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Gov. Maura Healey campaigns for her budget and tax proposals

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey
Jim Levulis
Gov. Maura Healey (D-MA) will be campaigning in the coming weeks for public support for her budget and tax proposals. She said there is a "human story" behind each line item of her proposed $55.5 billion budget.

This was a big week for Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey as she filed a state budget that showcased the Democrat’s priorities for her first year as the state’s chief executive.

On Wednesday, Healey unveiled a $55.5 billion dollar budget that put some flesh on the bare-bones promises she had made as a candidate for governor.

“A budget that meets the moment we’re in,” Healey said. “A budget to build a strong economy, livable communities and a sustainable future for us all.”

Highlights include a free community college program for people over age 25 without college degrees and an almost 25 percent boost in spending on higher education that includes more money for scholarships and tuition stabilization at state colleges and the University of Massachusetts system.

The budget plan would boost spending by 24 percent over this year for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs – the agency at the heart of the state’s efforts to address climate change.

“For the first time ever, one percent of the state’s overall operating budget is dedicated to climate,” Healey said. She said the additional money will go to “decarbonize our buildings” and make the state “the global capital of the clean energy economy.”

“And we’re funding a brand new Office of Environmental Justice and 14 new environmental justice liaisons across the agency to make sure that the very communities that have born of the brunt of climate crisis for too long will guide our transition forward,” Healey said.

With the official filing of the budget document called House 1, a months-long process begins that will see the Legislative branches each make their own budget recommendations.

There are early indications where battle lines might be drawn.

Two days before the budget reveal, Healey announced a tax relief and reform package that could total $1 billion annually. She filed that along with the budget.

Marie-Frances Rivera, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a left-leaning think tank, warned the higher spending won’t be sustainable if some of the proposed tax cuts are enacted.

She said permanent cuts to the estate tax would total $275 million a year while the reduction in the short-term capital gains rate from 12 percent to 5 percent would tally more than $100 million.

“That’s real money we would not be able to invest in future years,” Rivera said.

Those proposed changes to the estate tax and the short-term capital gains tax run counter to the will of the voters, said Andrew Farnitano, the spokesman for the coalition that led the successful referendum campaign last year to create a new surtax on income in excess of $1 million.

“It doesn’t make sense to raise taxes on the top income-earners in the state to make new investments and then immediately turnaround and cut their taxes undermining the state budget, so we are very concerned about that piece of the governor’s budget,” he said.

But Doug Howgate, president of the business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, praised Healey’s tax reform plan. He said the changes would make Massachusetts less of an “outlier” compared to other states.

“I think this takes a strong first step looking at the income and estate side of the equation to at least help with some affordability issues and sand down some of those outliers,” Howgate said.

Healey is hitting the road to sell her budget. On Thursday, she spoke at a Boston Chamber of Commerce forum.

Next Friday, Healey is the scheduled keynote speaker at the Springfield Regional Chamber’s Outlook event.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.