BOSTON — With thousands of concert-goers expected to descend on the Boston Calling music festival this weekend, Gov. Charlie Baker said there are no current threats of venues being targeted for violence, but urged residents to remain “vigilant” following the deadly attack Monday night at a concert in Manchester, England.
“First of all, our hearts go out to everybody who was involved in that. I have three kids who are in their 20s. If they had been there, that’s exactly the kind of event, the kind of concert, they would have been at,” Baker told reporters yesterday.
A bomb detonated just outside a Manchester arena at the conclusion of an Ariana Grande concert Monday, killing 22 people and injuring dozens more in an attack for which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility.
Watch: Baker speaks on Manchester attack, Boston Calling security
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One out of every seven direct-care staff positions in Massachusetts nursing homes is vacant, the number of deficiency-free homes has dropped since 2013, and half of the facilities have less than four days of cash on hand, according to advocates seeking more state support for nursing homes.
“We are seeing an erosion of financial support for nursing facility care that is beginning to impact staffing as well as quality resident care,” said Tara Gregorio, president of the Massachusetts Senior Care Association.
Gregorio, whose organization represents 417 nursing homes that care for an average 40,000 residents on a given day, said strained finances have brought the industry to a “crisis point.” About two-thirds of nursing home residents have their care paid for by MassHealth, leaving nursing homes dependent on state funds, she said.
Now, perhaps more than at any time in history, the job of creating a vibrant local economy is not for the faint of heart.
Retaining and attracting companies and the jobs they provide is increasingly difficult in the face of global competition. Even within Massachusetts, cities and towns compete more vigorously than ever to expand their tax base and employment opportunities for their residents.
The state’s Economic Development Incentive Program creates a partnership between the state, municipalities and businesses. The Economic Assistance Coordinating Council, which administers the EDIP, can offer a company State Investment Tax Credits. A municipality can offer local tax exemptions, the most common being Tax Increment Financing agreements.
Both of those provide “the financial tools and incentives necessary to stimulate development in tandem with other local support programs,” Chief Development Officer Michael E. Traynor wrote in a report on TIFs provided to City Council.
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WPI lands grant to boosts integration of Humanities and STEM
WPI will receive a $100,000 grant to establish an Urban Humanities Teaching Cluster, allowing WPI to offer an integrated set of courses that push students to think about urban challenges as more than simply technical problems. With half the world’s population now living in cities and with the population of 21 cities now exceeding 10 million, the study of cities is more important than ever.
“The engineering challenges wrought by rapid urbanization and aging urban infrastructures are obvious to our students,” said Joseph Cullon, an assistant teaching professor of history and the grant’s principal investigator, “but solving them forces us to ask questions about history, aesthetics, equity, access and cultural meaning that are less transparent but equally crucial.”
Recap and analysis of the week in state, and federal, government
from State House News Service
BOSTON — Whether it was being blurted out loud or held on the tip of the tongue, the “i” word floated through Beacon Hill this week like a poorly kept secret.
No, not impeachment or investigation, although those words got a fair share of airing last week, as well. But more topical here at home, the operative word was “imbalanced.” As in, how is the state going to pay for the spending that the Senate will debate this week?
As the unemployment rate ticked up again to 3.9 percent and with state revenues being watched more closely than the State House’s resident red-tailed hawk eyes the rabbits that hop blithely across the capitol grounds, Senate leadership released its budget plan for fiscal 2018.
The roughly $40.3 billion budget bill is widely understood to be a document written in erasable ink. Barring a dramatic turnaround in May and June, budget writers are preparing for the likelihood that revenues will have to be adjusted during negotiations between the branches, which will in turn require spending to be lowered to fit the new frame.
“We recognize that we may need to adjust,” Senate Ways and Means Chair Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, said early last week, as she detailed the ways in which she and her committee had invested in local aid, housing, education and economic development.
As put by another senior Senate official: “This budget has a lot of vision, and maybe a few sugarplum fairies.”
But even if the numbers won’t exactly add up by the end of this week, there’s plenty of meaningful pieces in the budget that will shape the debate moving forward.
For instance, the Senate chose to include a hotel room tax on short-term rentals, such as those offered through sites like Airbnb, that would generate an estimated $18 million next year.
The Joint Committee on Financial Services is already planning a three-stop tour around the state to get input on the idea of short-term rental taxes and regulations, and the House is waiting for that process to play out. But Spilka’s budget put a marker down on the Senate side that’s vastly different from what Gov. Charlie Baker included in his own budget.
The Ways and Means budget proposes taxing short-term rentals on day one, while Baker sought to target those unit owners renting their homes like a business for more than 150 days a year.
Antonio Caban / State House News Service
Gov. Charlie Baker
The Senate budget would give Baker the go-ahead to pursue an employer assessment to cover MassHealth, or Medicaid expenses, though senators would apply the assessment on certain companies with 25 or more employees, instead of 10 or more, as Baker recommended. Unlike the House, the Senate also gave Baker the choice of a second option — to raise the existing Employer Medical Assistance Contribution employer fee — which is favored by some small-business groups.
Even though the Democrat-controlled House and Senate are both now on record essentially putting their full faith and trust in the Republican governor to resolve the controversial issue of how much to tax businesses to pay for MassHealth, Democrat Jay Gonzalez credited the Legislature with “reining in” Baker by recommending adjustments to the governor’s employer assessment proposal and lowering the revenue target by about half.
That was not all Gonzalez — a former secretary of Administration and Finances for the state who has announced a run for governor — had to say this week, either. As the temperatures heated up, so did the gubernatorial race. [More on that below.]
— Matt Murphy
ALSO ON THE AGENDA
Baker warns D.C. leaders of looming healthcare boondoggle
Gonzalez ratchets up governor bid
McGovern on Rosenstein, Warren on Wall Street, Polito at WPI
All about the amendments during initial Senate budget debate
Video: Spilka, Senate leaders talk fiscal 2018 spending plan