Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The Honorable Aaron M. Michlewitz, House Chair
The Honorable Michael J. Rodrigues, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Ways and Means
The Honorable Daniel J. Hunt, Chair
House Committee on Federal Stimulus and Census Oversight
State House, Boston
Dear Chair Michlewitz, Chair Rodrigues, Chair Hunt and Distinguished Members of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Federal Stimulus and Census Oversight:
On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association very much appreciates your support for local government. As the public hearing process continues and you gather input for the spending plan for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, we appreciate the opportunity to share key municipal priorities.
In order to have a healthy and sustainable recovery from the public health emergency, cities and towns will continue to rely on a strong state-local partnership. While we are pleased that cities and towns will receive much-needed direct relief from the federal government with the passage of ARPA, it is important to acknowledge that this federal funding can be maximized across the state through a coordinated effort between state government and municipalities. A critical component of this coordinated effort is timely decision-making around these proposed state and local partnerships.
We are commenting today on H. 3922, An Act Relative to Immediate COVID Recovery Needs and other key state budget investments that can be made to reinvigorate our cities, towns and local economies. We are providing particular focus on the subject matters of this hearing, namely critical transportation, climate, and environmental infrastructure. We urge swift action to move forward on these important priorities.
Three Key Infrastructure Priorities for this Fall: Passage of the Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Deploying State ARPA Funds for Climate and Environmental Projects, and $200 Million in Supplemental Chapter 90 Funds for Local Roads
After what has seemed like decades of talk and little action on infrastructure at the federal level, Congress is on the verge of enacting an unprecedented surge in funding to repair, rebuild and invest in our roads, bridges, culverts, seawalls, trains, buses, subways, airports, broadband networks, and drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems.
These critical public assets are essential to our quality of life and our economic future, yet all of these infrastructure systems are in various stages of disrepair or are facing massive challenges brought on by climate change or growing economic gaps that have left many communities and residents behind.
Ironically, while the COVID-19 pandemic is raging across the nation and has divided so many people and politicians on issues such as vaccine and mask requirements, federal leaders have been much more united on the need to stand up massive economic and public health investments in our states and local communities. This is probably due to several related factors: every corner of our nation has been negatively impacted, with shuttered businesses and disappearing jobs; the pandemic has cast a bright light on existing economic and social inequities, making most people more aware of the disproportionate impact the virus has had on our most vulnerable and marginalized neighbors; and having a record number of residents live through an economic shutdown has increased the public’s sense urgency and support for rapid and visible investments to recover and rebuild our economy.
This fall, lawmakers in Congress and on Beacon Hill will have the opportunity to transform the consensus on infrastructure into real action and unprecedented success. Here are three specific priorities:
1. Passing the Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The U.S. House will be convening in late September to vote on the Senate-passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). This is the $1 trillion bipartisan bill that Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren helped to forge, and it includes over $8 billion in federal funding for Massachusetts over the next five years, covering the full range of public infrastructure assets, including transportation, environmental and broadband systems (here is a link to the White House’s analysis for our state). Massachusetts is fortunate to have a powerful House delegation, all of whom are committed to passing this critical legislation.
2. Massachusetts Action to Deploy State ARPA Funds for Environmental and Climate Investments. Last spring, the federal government passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which included a very welcome $8.7 billion in direct financial aid to state, local and county governments in Massachusetts. The bulk of the funds, $5.3 billion, went directly to the state, and the remaining $3.4 billion is being distributed to cities, towns and counties in two allotments.
ARPA specifically authorizes local and state leaders to spend the funds on four broad categories of investment, including water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure. Local leaders are drafting their plans for how to use their municipal ARPA funds, yet they are missing critical information that is needed to make the best decisions possible: what the will state do with its $5.3 billion, and how cities and towns can leverage (or piggyback with) state ARPA funds to address local needs, such as upgrading water and sewer systems, implementing climate resiliency plans, confronting PFAS contamination, or increasing broadband access.
The Governor has filed H. 3922, An Act Relative to Immediate COVID Recovery Needs to allocate $700 million to local environmental and climate resiliency projects by providing $400 million for the drinking water and clean water state revolving funds, and $300 million for the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program.
Water and Sewer Infrastructure:
We strongly support the proposed $400 million investment in water and sewer infrastructure (1599-2032). Under this account, funds could be used for sewer separation projects or other methods of remediating combined sewer overflow into waterways, and to shore up the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund under the Clean Water Trust. All 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts can identify priority water or sewer infrastructure repairs or upgrades their community desperately needs but cannot easily finance. Our municipalities are struggling to deal with aging infrastructure at the same time as increased severe weather events bring more stormwater, flooding, and drought. And as more and more communities identify PFAS contaminants in their public drinking water supplies, and PFAS is detected in other sources such as rivers and turf fields, funds for water and environmental treatment will be put to quick and beneficial use.
Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness:
We also urge support for the proposed $300 million for climate resiliency (1599-2031). Specifically, this funding would be directed to municipal vulnerability preparedness planning and action grants (MVP), a very successful program that helps cities and towns to identify key climate-related hazards, vulnerabilities, and strengths, and fund projects that promote local and regional climate adaptation and resilience. To date, 93% of Massachusetts municipalities are enrolled in the MVP program, and in the most recent grant funding round in August, $20.6 million was distributed through both planning and action grants. With such a high engagement rate and thousands of priority projects identified through the planning process in communities across the Commonwealth, requests for action grants far exceed the available funding in the Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund. The proposed $300 million spending for the MVP program would enable more projects to be approved in each grant round and provide a stable source of long-term funding as the program expands its reach.
The MMA is respectfully urging swift passage of this $700 million package. Timely action when the Legislature reconvenes this fall will be important, so that local officials can plan on how to leverage state ARPA funds to advance essential local projects that benefit our economy, our environment, and our resiliency to climate change.
3. Providing a New $200 Million Cash Infusion into the Chapter 90 Program for Local Roads. While impressive, the IIJA and ARPA bills do not directly address the massive funding gap for locally owned roads. IIJA funds will mostly go to federal and state highways and transit systems, with a smaller amount targeted to large projects on state-numbered roads and very expensive and complex local hotspots, and the direct municipal and state ARPA funds are largely not available for transportation-related investments. This means that the burden of maintaining, repairing, and rebuilding the 30,000 miles of local roads in Massachusetts will continue to fall on the shoulders of local taxpayers.
MMA estimates that the current $200 million Chapter 90 bond program is far short of the $600 million annual investment needed to maintain municipal roads in a state of good repair. With the state enjoying a near-record budget surplus, and growing its stabilization fund to more than $4.5 billion, the Legislature will soon be considering a fiscal 2021 budget close-out bill. MMA is requesting that the state share $200 million of this multi-billion revenue surplus with cities and towns as a way to infuse the Chapter 90 program with much-needed dollars that can be put to work immediately on shovel-ready municipal road projects across the state.
This is a time of unprecedented opportunity to invest in the expensive, complex and essential public infrastructure systems that are the building blocks of our economy. Passage of these three priority action items can propel Massachusetts forward and create a strong and equitable platform for growth in every corner of our state. As partners in rebuilding and restoring the Massachusetts economy, local leaders look forward to working with you and your federal colleagues on Capitol Hill to make passage of all three measures a reality in the coming weeks.
This is a critical time for cities and towns. We know that you and your colleagues in the House and Senate continue to be outstanding partners for communities across the Commonwealth, and we look forward to working with you to recover from the pandemic and thrive over the coming years. With federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and surplus revenues from fiscal 2021, the Commonwealth has a unique opportunity to make these historic investments in our climate, water, sewer, and transportation infrastructure.
Thank you very much for your support, dedication and commitment to the cities and towns of Massachusetts.
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO