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Council in the News

Some options for Massachusetts lawmakers seeking ‘fairer’ 62F tax rebate law amid legal threats

By Erin Tiernan        May 3, 2023 

House Speaker Mariano

Gov. Maura Healey returns from her second trip to Washington this week, where she spoke at the SelectUSA Investment Summit.

Noon | Higher Ed for All Coalition lobby for the so-called CHERISH Act (S 816 / H 1260) and Debt-Free Bill (S 823 / H 1265), calling for debt-free public higher education, increased student supports, better wages and working conditions for educators, and green buildings. State House steps.

Noon | Congressman Jim McGovern announces over $2 million in federal funding to renovate and preserve Jones Library in Amherst. | 43 Amity St., Amherst

4:30 p.m. | Gov. Maura Healey speaks at the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation Annual Meeting.

The Legislature, sensing it could lose a legal battle, has options to unravel a controversial tax rebate law.

A House plan to dole out equal rebates under Chapter 62F is under fire, deemed “unconstitutional” by business groups in a recent letter to Democratic leaders.

But lawmakers have other mechanisms at the ready that could keep them out of the courtroom.

Several bills filed this session would repeal 62F entirely (H2744S1797). Another would establish a commission to study 62F (HD4119). Both options would not violate the state constitution, Elizabeth Mahoney, vice president of policy and government affairs for the Massachusetts High Technology Council told MASSterList.

The House could also opt to change the formula that caps the allowable state tax growth to make it more or less likely that 62F would be triggered.

The High Tech Council — the same business group behind a successful lawsuit that derailed a 2018 attempt to pass the millionaire tax voters just approved last year — would oppose any change made “without public debate,” Mahoney said.

Lawyers say the current House plan effectively creates different tax rates in violation of the flat income tax rate spelled out in the state Constitution. 

Budget watchdog Doug Howgate of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation said it’s becoming “increasingly unlikely” 62F will even be triggered this year as collections have slimmed, but told MASSterList that “the jury is still out.”

The 1986 voter-approved referendum mandates refunds when tax revenue collections exceed an allowable threshold tied to wage and salary growth.

The House’s 62F shakeup is an attempt to make refunds “fairer” in a state facing an affordability crisis, Speaker Ronald Mariano told reporters following its approval by members in its annual budget. Recent studies name Massachusetts as the third most expensive state to live in.

The proposed change still needs agreement from the Senate and a signature from Gov. Maura Healey to take effect.

It’s something opponents are trying to avoid altogether.

“We hope the Senate understands the constitutional concern and does not include this provision in any bill that they do,” Mahoney said, noting that was the goal of the council’s warning letter.

A Senate Ways and Means Committee spokesman said Wednesday the annual budget release and a tax relief bill would come “soon” but declined to lock down a timeline.

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MASSterList editor Erin Tiernan is an award-winning reporter who brings a decade’s worth of experience covering state and local politics from the halls of the State House to city streets. Her work can be found in The Boston Herald, The Patriot Ledger, MassLive and Wicked Local. She was the New England Newspaper and Press Association’s 2019 Reporter of the Year.

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