On Beacon Hill: In Baker the House trusts?

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

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Hundreds of amendments cloud early budget outlook
  • Legislative Trump panel targets immigration, inmate bills
  • Moore trumpets campus safety; McGovern tweaks president
  • State senators plans Capitol Hill lobbying effort
  • Video: Polito talks revenue projections, potential cuts
  • MassDevelopment chief voted out by board

State of Politics: Immigrants get a boost, legal pot gets a blog, state Dems get a Falchuk

State of Politics is an occasional collection of news and notes from on and around Beacon Hill compiled from the latest reports by State House News Service.

BONUS VIDEO

Maura Healey, state officials tout added layer in gun safety battle

SURVEY: IMMIGRANTS MAKING BIG CONTRIBUTIONS TO MASS. ECONOMY

Immigrants are receiving lots of support from elected officials in Massachusetts in the face of executive orders from President Donald Trump targeting refugees and undocumented individuals. A new survey reaffirms one of the reasons why.

Analysts at WalletHub used 18 metrics to determine which states benefit the most from immigration and concluded that immigrants are having the fourth biggest economic impact in Massachusetts. California, New Jersey and New York ranked one, two and three, according to survey results released this week.

Massachusetts ranked first in percentage of jobs created by international students and the economic contribution of international students, fourth in the percentage of foreign-born science, technology, engineering and math workers; and seventh in percentage of Fortune 500 companies founded by immigrants or their children.

Inbox [Feb. 15]: Main South CDC lands $4M to add 75 affordable housing units, YWCA seeks Erskine nominees, immigration law experts arrange forums, city uses Common to push downtown agenda

Interesting and worthwhile things happen every day in our community. Alas, we can’t cover them all. That’s where Inbox comes in, to offer readers an easily digestible compilation of interesting and noteworthy items you and your neighbors keep telling us about.

Main South CDC lands $4M MassDevelopment bond to buy, renovate 13 properties

MassDevelopment has issued a $4 million tax-exempt bond on behalf of Nuestras Casas Limited Partnership, an affiliate of the Worcester nonprofit Main South Community Development Corporation.

Main South CDC is using proceeds to buy and renovate 80 multi-family residential units and five ground floor commercial units on 13 Worcester properties for Nuestras Casas, a mixed-income housing development.

The development will offer 73 units that are affordable to households earning 60 percent of the area median income, two that are affordable to households earning 80 percent of the area median income, and five market-rate units.

Renovations will include upgrading heating systems, bathrooms, and kitchens; replacing windows and roofs; and making general cosmetic improvements. MassDevelopment also assisted the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development with the approval of approximately $2.5 million in equity from federal low income housing tax credits, and TD Bank purchased the bond.

974 Main Street

Courtesy of MassDevelopment

974 Main St., Worcester is one of 13 properties Main South CDC was able to purchase with the help of the MassDevelopment financing package.

“The Main South CDC’s work to renovate and preserve quality housing at Nuestras Casas is essential to Worcester’s continued economic growth,” MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones said. “We are pleased this low-cost financing will provide safe, welcoming homes to the working individuals and families in the Main South neighborhood.”

Sina-cism: Hating Trump no substitute for a real policy

Before you head out to your next anti-Trump parade or party, ask yourself whether you agree with this:

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

“The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own), or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender or sexual orientation.”

If you agree, how would you fashion policy to achieve these goals? If you disagree, what standard (if any) would you use to decide who enters the United States?

The passage above is from Section 1 of President Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order on immigration. This is no trick. You can agree with that section while disagreeing with the balance of the order.

Related Sina-cism: The real danger in sanctuary city debate

Worcester Sun, Feb. 12-18: Mariano tallies sanctuary city votes, tells us what he thinks + much more

Where do we start? How about in the future: What if … Worcester is back with a very legal alien returning home. Sinacola on immigration policy. Hitch on Worcester’s snow policy. A Sunday conversation with author Nick Duffy, a Grafton Hill up-and-comer. Nothing like a little Sun to burn off those winter blues — so here’s the Feb. 12-18 edition of Worcester Sun.

Sina-cism: Sanctuary city debate a dangerous distraction

America cannot afford an impasse on immigration. President Obama failed for eight years to produce comprehensive immigration reform.
Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

Among the least enlightening debates in recent Worcester history is that over the idea of a sanctuary city, a term with no legal force and little practical application.

The most recent standard-bearers in this debate are City Councilor-at-Large Michael Gaffney and Mayor Joseph Petty.

Gaffney pushed a resolution, defeated 9-2 by the City Council last Tuesday night, that would have made clear Worcester is not a sanctuary city. If it were seen as one, he argued, Worcester might lose federal funding.

Petty argued that Gaffney was stirring fear unnecessarily. As the mayor told the Telegram & Gazette: “I’m going to have everyone’s back. If we aren’t going to protect our immigrants, then you may as well take the Statue of Liberty, pack it up and send it back to France.”

Well, the city’s money is safe and France can cancel that incoming shipment, because neither man’s fears are likely to be realized.

Editorial: Super debacle on sanctuary question

An us-vs.-them attitude is perfectly OK — on the football field.

In real life, it can cause all sorts of problems.

Take the current hot-button topic of sanctuary cities, which was ubiquitous in the news around the country the last couple of weeks, and embarrassingly so in Worcester.

Mayor Joseph M. Petty and City Councilor-at-large Michael T. Gaffney are both at fault, and got results they deserve for getting local residents needlessly fired up over an issue too important for gamesmanship.

Immigrants and the immigrant experience are of course a huge part of U.S. history and identity. We have a vibrant democracy striving to promote peace, prosperity, equity and opportunity; and diversity and welcome are part of America’s winning formula. That welcome, though, isn’t automatic or without limits.

Struggling to keep the nation’s doors the right degree of open, in order to keep the United States strong, safe and its ideals alive, has vexed us for decades.

We cannot say this often enough: Democracy takes work, leadership and wisdom.

Immigration is a complicated topic. Watering it down to choosing sides — citizens vs. undocumented residents, Republicans vs. Democrats, local vs. federal government — is a distraction from the effort, reflection and action needed to collectively make the best choices. There will always be arguments and counterarguments in a vibrant democracy.

On Beacon Hill: Trump and DeLeo, political soulmates — who knew?

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

BOSTON — President Donald Trump’s fledgling administration and legislative Democrats on Beacon Hill may have one thing in common: a willingness to test the boundaries of what the electorate might be willing to stomach before there are political consequences.

One difference, however, is that Trump told voters essentially what he planned to do before the November election. State lawmakers? Not exactly.

Trump crossed the line for many Massachusetts residents and elected leaders late last week when he signed an executive order halting refugee resettlement in the United States and restricting travel for immigrants and visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries.

While the White House insisted this was not the Muslim ban that Trump talked about during the campaign, many immigration advocates viewed it as just that, and those in the state’s higher education and technology worlds warned that it would cut off access to talent that helps drive the state economy.

The action sparked virulent protests throughout the weekend and led to Attorney General Maura Healey filing suit in federal court this week on behalf of the state and the University of Massachusetts seeking to overturn the order on constitutional grounds.

Sam Doran (SHNS / file photo)

Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo

Back under the Dome, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg used the cover of the Trump chaos and the New England Patriots run-up to Super Bowl LI as an opportune time to finalize an $18 million package of pay raises for themselves and others by overriding the governor’s veto.

For pay raise proponents, the override went about as smoothly as could be expected given the volume of phone calls and public opposition to the idea. Not one Democrat besides the 12 already on record in opposition defected in the week between the bill’s passage and the vote.

The 116-43 vote in the House and 31-9 vote in the Senate comfortably eclipsed the two-thirds margin needed in each branch to reverse the governor’s veto.

In other words, no one who voted for the raise was swayed by either the governor’s case against the bill or the public outcry.

Knowing they had the votes, leaders largely dispensed with the idea of speaking out to defend the move, but when they did they pointed again to the decades that have elapsed since salaries were seriously adjusted.

Calls from upset voters have reportedly poured in to some elected officials, including Gov. Charlie Baker. But as MassINC pollster Steve Koczela noted on Twitter: “Unless MA voting patterns change, the House could vote to ban apple pie and baseball without worrying too much.”

— Matt Murphy

OFF THE TOP

DeLeo convenes Dems to talk Trump

House Speaker Robert DeLeo last Thursday evening called a caucus for Wednesday, Feb. 8, to discuss with Democratic members how, if at all, the House should respond to recent actions taken by President Donald Trump.

  • In the email to House members, the speaker’s office said it hoped to “elicit feedback from members and to discuss the Massachusetts House of Representatives’ response to recent actions of the Trump administration.”
  • The Senate on Thursday passed a nonbinding resolution opposing Trump’s order on immigration and refugee policy and calling on the president to rescind the order that “presents serious constitutional and other legal issues.”

— Matt Murphy

Flickr / Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Governor reiterates support of refugees, immigrants
  • Video: Baker and DeLeo on the big payday
  • ‘Down payment’ planned to address school spending gap
  • Not-quite-silent minority raps salary spike
  • Polito speaks out against Trump immigration stance

THE BIG DEAL

‘Troubled’ by Trump, Baker doubles down on support of refugees, immigrants