Week Ending July 9, 2010
The state’s tax collections for the first half of June were announced this week. Tax collections were $138 million above the monthly benchmark and $67 million above the year-to-date benchmark. Revenue Commissioner Navjeet Bal attributed the increase to three categories, all of which exceeded estimates: income tax withholding, sales taxes and business taxes. Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez said that state tax collections for the first eleven months of FY2010 were up 0.2 percent and that the Department of Revenue would release final June numbers in the next few weeks.
Negotiations over what form the gambling bill will take shifted into overdrive this week. Governor Patrick raised skepticism about allowing slots at state racetracks and made clear that because of the short timeline between now and the end of session, there would be no time for vetoes or veto overrides on the gambling bill. House Speaker Bob DeLeo took a harder line on the slots issue, maintaining that allowing slot machines at the state’s existing racetracks is the only opportunity to increase local aid.
Speaker Murray for her part said that she disapproves of guaranteeing slot machine licenses for the state’s racetracks. The House and Senate named the six-member FY11 state budget conference committee this week. On the House side, Reps. Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill), Kathi-Anne Reinstein (D-Revere) and Paul Frost (R-Auburn) were named while the Senate named Sens. Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst), Steven Panagiotakos (D-Lowell) and Richard Ross (R-Wrentham). The conference committee is tasked with finding consensus on a single casino bill. The conferees meet for the first time on Thursday in a closed door session. Despite the fact that conference committees are traditionally closed to the public, opponents of expanded gambling said that because the gaming bill has major, long-term implications for the state, an exception should have been made.
The House voted on Wednesday to strike down a new law that aims to diminish the influence of doctors and pharmaceutical and medical device companies. It will take up wind siting and small business health care insurance reform starting next week. Speaker DeLeo also indicated that veto overrides from the budget that the Governor signed were likely in the coming weeks.
The National Governors Association summer meeting is being held in Boston over the weekend. The topics of discussion will include state budget deficits and federal aid, illegal immigration problems and how rising health care costs are squeezing out other discretionary spending. The Governors will meet at Fenway Park this evening in a private reception. They will convene at the Boston Sheraton Hotel on Saturday.
The Massachusetts Association of Realtors, which monitors home sales in the state, said pending homes sales in the state were down 16% compared to one year ago. The Association attributed the decline to an expiration of federal tax credits and said that purchase and sales agreements usually provide a clue to where the housing market is headed over the next few months.
John Nunnari, Assoc AIA
BSA/AIA MA Public Policy Director
Boston Society of Architects/AIA
The Architects Building
52 Broad Street, Boston MA 02109-4301