MMA members endorse 3 policy resolutions for 2015

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The MMA membership on Jan. 24 overwhelmingly endorsed three policy resolutions on key issues: local aid, infrastructure funding, and employee benefits.
 
The resolutions send an important message to state leaders about municipal priorities and will guide the MMA’s work in the year ahead.
 
The resolutions are as follows:
 
• Resolution Ensuring a Strong and Enduring Fiscal Partnership Between Cities and Towns and State Government in Fiscal 2016 and Beyond
 
• Resolution Relative to Investments in Municipal Capital Projects to Facilitate Economic Growth and Protect the Health and Safety of Citizens
 
• Resolution Ensuring a Modern and Sustainable Personnel Management and Benefits System to Attract and Retain Public Employees, Provide Excellent Municipal Services, and Ensure Prudent Use of Taxpayer Dollars
 
The first, developed by the MMA’s Fiscal Policy Committee, calls on the governor and Legislature to act on a forward-looking agenda for local government and addresses key local priorities, including revenue-sharing, education funding, local-option revenues, unfunded mandates, and many other areas where state and local government intersect.
 
“The prosperity, and economic and social well-being of the residents and businesses of the Commonwealth are directly related to the fiscal health of cities and towns and the quality of municipal services and roads and buildings that communities provide,” the resolution states.
 
The resolution points out that cities and towns are now more reliant on the property tax than at any point in the Proposition 2½ era, and the local share of public education costs is at a 10-year high.
 
The resolution calls for unrestricted municipal aid to grow each year at the same rate as state tax collections, and for cities and towns to receive the full distribution of Lottery proceeds. The resolution also calls for “new local-option [revenue] flexibility,” full funding of the state’s commitments on a range of programs and mandates, an increase in Chapter 70 education aid, and a re-examination of the adequacy and scope of the “foundation budget” to make sure that Chapter 70 accounts for the full cost of educating students, among other recommendations.
 
The second resolution, proposed by the MMA’s Fiscal Policy Committee, Policy Committee on Public Works, Transportation and Public Utilities, and Policy Committee on Energy and the Environment, points out that current funding is inadequate to maintain a modern and sustainable infrastructure system to meet the transportation, environmental, health and service needs that are essential for economic growth and a high quality of life in Massachusetts.
 
The resolution calls on the governor and Legislature to approve bond legislation and other measures to support local projects, to include local projects in the state’s multi-year capital spending plan, to take steps to reduce the cost of capital projects, and to evaluate regulatory review rules and financial procedures. It also calls for a multi-year local government transportation bond bill, early this year, with at least $300 million in annual Chapter 90 local road fund authorizations, indexed to grow annually with inflation and released in a timely manner each year.
 
The resolution also addresses the Clean Water Trust, Brownfields Redevelopment Fund, MassWorks Infrastructure program, the renewable energy “net metering” cap, high-speed Internet access, and resources for school building and library projects.
 
The third resolution, proposed by the MMA’s Policy Committee on Personnel and Labor Relations, points out that the salaries and benefits for public employees, which consume 70 percent or more of local budgets, are not currently sustainable and are putting pressure on funding for delivery of essential services. The resolution calls on the state to provide local officials “with the flexibility and ability to effectively manage at the local level” and to “oppose any proposals that would erode existing municipal decision-making authority.”
 
The resolution presents a strong case for reform of “other post-employment benefits,” largely retiree health insurance, and “meaningful municipal unemployment insurance reform.” It also calls for the state to “allow the civil service system to be rescinded by cities and towns on a local-option basis,” without the obligation to impact bargain, with a provision that cities and towns still have the option to retain aspects of the system.
 
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.
 
Click here to see the full text of the resolutions