April 16, 2017

On Beacon Hill: In Baker the House trusts?

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Sam Doran / State House News Service

Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) vowed Wednesday on the State House steps to push back against Trump administration health care policies. The union members were joined by Congresswoman Katherine Clark (background).

Recap and analysis of the week in state, and federal, government
from State House News Service

BOSTON — House Speaker Robert DeLeo sent Gov. Charlie Baker a clear, if not slightly unconventional, message this week about the state’s ballooning Medicaid program and the governor’s somewhat unpopular plan to tax employers to pay for it:

You want it? You own it.

The $40.3 billion House budget plan released this week by Rep. Brian Dempsey and his Ways and Means Committee essentially punted the issue of an employer assessment to help pay for MassHealth back to the Republican administration.

The draft budget greenlights the Department of Revenue and its commissioner, former Republican state treasurer candidate Michael Heffernan, to develop and implement an assessment on employers that don’t provide health coverage to most of their employees at any level it deems fit.

Dempsey did say the state only needs about two-thirds, or $180 million, of the money originally targeted by Baker from his $2,000-per-worker assessment, but there’s nothing to stop Baker from going for the whole pie. The only stipulation from House leaders is that the administration consider some of the critiques made by businesses over the past few months.

Sam Doran / State House News Service

House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey.

That’s not to say the plan absolves House Democrats who vote for the budget of any responsibility should the debate over the assessment turn sour. Those who vote for this budget will, in essence, be writing Gov. Baker a blank check and accepting anything that comes after.

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg’s overtly diplomatic response also seemed to belie some apprehension with the House approach of deferring to Baker. “Everyone approaches things in their own way,” he said.

Dempsey said he believes the administration has been talking in good faith with the business community about how to refine the proposal, and is confident that a compromise can be found.

— Matt Murphy


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