January 4, 2017

Top of the Hill: 7 of the biggest issues on tap for State House lawmakers

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Wikimedia Commons/Hsin Ju HSU

Massachusetts State House

From State House News Service

The 2017-2018 Massachusetts legislative session, which gets underway Wednesday on Beacon Hill, is an important one for the commonwealth, replete with a number of pivotal and ongoing issues that promise to have long-ranging financial, and in many cases social, impacts on residents.

With a little help from our friends at State House News Service, have a quick-hit look at synopses of our top 7 stories to watch or scroll down for more in-depth background and analysis on each subject.

  1. HEALTH CARE: Total healthcare expenditures have outpaced the state’s economic growth rate for two straight years, a significant portion of the state’s population remains uninsured despite a mandatory health insurance law, and rising premiums and access to care, including oral care, are issues for many patients.
  2. ENERGY: Diversification, costs and reliability remain the legs of the state’s three-legged energy policy stool. Heading into 2017, Gov. Charlie Baker and his administration are implementing a major renewable energy law to procure large-scale hydropower and develop offshore wind farms that will eventually help power homes and businesses around the state.
  3. INCOME INEQUALITY: Many pundits are tying President-elect Donald Trump’s win this year to the frustration of the American worker, both with the availability of good jobs and with the widening gap in between those who make the least and the super wealthy.
  4. POT POLITICS: Sooner or later, Massachusetts lawmakers were going to get around to debating marijuana legalization. 2017 qualifies as later, much later.
  5. TAXES: A riddle that has perplexed lawmakers all year — anemic tax revenue growth amid surging job growth — could receive an answer from the Democrat-led Legislature in the form of new taxes next session. Short-term room rentals, marijuana sales and seven-figure incomes have all emerged as likely candidates for new or increased taxes.
  6. EDUCATION FUNDING/REFORM: Lawmakers have identified education funding reform as a priority for the upcoming session, but a combination of overspending (versus budget) and slow revenue growth leaves the question hanging of where any new funding would come from.
  7. ONLINE GAMING, LOTTERY WOES: It’s been five years since lawmakers came around to embrace the idea of casino gambling as a panacea for its transportation, local aid and economic development spending desires. But apart from the trickle of slot revenues from Plainridge, that dream is still just that.

Health care

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