Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The Honorable Aaron Michlewitz, House Chair
The Honorable Michael J. Rodrigues, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Ways and Means
State House, Boston
Dear Chair Michlewitz and Chair Rodrigues:
On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association deeply appreciates your strong support for local government. We look forward to working with you and your colleagues during the final months of this calendar year, and understand that you will be focused on a number of remaining priorities, including closing the books on fiscal 2022 and finalizing an economic development bill. We write today to share the municipal perspective on these important measures and the meaningful impact they will have on all 351 cities and towns.
First, we want to express our gratitude for the support the Legislature has provided to local governments throughout the legislative session. Your commitment to cities and and towns was evident through significant increases in the budget for municipal and education aid, major infrastructure bond bills, including MassTRAC, the $11.4 billion measure investing in roads, bridges, transit and environmental capital needs, and the $5.2 billion general government bond, with funds for housing, water supplies, local projects, cultural facilities and state assets. Additionally, municipal officials appreciate your leadership in passing a major climate bill, and extending the option of remote public meetings. Local officials across the Commonwealth appreciate your hard work and this exciting forward momentum.
FY22 Closeout Supplemental Budget
As you consider the fiscal 2022 closeout supplemental budget bill, H. 5260, An Act Making Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2022 to Provide for Supplementing Certain Existing Appropriations and for Certain Other Activities and Projects, we draw your attention to two priority issues for municipalities that were not included in the Governor’s proposal.
We respectfully ask for consideration of an additional $14.9 million for Regional School Transportation (7035-0006) to allocate for use in fiscal 2023, which is critical for rural and smaller communities. This use of fiscal 2022 resources would fund 100% of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s fiscal 2023 projected need of $97 million, and fully fund the state’s commitment to provide 100% reimbursement for regional school transportation costs.
Second, we ask for consideration to provide an additional $19 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker account (7061-0012), allocating fiscal 2022 revenues for use in fiscal 2023. This amount would fund 100% of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s fiscal 2023 projected need of $460 million.
In addition, we support the new funding in H. 5260 (1599-1250) to support vital school safety initiatives in K-12 schools and other vulnerable settings. This program includes $20 million in matching grants to upgrade security and communications in public schools. We ask for careful consideration of whether this amount and the distribution formula would allow all K-12 districts to access these critical resources.
Economic Development Bill
We appreciate the considerable time spent before the end of formal legislative sessions to reach agreement on a sweeping economic development bill, and we write today to underscore our position on several important issues of interest to municipalities. We strongly support enactment of this legislation as soon as possible. In particular, we support the immediate allocation of as much of the state’s remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds as possible. We are deeply concerned that a growing number of federal lawmakers from other parts of the country are demanding a clawback of these funds, which would deprive Massachusetts of billions of dollars of essential economic aid as communities work to rebuild and fortify a platform for growth and renewal across the state. Budgeting these funds now will protect Massachusetts from this very real clawback threat.
Internet/Electronic Lottery (Sections 4A, 4B, 4C, and 4D of H. 5034)
As you know, the Massachusetts Lottery was created over 50 years ago for the exclusive purpose of providing local aid to cities and towns, and remains the primary funding source for Unrestricted General Government Aid. “Support for Communities” is the cornerstone of the Lottery’s mission. We greatly appreciate the interest from the Treasurer’s office, as well as the House of Representatives, in expanding its offerings via an internet Lottery program (“iLottery”), and what this could mean to ensure that Lottery revenues remain strong in the years ahead, as new forms of online and expanded gaming enter the marketplace as competitors.
There is no question that expansion of the Lottery to online and electronic platforms would reduce revenues raised through the traditional in-person Lottery product. For this reason, online Lottery proceeds must be used for the Lottery’s singular focus, which is to support local aid. Artificially separating traditional and new online Lottery games into separate revenue streams would divert funds away from the mission to fund Unrestricted General Government Aid, because iLottery offerings would cannibalize the traditional Lottery games and generate significantly lower net revenue due to the shift of current players onto new online platforms.
The MMA supports the creation of internet-based lottery games, but only if the current language is amended to codify local aid as the sole beneficiary. This is the Lottery’s existing mission, which is necessary to protect a vital revenue stream that accounts for the overwhelming amount of Unrestricted General Government Aid that cities, towns, and taxpayers rely on to fund essential municipal and school services and balance local budgets.
Accessory Dwelling Units (Section 46A of S. 3030)
The MMA recognizes that the development of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) is an important tool for communities to consider as they advance affordable housing solutions, which is why MMA actively supported the Housing Choice legislation in the last economic development bill to make approval of zoning changes to promote ADUs a simple majority vote by Town Meetings and city councils, instead of the previous two-thirds threshold. However, we strongly oppose the unilateral preemption of local zoning and decision-making as proposed in Section 46A of the Senate bill. A large number of municipalities already have local ordinances and bylaws around this issue, and language contained in the Senate version of the economic development bill would undermine and confuse these local zoning ordinances and authority. Further, a one-size-fits-all mandate to change zoning in all single-family residential districts across the state, without engagement with the local planning and zoning boards or Town Meetings and city councils, would clearly lead to negative impacts in too many neighborhoods across the state.
Cities and towns are advancing bold and innovative approaches to housing issues. The state has an essential role to play, and has done an effective job in advancing Housing Choice and providing resources to municipalities through MassWorks and MassDevelopment. Local officials need resources, tools, incentives, and flexibility to successfully deliver a community-driven vision for zoning and planning — not a broad state-imposed mandate. Section 46A would instead change and densify residential zoning in every city and town, with no input, deliberation, or discussion at the local level. The best approach is to let communities move forward on ADUs, using the new ability to enact provisions with the majority-vote threshold created by the Legislature just last year.
Municipal Efficiency (Sections 25, 26, 74-77, 153 of S. 3030)
The MMA also supports several outside sections included in the Senate economic development bill that are aimed at giving municipalities necessary tools they need to operate more effectively. These outside sections, developed by the Division of Local Services, include many technical corrections as well as language to operate more efficiently, modernize systems, and streamline timely services and support at the local level. These important provisions are incorporated in S. 3030 via Sections 25, 26, 74-77, and 153. These are not controversial proposals, they are common-sense changes to update municipal finance and administrative law, and we respectfully ask for their passage.
Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund (Section 143 of H. 5034)
We appreciate the importance of transfers to the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund in both the House and Senate bills. These funds would in part be used to write off uncollectible overpayments and to offset the significant impact of waivers on employers, including municipalities, all across the Commonwealth. Reimbursing cities and towns for faultless overpayments will have a sizable financial impact, and therefore the MMA supports the House’s funding level of $300 million.
Infrastructure (Account 7002-8048)
We greatly appreciate the inclusion of $400 million for MassWorks grants for local infrastructure projects in both the House and Senate bills. Every municipality in the Commonwealth can identify critical infrastructure projects that are shovel-ready, and additional funding for MassWorks grants will provide much-needed assistance to propel these projects forward. We urge you to retain the MassWorks funding in your final bill.
Affordable Housing (Account 1599-6084 of S. 3030)
We greatly appreciate the provisions in both the House and Senate bills to make significant investments in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the Housing Stabilization and Investment Trust Fund. The Commonwealth is experiencing a severe affordable housing shortage, and these programs will help us maintain our region’s competitiveness, and provide economic stability. The MMA supports the Senate’s funding level of $403.5 million for housing, including $150 million for workforce housing programs, a crucial step in helping critical workers live in the same communities in which they work.
Clean Water Trust Fund Grants (Accounts 0640-1006 and 1599-6079 of S. 3030)
We also appreciate the House and Senate provisions to make significant investments in the Clean Water Trust Fund grants. The Clean Water Trust Fund helps communities build or replace water infrastructure, ensures the safety of drinking water, protects public health, and develops resilient communities. Through the trust, municipalities can finance significant, complex and urgently needed water projects. Our municipalities are struggling to deal with aging and insufficient infrastructure systems, and at the same time more communities are identifying PFAS contaminants in their public drinking water supplies. Funds for water treatment will be put to quick and beneficial use. The MMA supports the Senate’s total funding level of $254 million.
Broadband (Account 7002-8049 of S. 3030 & 1599-6059 of H. 5034)
To help close the digital divide, investment in broadband infrastructure is essential. We greatly appreciate the House and Senate provisions authorizing $50 million in funding for broadband matching grant funds at the state level, in anticipation that these resources can be used to leverage new competitive programs at the federal level. The MMA supports the Senate bill’s language allowing for the funds to assist municipalities with debt service payments related to broadband infrastructure. Additionally, the MMA supports the House bill’s $50 million in separate funding via 1599-6059 for the Last Mile Infrastructure Grant program.
The work of the Legislature demonstrates your strong commitment to a thriving state-local government partnership. We are grateful for this partnership and appreciate your consideration of the key municipal priorities outlined above.
Thank you very much for your consideration and attention to these important issues. If you have any questions regarding our comments or require additional information, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Senior Legislative Analyst Jackie Lavender Bird at 617-426-7272, ext. 123, or email@example.com at any time.
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO
The Honorable Ronald J. Mariano, Speaker of the House
The Honorable Karen E. Spilka, Senate President