Mariano Says Tax Relief “Situation Has Changed”

House Speaker Ronald Mariano remained non-committal Wednesday when asked about the prospects for tax relief this session, saying that things have changed since he and Senate President Karen Spilka agreed in July to a $1 billion package of permanent tax code changes and immediate relief measures.

Mariano said last month that he wanted to see what came out of the Jan. 24 revenue outlook hearing before making decisions about tax relief in the new session. After that hearing, the Legislature and Healey administration agreed to the assumption that state tax revenues will hold at their significantly elevated levels and even grow by a modest 1.6 percent. The fiscal 2024 revenue estimate of $40.41 billion is more than $10 billion above the estimate top officials agreed to for fiscal year 2022.

Asked for his latest thinking on tax relief Wednesday, Mariano said he’d have to talk to the yet-to-be-appointed chair of the Revenue Committee and mentioned having “some hearings.”

The House and Senate last summer agreed to a $1 billion tax reform and relief plan, but later tabled it after a mostly-forgotten state law triggered nearly $3 billion in other one-time tax relief. Spilka and Gov. Maura Healey have both said they are interested in resurrecting at least parts of that plan in the new session, but Beacon Hill leaders have not offered a new plan.

Mariano said Wednesday that it was “the uncertainty going forward that that made me reluctant to push forward” with last year’s agreement, and suggested that he’d rather start anew this time around.

“It’s a new session. We have a higher inflation rate, the revenue numbers are down, the economy has slowed a little bit. So it’s not the same situation as it was a year ago,” he said. While the projected rate of growth for state revenue next year is lower than in previous years, state revenues continue to grow and are ahead of expectation for the current budget year.

In July, Mariano and Spilka said their proposal was meant to “represent the Legislature’s commitment to delivering immediate financial relief directly to residents of the Commonwealth.” “Whether it is the rising price of gas, groceries, or summer clothes for kids, the Massachusetts Legislature has heard loud and clear that increased costs due to inflation have cut into family budgets,” the legislative leaders said in a July 7 joint statement.

Asked Wednesday whether the need for that agreed-to relief still existed, Mariano did not directly answer.

“Well, I think the situation has changed,” he said. “And we have to be a more vigilant supervisor of the Treasury. So, I do think that we’ll go sit down with the chairman of Ways and Means and look at the numbers and what we have in reserves and make some decisions.” – Colin A. Young/SHNS | 2/1/23 1:38 PM

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