Baker Signs $40B Budget Without Health Fee, Vetoes $320M

By Bob Salsberg

“But the governor’s approach was supported by major business groups including the Massachusetts High Technology Council, which had agreed to the assessment only on the condition that the other Medicaid changes were included.”

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed $320 million from the state budget on Monday and asked lawmakers to revisit a package of cost-saving reforms he proposed to the state’s Medicaid program.

More than two weeks into the state’s new fiscal year, Baker signed into law the remainder of the roughly $40 billion spending package. Massachusetts was one of the last U.S. states to have a budget in place and had been operating under a stopgap plan since July 1.

Budget negotiations had been clouded by a tax revenue shortfall that forced state officials to reduce spending in the just completed fiscal year and reevaluate how much it could afford to spend over the next 12 months. Continue reading

Baker Gives Legislature Summer Assignment: MassHealth Reform

By Matt Murphy

“Massachusetts High Technology Council President Chris Anderson said his organization’s support for the assessment deal negotiated with Baker “has always been absolutely conditioned on the adoption of reforms to MassHealth that are sufficient to put the program on sustainable financial footing AND an ironclad commitment to sunset the assessment no later than the end of 2019.”

“Until such reforms are adopted, the Council cannot and will not support an employer assessment,” Anderson said in a statement.”

Gov. Charlie Baker gave the Legislature a new deadline on Monday, calling on them to approve by mid-September a $350 million package of new employer health care assessments and MassHealth reforms required to balance the annual state budget.

Baker signed a $39.4 billion budget for fiscal 2018 that lowered tax revenue assumptions for the year by $749 million and made $320 million in spending vetoes that will be examined and reviewed by House leaders and Rep. Jeff Sanchez, the new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

The governor also returned sections of the budget that would have allowed the administration to levy new fees and fines on employers to help pay for rising Medicaid costs. Instead, Baker wants to see the assessments, which he first proposed, coupled with reforms to MassHealth eligibility. Continue reading

Baker Signs 2018 Budget, but Vetoes $320m in Spending

By Jim O’Sullivan and Priyanka Dayal McCluskey

“Chris Anderson, president of the Mass. High Technology Council, said there was “no policy or public expenditure issue . . . that will have greater impact on the Commonwealth’s immediate and long-term economic health and fiscal stability than the Legislature’s prompt and favorable adoption of the package of MassHealth reforms.””

Governor Charlie Baker on Monday signed a $39.43 billion budget but urged lawmakers to revisit his proposals to rein in the growth of state health care spending as part of a new fee on businesses.

Legislators had passed a $200 million health care fee at Baker’s request but so far have rejected his calls to curb MassHealth spending — prompting complaints from the business community, which does not want to bear the costs of a new fee without promised changes to the program.

So Baker wants the Legislature to go back to work. Continue reading

Editorial: Baker Shows Way on Health Reform

By Herald Staff

The Baker administration has thrown the Legislature — and the taxpayers — a lifeline when it comes to dealing with rising Medicaid costs — which account for nearly 40 percent of the state budget. Lawmakers should grab it.

To do so — especially with the uncertainty in Washington, D.C., on health care these days — the administration has gone to the Way-Back Machine, returning to the concepts and efficiencies the state was able to implement under Romneycare back in 2006. Yes, before Obama- care chewed up a perfectly good system that had managed to insure 97.8 percent of the state’s population.

So now Gov. Charlie Baker, who knows a little something about the business of health insurance himself, is proposing a way out of a more than $300 million budget hole created by mounting costs of the $16.6 billion MassHealth program. Continue reading

An 80 Percent Tax Surcharge on Millionaires? Don’t Fall For It, Voters

By Jeff Jacoby

Massachusetts voters have made some reckless choices over the years (two words: Barney Frank), but on the subject of income taxes their judgment has been consistently prudent and restrained.

In 2000, for example, the voters approved a ballot initiative reducing the income tax rate from 5.75 percent to 5 percent; but in 2002 and 2008 they defeated measures that would have wiped out the income tax altogether. In 1998, voters overwhelmingly said Yes to taxing dividends and interest at the same rate as ordinary income. During a recession in 1990, on the other hand, they firmly said No to a sharp rollback in state taxes and fees. Continue reading

Baker Offers Budget Conferees $315 Million Health Care Plan

By Matt Murphy

Employers would be counted on to pay $200 million more a year over the next two years to help pay for rising expenses in the state’s $16.6 billion Medicaid program under a plan the Baker administration presented to the Legislature Tuesday to balance next year’s budget.

The plan, a sweeping package of insurance reforms and temporary assessments, calls for a two-tiered assessment on companies, with the bulk of the burden falling on employers with non-disabled workers who enroll in MassHealth.

The new strategy deviates from the $2,000 assessment on certain employers that Gov. Charlie Baker proposed in his budget in January, a plan that sought to raise $300 million. Business groups and lawmakers raised concerns over the governor’s plan, but the House and Senate deferred to the administration in their budgets, essentially signaling to Baker to work with the industry to come up with a compromise. Continue reading

Gov. Baker Revamps Health Insurance Business Fee Proposal

By Matt Stout

Gov. Charlie Baker is scrapping his controversial plan for a new $2,000 per-employee fee on businesses that don’t offer health insurance in favor of a new proposal his aides say would instead hike existing fees and could generate $200 million.

The new plan is part of a package of legislative changes Baker filed today with the legislature’s budget committees that could, in total, generate $314 million in savings or new revenue next fiscal year, according to his office.

It comes months after he first floated in his budget proposal a plan to hit employers who don’t offer health coverage with a $2,000 per-employee assessment, a move that was intended to help rein in growing MassHealth costs and drum up $300 million in revenue. Continue reading

Baker Scales Back Plan for Health Care Fee on Employers

By Priyanka Dayal McCluskey and Jon Chesto

“There are lots of priorities in state government [and] providing health insurance to people is certainly an important one,” said Mark Gallagher, executive vice president at the Massachusetts High Technology Council. “As a program starts to creep up to 40 percent of the state budget, it starts to become the one and only priority of state government, and everything else is pushed far down the priority list.”

Governor Charlie Baker initially proposed a $300 million new fee that would have charged businesses $2,000 per worker to help pay the costs of MassHealth, the state Medicaid program.

Governor Charlie Baker’s push to compel businesses to cover more of the state’s ever-rising health care costs gained momentum Tuesday after his administration scaled back a controversial plan that had angered business leaders. Continue reading

Tech Industry Group Hires Law Firm to Challenge ‘Millionaire’s Tax’

By Greg Ryan

Mark Gallagher, an executive vice president at the tech council, told the Business Journal that while the legal arguments against the law are still being worked out, opponents would likely contend that amendments to the state constitution cannot set aside funding for specific uses.

The Massachusetts High Technology Council, one of the most vocal opponents of the proposed so-called “millionaires’ tax,” has hired the law firm Goodwin to work on a potential lawsuit that would seek to kill the proposal before it heads to voters next year.

The proposal, championed by the union-backed group Raise Up Massachusetts, would raise the income tax on residents who make over $1 million by 4 percentage points. Its backers landed a victory Wednesday when lawmakers on Beacon Hill overwhelmingly supported the measure, a vote that will put the proposal before Bay State voters as a ballot question in November 2018, barring a successful court challenge. Continue reading

Let’s Not Leave Paid Family Leave Up to a Ballot Initiative

By Shirley Leung

There is little common ground between supporters and opponents of paid family leave legislation, but this much they agree on: We can’t do this by ballot petition.

That’s because voter initiatives can be a messy way to create law. For proof, look no further than how we legalized recreational marijuana.

So my advice to advocates of the bills backing paid family leave and business groups that oppose them: Get together, roll up your sleeves, and work out your differences. It’s time to implement legislation that mandates employers offer paid leave for workers who must take time off for medical reasons or take care of a new child or ill family member. Continue reading