Though the Legislature is now meeting informally, as formal sessions ended on July 31, hope remains that a significant economic development bill will be passed this fall.

Legislators tabled a $4 billion economic development bill at the end of July when it came to light that a large portion of the state’s fiscal 2022 budget surplus would need to be returned to taxpayers under a 1986 law known as Chapter 62F. On Sept. 15, State Auditor Suzanne Bump certified that $2.94 billion must be returned to taxpayers.

The bill that was tabled would have used a blend of surplus revenue, bond authorizations and state American Rescue Plan Act funding to make significant investments in MassWorks, environmental infrastructure, the Clean Water Trust Fund and affordable housing, among other priorities. Because bond authorizations require a roll call vote, which cannot occur during informal sessions, any updated economic development bill is likely to look different than earlier iterations.

Legislative leaders have signaled a strong desire to pass an economic development bill and a 2022 closeout budget now that the budget surplus number has been finalized. Passing legislation in informal sessions requires unanimous consent among legislators (a single objection can stop legislation), a factor that will play an important role on both the scope and timing of what may move forward.

The state still has roughly $2.3 billion in ARPA funding, which must be obligated by the end of 2024 and expended by the end of 2026. The MMA has strongly urged the Legislature to allocate the remaining ARPA funding as quickly as possible to support shovel-ready local projects and avoid the risk of any potential federal clawback of funding.

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