Recent Legislative Updates

February 2018

Governor Begins Off Budget Process by Filing FY19 Budget Proposal
Governor Charlie Baker officially started the fiscal year 2019 budget process by filing his budget proposal by the end of January. Accordingly, the FY’19 budget proposal, known as House 2, has now officially been filed. The FY19 budget relies on a consensus revenue tax estimate of $27.594 billion, which is 3.5% over the revised FY18 tax revenue projection. House 2 increases overall spending by 2.6% and keeps MassHealth growth to 0.5% over FY18 estimated spending. According to the Baker-Polito Administration, House 2 relies on less than $100 million in non-recurring revenue, and anticipates a deposit of $96 million into the Stabilization Fund, which would bring total reserves to $1.463 billion, an increase of 30% since the Baker-Polito administration took office.

In terms of specific line items of interest to UCANE members, the Administration proposed the following appropriations:

-Funding the Commonwealth Rate Relief Fund (1231-1000) at $500,000. Last year’s appropriation was $500,000. The rate relief program provides assistance to municipalities who have previously incurred debt to fund water infrastructure projects. Once funded at $62.5 million, the line item has fallen out of favor among budget writers in recent years.

-Appropriating $8 million for the underground storage tank program. This represents an increase of $2.5 million from the FY18 amount of $5.5 million. The Underground Storage Tank program is one of the Commonwealth’s unheralded public safety and environment programs. Unfortunately, recent funding for this program has led to a backlog of unpaid claims for funds from this program. The current funding gap is approximately $20 million, a large portion of which reflects projects already completed.

-Increasing funding for the Clean Water Trust’s contract assistance line item, 1599-0093, to $63,383,680. This represents an increase of $5,431,375 from the previous year’s funding of $57,952,305. The contract assistance line item allows the Clean Water Trust to manage their allocation of SRF projects. UCANE has been a strong advocate for increasing the contract assistance line-item since the passage of Chapter 259 of the Acts of 2014, which increased capacity for this fund from $88 million to $138 million.

-Increasing funding from the FY18 appropriation for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) (2200-0100) by $328,404 to $24,737,344. UCANE has long supported increased funding for the MassDEP to ensure that the administration of water infrastructure programs remains consistent.

Building on Executive Order 569, An Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth, the Governor’s budget proposal also includes $2 million in new funding for municipal technical support, climate science, and targeted investments in environmental justice. As well, House 2 includes $1.4 million to fund implementation costs of the proposed NPDES program. Within the outside sections, the Governor also filed language that would reallocate the first $30 million collected under the underground storage trust (UST) surcharge back into the fund. During previous budget shortfalls, the allocation of this surcharge was changed from the UST to the General Fund. Finally, the Governor’s budget proposal attempts to increase revenues by including an AirBNB excise tax for the DOR to collect from owners of short term rentals and allows the DOR and third party platforms to agree to voluntary collections. UCANE has been following this issue closely as a mechanism for increasing water infrastructure funding options.

The House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means will now hold joint budget hearings. The House will then propose and consider its version of the FY19 budget in April. The Senate will do the same in May. The month of June will see the two branches resolve the differences in their versions and forward the same to the Governor.

New Transportation Commission Formed to Review Commonwealth’s Transportation Needs

After announcing his intention to look more closely at the state of the Commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure, Governor Baker created a special commission to try to understand how transportation options and demand could change by 2040, and how the state can be ready to adapt to those changes. The Commission on the Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth (Commission), created by Executive Order 579, is comprised of 18 members, with Steve Kadish, former Baker Administration Chief of Staff, as the Chairman of the study group.

The Commission is charged with developing a range of scenarios anticipated between 2020 and 2040 and advising the Administration on “how to ensure that transportation planning, forecasting, operations, and investments for the period from 2020 through 2040 can best account for likely demographic, technological, climate, and other changes in future mobility and transportation behaviors, needs, and options.”

In particular, the Executive Order direct the Commission to “at a minimum, investigate the following topics that are critical to laying a foundation for understanding anticipated changes in population, employment, and demographics in Massachusetts as well as forthcoming developments in transportation-related technologies, energy use, climate change, and other factors that may affect transportation:

1.Climate and Resiliency: What changes will be needed to reduce transportation greenhouse gas emissions consistent with Commonwealth targets for 2040? What kinds of investments will be needed to make transportation infrastructure more resilient?

2.Transportation Electrification: To what extent should the Commonwealth encourage or promote electrification of personal vehicles, transit systems and other transportation systems? What changes might be needed to energy infrastructure to support electrification?

3.Autonomous and Connected Vehicles: Over what timeframe will autonomous vehicles likely be deployed in Massachusetts and under what policy framework? What changes to policy and infrastructure might be needed to support deployment of autonomous and connected vehicles?

4.Transit and Mobility Services: To what extent will “mobility as a service” change transportation in Massachusetts? How will the role of public transportation evolve if on-demand and mobility-as-a-service options become more widespread in the future?

5.Land Use and Demographics: What changes in land use and demographics could either drive or be driven by the types of disruptive climate, technology, and business model changes likely to occur in transportation? What other context issues should the Commonwealth consider when planning for its transportation future?”

Members of the Commission include:

Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary, Stephanie Pollack; Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environment Secretary, Matthew Beaton; Metropolitan Area Planning Council Deputy Director Rebecca Davis; New England Power Generators Association President Daniel Dolan; Nutonomy Vice President of the Global Partnerships Gretchen Effgen; Harvard University Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy José Gómez-Ibáñez; Union of Concerned Scientists President Kenneth Kimmell; Director of Transportation for CERES Carol Lee Rawn; Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Eileen McAnneny; Worcester Regional Research Bureau Executive Director Timothy McGourthy; UMass Donahue Institute Director of Economic and Public Policy Research Dr, Mark Melnik; Senior Vice President of Global Public Policy for ChargePoint Colleen Quinn; Merrimack Valley Planning Commission Executive Director Karen Sawyer Conard; Pioneer Valley Transit Authority CEO Sandra Sheehan,; ML Strategies Senior Vice President Stephen Silveira; McKinsey Managing Partner Navjot Singh; and Urban Strategy America Fund head Kirk Sykes.

Of note, the Commission does not include a wide segment of traditional transportation interest groups or influencers. It is thought that the Administration may be seeking to create a “theoretical” transportation blueprint without focusing on the Commonwealth’s revenue needs during an election year. The Commission, which will meet monthly, is due to issue its report December 1, 2018. To view a copy of the Executive Order 579, please visit: https://www.mass.gov/executive-orders/no-579-establishing-the-commission-on-the-future-of-transportation-in-the.

495/MetroWest Suburban Edge Community Commission Releases Report; Identifies Water Infrastructure Needs

According to a press release issued by the offices of Co-Chairs Senator Karen Spilka, Representative Kate Hogan, and Assistant Secretary for Communities and Programs of the Executive Office of Economic Development and Housing, Juan Vega, the 495/MetroWest Suburban Edge Community Commission approved its report on findings for the 495/MetroWest region. This Commission was established by the Legislature in 2015 to examine the development challenges facing 33 suburban edge communities in the 495/MetroWest region and determine how the Commonwealth’s programs and initiatives can address their needs.

The report is prepared in two sections. Section 1 is a narrative that provides a synopsis of the development challenges considered by the Commission, documents regional constraints to growth, and identifies key findings to address these issues. Section 2 is a detailed regional profile prepared by the Commission’s research partner, the UMass Dartmouth Public Policy Center (PPC), which systematically examines relevant conditions in the 495/MetroWest region.

Beginning in July 2016, the Commission held 10 regular meetings in towns across the 495/MetroWest region. Each meeting examined one of the specific regional development challenges that the Commission seeks to address. In all, the development challenges examined include transportation, water, housing, downtown revitalization, commercial development, industry and employment, energy, educational attainment and skills, and telecommunications. At each meeting, appropriate experts from state, regional, and local agencies and organizations conducted briefings on the topic of the day and the UMass Dartmouth PPC presented the results of its extensive research and analysis to provide additional context and insights for the Commission. The Commission looked closely at water infrastructure and available resources at a special session January 27, 2017 where the DEP, Massachusetts Water Works Association and Massachusetts Water Resources Authority Advisory Board presented before the panel.

Among the UMass Dartmouth PPC’s findings:

•495/MetroWest is growing faster than the rest of the state: Between 2010 and 2015, the 495/MetroWest region saw a population increase of 5.6%, compared to 1.7% statewide.

•495/MetroWest residents are highly educated: 55% of 495/MetroWest residents ages 25+ have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 41% statewide.

•495/MetroWest is a major source of talent: Each day an estimated 32,899 workers commute from the region to the City of Boston with thousands more commuting to other locations in Greater Boston.

•495/MetroWest is a net labor importer: The 495/MetroWest region is home to more jobs than employed residents; in 2014 there were 286,883 primary jobs located in the region and 269,336 employed residents.

•495/MetroWest is a major source of job opportunities for other regions: An estimated 14,775 residents of the City of Worcester commute to locations within the 495/MetroWest region daily.

•495/MetroWest is not producing a sufficient supply of housing: Despite solid population growth, regional residential building permitting activity remains well-below 2005 levels. Moving forward, in the next phase of its work, the Commission will circulate its report to key constituencies and develop specific policy responses and recommendations to address the infrastructure issues laid forth in the report and ensure the 495/MetroWest region remains a major contributor to the state economy and a great place to live and work.

The 495/MetroWest Suburban Edge Community Commission’s report will be made available online at:

http://www.mass.gov/hed/economic/initiatives/metrowest-suburban-edge-community-commission.html. Currently, the site contains relevant documents used by the Commission to study the variety of issues before it.

News in Brief

-New Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation Named. Senate President Harriette Chandler announced that Senator Joseph Boncore of Winthrop will replace now Mayor, former Senator, Tom McGee, as the Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation. Boncore, who was previously the Senate Vice Chairman of the same committee, has a district that contains road, bridge, transit, maritime, and aeronautic constituencies. Senator Boncore will retain his chairmanship of the Joint Committee on Housing. Senator Eric Lesser was also appointed the new Senate Vice Chairman of the Transportation Committee.

-Senator Linda Dorcena-Forry Resigns. State Senator Linda Dorcena-Forry, the first woman of color to represent a district that includes South Boston, Mattapan, and Dorchester, announced her resignation to assume a position with Suffolk Construction. Forry, who was elected in 2013 in a hotly contested Senate race, was thought to be a potential candidate for the position of Senate President in the event Senator Stan Rosenberg is unable to return to the position. Respected by her colleagues, Senator Forry was a thoughtful legislator who worked with Republicans and Democrats alike. Her resignation came as a surprise to many fellow legislators.

-Major State Office Building Closed to Repair Water Infrastructure. As reported by the State House News Service, a broken water pipe at One Ashburton Place forced the state office building to close so crews could make repairs. It was the second pipe problem the 22-story building had within one week. During the previous break, the Massachusetts Lottery — located in the building’s basement — was unable to open due to water damage.

-Paid Family Proposal May Cost $1 Billion. According to the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the 2018 paid family and medical leave program ballot question will cost workers and employers $1 billion, with the state on the hook for $55 million for its workforce and another $70 million to cover the bureaucracy that will be needed to run the program. Employers under the proposed program would pay into a new trust fund 0.63 % of each employee’s annual wages, with employees seeing a new payroll deduction on their paychecks.

-Joint Rule 10 Day. The Massachusetts legislature faces a deadline for reporting legislation referred to its committee of origin. Under a revised Joint Rules agreement reached last year, the Joint Committees within the legislature must report on all legislation before them by February 7. Stay tuned for more information in the next issue of Construction Outlook magazine for a summary of matters of interest to UCANE members.