Budget Overrides And Luring Amazon: The Week Ahead On Beacon Hill

Sep 25, 2017

Massachusetts politicians are getting involved in the sweepstakes surrounding Amazon's hunt for a second headquarters. That long-term goal comes as the state receives some good short-term news on tax collections.

State House News Service Reporter Katie Lannan says the budget work is a main agenda item as lawmakers get back to work.

Katie Lannan, State House News Service: The governor cut a total of $320 million from this year’s budget when he signed it in July. House lawmakers are seeking to restore $275 million in spending. So there is still more spending that the House might want to look at putting back in.

Originally, Speaker Robert DeLeo had said he wanted to start with statewide priorities. But certainly many lawmakers have local priorities -- local organizations, municipalities that lean on them pretty heavily to say, 'Hey, we’re not gonna be able to do it. We need a little bit more help from the state on this.' So we can expect to see some of those come up this week.

NEPR’s Carrie Healy: The timing of that -- is it likely that lawmakers could be a little buoyed by the mid-month report from the Department of Revenue last week that showed a 13.9 percent increase in tax collections this month so far -- which is a pivotal tax collection month -- over last year?

Sure, September is a, as you say, a significant month for tax collections, and the mid-month reports look pretty good. It’s always hard to say, because the first two weeks of the month and the last two weeks of the month don’t always mirror each other.

But certainly, after some months of sluggish revenue growth, people could find reason to be a little optimistic with those numbers. Whether that pattern holds is really anyone’s call this early in the fiscal year, which began in July. We have most of the year ahead of us.

Transportation infrastructure was on many minds last week, including gubernatorial candidate Setti Warren, as well as the former public officials who penned the editorial in CommonWealth Magazine.

All those plans want to essentially lure Amazon to the Bay State, and then build out either high-speed rail to Worcester, in the case of Warren, or put Amazon headquarters at Suffolk Downs and then beef up the subway. So I imagine there’s going to be more infrastructure strategizing this week, because the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation is holding a forum about rethinking resources

Sure, I mean, transportation infrastructure is always kind of front and center in a lot of people’s minds, particularly people who commute. And we do have the question of Amazon, and wherever they hope to take their massive undertaking of building a second headquarters, they’re going to want their workers to be able to get to and from that office.

As you said, gubernatorial candidate Setti Warren -- the mayor of Newton -- he’s pitching to see Amazon come to Worcester, and part of his proposal there is that we would need high-speed rail crossing the state east to west -- which I know, out in western Mass., State Senator Eric Lesser has been a major proponent of that; Senate President Stan Rosenberg is a big supporter as well.

And we expect to see the Senate release a report this week as well, outlining their ideas for the state’s transportation future. So there’s a lot to talk about there.

And all this among more talk that emissions need to be further reduced.

There has been a lot of focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in electricity, but the transportation sector is a major contributor to that, and we’ve got more and more calls coming to move towards electric vehicles and other clean modes of transit.

Listen to The Week Ahead every Monday morning on New England Public Radio.