MMA members endorse 3 policy resolutions

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The MMA membership on Jan. 20 overwhelmingly endorsed three policy resolutions, on the important issues of local aid, a prospective ballot question to reduce the sales tax rate, and climate change.
 
The resolutions send an important message to state leaders about municipal priorities and will guide the MMA’s work in the year ahead.
 
Revenue sharing
The “Resolution Ensuring a Strong and Enduring Fiscal Partnership Between Cities and Towns and State Government in Fiscal 2019 and Beyond” was developed by the MMA’s Fiscal Policy Committee.
 
The resolution calls on state government to provide cities and towns with an adequate share of state revenues, an effective municipal tax system, and tools to help manage long-term liabilities. It identifies priorities voiced by local officials from all parts of the state on municipal and school aid and many other areas where state and local governments intersect.
 
The resolution points out that “adequate and stable” state revenue sharing – through the Cherry Sheet, targeted appropriations and grant programs – is absolutely necessary to ensure healthy and strong cities and towns. Cities and towns, the resolution points out, have become increasingly over-reliant on the tightly capped property tax to fund local budgets and deliver essential services.
 
The resolution calls on the state to fulfill its funding commitments on items such as special education, charter school reimbursements, student transportation, out-of-district vocational education, and payments in lieu of taxes.
 
The resolution calls on the state to phase in the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission to update the Chapter 70 “foundation budget” minimum adequate spending standards for special education and health insurance for school employees and retirees, and to fully recognize the cost of services for low-income, English Language Learner and other students who would benefit from more intensive services.
 
The resolution also requests a $300 million per year Chapter 90 local road and bridge program, indexed to grow with inflation, and support for new flexibility to adopt local-option taxes and other revenues.
 
Sales tax
The “Resolution in Opposition to the Ballot Question that Would Reduce the Sales and Use Tax Rate” was also proposed by the MMA Fiscal Policy Committee.
 
The resolution points out that the state’s sales and use tax accounted for nearly one-quarter of all tax collections received by state government, and the proposed reduction of the rate from 6.25 percent to 5 percent would reduce state revenue by an estimated $1.25 billion. The Fiscal Policy Committee, with the endorsement of the MMA Board of Directors, argues that the state could not withstand a tax cut of this magnitude without experiencing significant fiscal distress, which would hamper the state’s ability to fund critical programs such as unrestricted municipal aid and Chapter 70 education aid.
 
On Dec. 21, 2017, the secretary of the Commonwealth said that a sufficient number of signatures had been submitted and certified for the proposed initiative petition to move forward in the process. If the Legislature does not approve the question early this year, proponents will have until June 19 to file an additional 10,792 signatures in order to qualify for the ballot in November.
 
The proposal would not change the local-option sales tax on meals.
 
Climate change
The “Resolution Supporting a Local-State-Federal Partnership to Combat the Effects of Climate Change” was proposed by the MMA Policy Committee on Energy and the Environment.
 
Due to climate change, municipalities will be experiencing severe weather events at an increasing frequency. The impacts will include sea-level rise, coastal flooding and erosion, powerful hurricanes and storms, drought, wildfires, and extreme temperatures.
 
The resolution lays out a number of policy positions related to climate policy, including infrastructure resilience and adaptation strategies, mitigation through energy efficiency and renewable energy, and emergency management and response. It calls for support for the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, additional programs for municipalities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce energy consumption and increase energy efficiency, support for municipal engagement on renewable energy, support for the development and implementation of climate adaptation plans, a $1 billion water infrastructure bond bill, and assistance for municipalities to review planning and zoning bylaws to increase resiliency.
 
The three resolutions were developed over the summer and fall by MMA policy committees comprising local officials from across the state, and they were endorsed in November by the MMA Board of Directors.
 
Some 300 officials representing their individual municipalities voted on the resolutions at the MMA’s Annual Business Meeting in Boston.
 
While discussion was welcomed during the Annual Business Meeting, the policy committees that drafted the resolutions also solicited member comments for a four-week period prior to the meeting.