commission meets.
1 p.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is a guest on GBH News’ Boston Public Radio for an “Ask the Mayor” segment.
1 p.m. | Lawmakers wade into education and local aid levels in Gov. Baker’s $48.5 billion fiscal 2023 state budget at the latest in a series of Ways and Means Committee hearings.
2 p.m. | Gov. Charlie Baker visits Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester to announce new healthcare legislation “to strengthen the commonwealth’s health care system by increasing access to care and controlling costs for Massachusetts families,” according to a media advisory.
6 p.m. | MBTA hosts virtual public meeting to receive feedback on a suite of changes to how the transit agency administers and collects fares.
Gov. Charlie Baker returned to work after a week in Utah on Monday and came back to Beacon Hill to find everyone talking about tax relief. The new buzzword has taken hold as the cost of everything, but particularly gas, continues to skyrocket.
But after Baker met with Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano privately at the State House, the leaders provided little clarity on what, if anything, might be under consideration to save people money in the short term.
It seemed abundantly clear that a temporary or indefinite suspension of the state’s 24-cent gas tax is no longer up for debate.
Baker continues to push his $700 million tax relief plan — which focuses on estate and short-term capital gains taxes, property tax credits for seniors, deductions for rent payments, and tax breaks for families with children. But even if it were approved in the Legislature, that relief might not be felt for months, or e
Mariano has signaled support for looking at reforms to the estate tax and proposals that could benefit renters, while Spilka has pointed to an energy bill she hopes to debate in April that she has hinted could include incentives to buy electric cars.
“There are other ways we that can look at and give relief,” Spilka said.
Asked if he had a timeline for House consideration of tax relief ideas, Mariano said, “We have no timeline, per se.”
“I think there’s a lot of issues you just mentioned that we have to be cognizant of when they go into effect, what impact they’ll have on families’ immediate budget, a lot of different things,” he said.
But there just may be limitations to what state government can do in the short-term.
Healey’s campaign leading with few specifics
Attorney General Maura Healey is widely viewed as the frontrunner in the Massachusetts race for governor this year. But her campaign, as Boston Globe’s Matt Stout reports, has been short on specifics.
More from Stout: “Appearing at a Worcester Democratic caucus early this month, Healey emphasized the importance of investing in mental health and child care — with little specificity of how — during an almost breathless 90-second stump speech; hers was the only statewide candidate address not to test timekeepers’ two-minute limit. It’s in that void, [Sen. Sonia] Chang-Díaz and her supporters argue, where the Jamaica Plain Democrat has an opening.”
Lower Neponset River designated federal Superfund site
Federal officials placed the Lower Neponset River on a national list of areas deemed to be some of the most polluted places in the country. WBUR’s Hannah Chanatry reports the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated the 3.7 mile stretch a federal Superfund site.
Package stores want to increase alcohol license cap
Package store owners are looking for a compromise and a way to avoid a costly ballot fight. Eagle-Tribune’s Christian M. Wade reports the owners are urging the Legislature to pass a bill that would slowly increase the number alcohol licenses a single company can own. It would keep a cap in place, though, which the liquor stores see as essential to their survival in the face of competition from large chains and food stores
More from Wade: “The proposal offered by package store owners would set a new cap on how many total licenses can be issued to each business at seven, tighten limits on the sale of liquor and spirits, enhance ID requirements for sellers and increase penalties for businesses caught selling alcohol to minors.”
The bill mirrors a ballot question that MassPAC is pushing to put before voters in November if the Legislature doesn’t act, but the proposal is opposed by Retailers Association of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Food Association, Whole Foods, Cumberland Farms, Total Wine & More, and others.
Lawmakers want Walsh approach to labor disputes investigated
Two Republican members of Congress have asked the Department of Labor’s inspector general to investigate Labor Secretary Marty Walsh’s involvement in recent worker-employee disputes, saying Walsh may have undermined the department’s neutrality when he recently joined striking Kellogg’s workers on the picket line, Paige Smith of Bloomberg Law reports.
Meanwhile, Walsh himself spent some quality time with the world’s richest man, joining Tesla CEO Elon Musk for a tour of his soon-to-open Gigafactory Texas, Mike Allen of Axios reports.
Councilors balk at Wu’s protest restrictions
Some members of the Boston City Council say they can’t support Mayor Michelle Wu’s proposed restriction on protests outside private residences because of concerns about uneven enforcement and unintended impacts that may fall more heavily on the city’s minority populations. Universal Hub’s Adam Gaffin has the details.
Boston companies sign onto letter opposing Texas push for transgender care penalties
A handful of Boston-based businesses are wading into Texas politics. Boston Business Journal’s Steph Solis reports three Boston organizations signed onto a letter urging Gov. Greg Abbott to back off an effort that would put in place criminal penalties for parents who help their transgender children receive gender-affirming care. The companies are Akamai Technologies, State Street Crop., and Trillium Asset Management.
On the hook? Federal funds could be clawed back from Worcester schools
The city of Worcester could be forced to repay $1.45 million in federal aid funneled to local schools to help them handle an influx of students displaced by hurricanes back in 2017 after an audit found a portion of the aid was misspent or mismanaged. Jeff Chamer of the Telegram reports the audit argues that the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education should have helped local districts account for the funds more accurately.
Weymouth proposes larger school budget for 2023
Weymouth school officials are looking to increase spending in fiscal year 2023, a move that could add 130 more full-time employees. Patriot Ledger’s Jessica Trufant reports the proposed 3.9 percent increase in yearly spending will be considered at a March 24 meeting.
Island hospital says housing keeping workers at bay
The CEO of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital says 19 people have recently turned down job offers, including two medical doctors, because they could not find affordable housing on the island. The problem has reached crisis proportions, the hospital warns, with 100 of the 400 positions at the facility unfilled, George Brennan of the Martha’s Vineyard Times reports.
UMass Amherst adds pedestrian safety measures after student death
After a University of Massachusetts Amherst student was hit by a car last month and died, the university added additional safety features on campus. MassLive’s Will Katcher reports the institution put in protective barriers for pedestrians and reduced the speed limit. UMass freshman Elena Lucore was crossing Massachusetts Avenue on Feb. 22 when another student hit her. She was later pronounced dead.
Correction & Clarifications
In yesterday’s edition, we really miscounted. Our item on a report that put a price tag on a Long Island recovery campus misstated the cost. The report prices a new 500-bed campus at $540 million, not billion.
With the mask mandate lifted, Boston restaurants look ahead – WBUR
Allston mixed-use project to include mostly affordable housing – Boston Business Journal
Senate President Karen Spilka vows to ‘fight like hell’ for President Biden’s unity agenda, including for mental health reform – MassLive
‘Checking a box’ on diversity? Worcester advisory committee suspends work out of frustration with city leadership – Telegram & Gazette
Lawmakers reject to-go cocktails in New York, at least for now – Gothamist
Democrats unveil plan to issue quarterly checks to Americans by taxing oil companies posting huge profits – Business Insider
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