10 a.m. | A Veterans Day celebration will feature a POW/MIA remembrance candle lighting and a performance by the 215th Army Band. It is the Healey administration's first time observing Veterans Day, and the event will bring together officials including Gov. Healey, Lt. Gov. Driscoll, Auditor DiZoglio, and Veterans' Services Secretary Jon Santiago, whose office was elevated to the Cabinet-level through legislation passed last year. Great Hall at Faneuil Hall
The Massachusetts economy’s strong performance in July, August and September took the economists at MassBenchmarks a bit by surprise, but the outlook they shared Thursday for the Massachusetts economy over the next few months was not nearly as rosy and pointed out looming weaknesses in the Bay State economy.
Massachusetts real gross state product (GDP) increased at a 3.8 percent annualized rate in the third quarter, well above MassBenchmarks’ expectation for 0.7 percent growth during that period. The unexpectedly strong growth was driven by “vigorous job creation and robust consumer spending during the summer months,” the editors of MassBenchmarks, which is published by the University of Massachusetts Amherst Donahue Institute in cooperation with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, said.
But in the fourth quarter of 2023 and into the first three months of 2024, the expectation is that economic growth will “slow substantially.” MassBenchmarks predicted a 1.9 percent annualized rate of growth in the fourth quarter and a 0.3 percent growth rate in the first quarter of next year.
A number of indicators point to slower growth, MassBenchmarks said. Income and spending indicators that show up in Massachusetts’s tax revenues “indicate some weakness in the state’s economy relative to the U.S.,” wages and salaries in Massachusetts rose at a 3.5 percent rate in the third quarter compared to 5.6 percent growth nationally, and consumer spending on items that are subject to the state’s sales tax or the motor vehicle sales tax declined substantially in the third quarter. “This is a volatile measure — sales tax revenues can fluctuate substantially from quarter to quarter — but a change of this magnitude is not common,” MassBenchmarks said.
Then, there is the issue of the labor market. With multiple measures of unemployment at or near historic lows, there “appears to be little capacity for squeezing more workers out of the population,” MassBenchmarks said. The number of part-time workers who want full-time work is about 25 percent lower than its pre-pandemic level, and the number of workers marginally attached to the labor force also remains substantially lower than pre-pandemic levels.
Beacon Hill’s budget managers have had an especially difficult time estimating future state tax revenue performance since the pandemic sent things topsy-turvy. Efforts to start constructing the fiscal year 2025 budget — which will run from July 1, 2024 through June 30, 2025 — get underway in earnest in the coming weeks with the annual consensus revenue hearing, usually held in early December. — Colin A. Young
State surpassed self-imposed shelter-bed cap with no solution in sight
An influx of 37 new families into the state’s emergency shelter system Thursday pushed the total enrollment past what Gov. Maura Healey has said is a limit of 7,500 families. Despite a state law that establishes housing as a right, lawmakers have yet to figure out how to accommodate the new arrivals. The Healey administration already has engaged United Way of Massachusetts Bay to use federal money to find new sites. Lawmakers have explored setting up an overflow shelter but have reached no consensus. — State House News Service
Cannabis Control Commission fuzzy on leadership
Shannon O’Brien’s indefinite suspension, by state Treasurer Deb Goldberg, as chair of the state’s Cannabis Control Commission has left the commission’s four other members unsettled as to who’s in charge, CommonWealth Beacon magazine reports. Technically, the interim chair is Ava Callender Concepcion, who on Thursday had her tenure extended until Dec. 15 via a 3-to-1 vote. At least one commissioner wants Concepcion to get the job long-term. Two others seem less convinced and appear to wonder whether the role is appropriately filled by the current secretary. One of those two, Kimberley Roy, is the secretary. — CommonWealth Beacon
Healey administration wants review of whether psychedelic drugs would help some veterans
In a speech just a day before the state observes Veterans Day, Gov. Maura Healey announced a plan to investigate whether psychedelic drugs could help with some veterans’ medical care. The Healey administration is pursuing legislation that would include 17 increases in spending or changes in policy that she said would benefit veterans. One facet would be creation of a group that, according to the Boston Herald, Healey’s office stated would weigh “(the) health benefits of psychedelics as treatment for veterans suffering from physical or mental health disorders related to their service. — Boston Herald
A month after Hamas attacks in Israel and opposing campus responses, Harvard remains on edge
Harvard University remains a tense place one month after Hamas invaded Israel and students protested both the attack and Israel’s response. WBUR reports that Harvard Law School students have had job offers rescinded because of pro-Palestinian stances they shared and some students report their families are nervous about the new climate. Harvard’s Hillel House, which serves mostly Jewish students, is protected by police now. And Harvard Yard has been closed to the public at times. The lengthy article explores other issues facing college administrators during a time when some donors have pulled donations or threatened to pull them due to perceived anti-Israel stances by senior school leaders. — WBUR
T says action plan will end slow zones by 2025
MBTA General Manager Phil Eng unveiled a plan to end slow zones on all four of its subway lines by the end of next year, saying the “short-term pain” of as many as 188 days’ worth of partial shutdowns during the rest of 2023 and all of 2024 will lead to “long-term wins.” Nearly one-fourth of all T lines are currently under go-slow restrictions. — WBUR
Andover schools closed after Andover teachers vote to strike
After nine months of contentious negotiations, the union representing teachers in Andover voted to go on strike on Thursday night and teachers plan to rally support outside schools already closed today for Veterans Day. Town officials are asking state labor officials to step in and are holding out hope for a deal to be struck before classes resume on Monday. — Eagle-Tribune
Berkshire towns mull how to spend GE settlement cash
Cities and towns impacted by pollution from a former GE facility in Pittsfield are starting to receive payouts from the company’s settlement with the EPA and the Berkshire Eagle reports most communities already have plans in place for how to spend the windfalls, which top $20 million in some communities. — Berkshire Eagle
She’s back: Stein says she’ll seek Green party nomination again
This announcement should come with a trigger warning for some: Jill Stein, the Lexington resident whose 2016 third-party run is credited with helping tip the contest to Donald Trump, announced Thursday she would seek again to become the presidential nominee for the Green Party, which has already secured 2024 ballot access in 17 states. — Washington Post
Where’s Maura? Governor will now not make her out-of-state plans public in advance
Gov. Maura Healey is ending a practice she and years of predecessors followed: making her out-of-state travel plans public in advance of trips. The governor’s office disclosed the new policy when State House News Service discovered a Healey trip to North Carolina in routine State Ethics Commission filings and asked for details and about reporting. A spokeswoman for the governor said: “Due to security concerns, we will not be advising the Governor’s travel in advance.” The governor’s office said it will include out-of-state travel in reports issued after the end of each month. — State House News Service
The brothel beat: Will Feds name clientele of sex ring?
After three people were charged with operating a sex ring in Cambridge and Watertown (and the Washington, DC suburbs), the question lingers whether hundreds of men who were customers of the operation will be named and face charges. “Among that group, federal authorities have said, are elected officials, military officers, business executives, lawyers, doctors, and government contractors with security clearances,” the Boston Globe reports. — Boston Globe
Weekend political talkshows
Keller@Large, Sunday, 8:30 a.m., WBZ-TV. Political analyst Jon Keller’s guest is Jon Hurst, President of the Retailers Association of Mass., discusses the local retail economy during 2023, impact of taxes and inflation, and the need for new anti-theft legislation.
At Issue, Sunday at 11:30 a.m. NBC10 Boston and 12 pm, 2:30 pm & 5 pm on NECN. Boston City Councilors-elect Ben Weber and Henry Santana talk about their election and hopes for the next council. A re-cap of the 3rd Republican Presidential Primary debate. And Jon Santiago, Secretary of the Executive Office of Veterans Services, talks about his efforts to honor and serve veterans in the Bay State. Hosts: Cory Smith and Sue O’Connell