The leaves have started to turn, birds are chirping, and I just spent this perfect sunny afternoon canvassing in Medford for Yes on 1 (Fair Share) and Yes on 4 (Safer Roads). And I’ve gotta say, between the vitamin D and the rush of talking to real voters on the doors, I’m feeling pretty hopeful.
But we’re up against the clock; especially with mail-in ballots already being cast, we only have a few precious weeks left to leave it all on the field for Yes on 1, Yes on 4, and for the anti-status quo candidates we need to send to Beacon Hill so badly.
From $2 billion for schools and transportation to road safety and dignity for people regardless of immigration status, never mind a healthy, functioning democracy–we have too much on the line to sit this one out.
Join me on the doors for some more vitamin D this week?
State House Scoop
Progressive Dems hope to stop regressive rebates
Finally: this week a group of progressive lawmakers filed a bill to mitigate the regressive tax rebates slated to go out this fall and winter. These tax rebates, required under a Reagan-era tax cap law known as “62f,” are a massive tax cut for the wealthy; Massachusetts millionaires can expect upwards of $22,000 back in their bank accounts, and low-income folks will receive an average of $9. The bill, filed by Rep. Mike Connolly, would cap the rebates at $6,500 and distribute the excess equally among the other taxpayers. This measure doesn’t go as far as it should (i.e. eliminating the rebates altogether and using this revenue to fund the MBTA and affordable housing programs) but it’s much better than the alternative.
House leadership seems to have no intention of supporting the bill. Quite the contrary: just last month Speaker Mariano said he looked forward to the rebates as planned. And members of the Progressive Caucus, a group of roughly 50 self-described progressive representatives, seem scared to stick their necks out; thus far, only four reps (Reps. Belsito, Sabadosa, Owens, and Gouveia) and one Senator (Sen. Eldridge) have joined Connolly in sponsoring the bill. If your rep is not one of those listed, maybe give them a friendly call.
Millions for affordable housing in Boston left on the table by Legislature
In 2019, Boston City Council passed a real estate transfer tax which would impose a 2% fee on property sales over $2 million. This fee on high-price luxury real estate transactions is a smart strategy to raise much needed revenue for affordable housing programs. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there: in Massachusetts, cities need approval from the legislature to enact new taxes. You’ll never guess what happened next.
Just kidding, you can totally guess: the legislature killed this request (called a “home rule petition”) two sessions in a row. According to a report just published by the Institute for Policy Studies, if the legislature had approved this tax in 2019 the city of Boston could have collected $20 million from the sale of six buildings alone. I’m not talking Dorchester triple-deckahs here–I’m talking Seaport skyscrapers. Mayor Wu’s office estimates the tax would have raised $100 million in 2021, had the legislature decided to act.
We need to tackle the housing crisis across Massachusetts, especially in the Boston area, and we need to do it now; nearly 50% of Boston tenants spend at least half of their income on housing. And in order to buy a home in Greater Boston, a household must earn at least $180,000/year–nearly $100k more than the median household income.
In addition to stalling the transfer fee, our supermajority of Democrats in the legislature have thus far responded to the housing crisis by ending the COVID eviction moratorium last year, which we know “walloped” communities of color, and refusing to lift the statewide ban on rent control. Oops, spoiler alert…
In Memoriam: The Graveyard of the 192nd Session
Now that our legislature is through with major business for the rest of the year, it’s time to take a look back through the 192nd legislative session to acknowledge some of the popular progressive bills that died, yet again.
Rent control is a common, time-tested policy that restricts the amount landlords can raise rents annually. To be clear, rent control doesn’t mean that landlords cannot increase your rent–they just cannot increase rent over a certain amount in a year.
Rent control used to be a municipal issue; cities in Massachusetts were allowed to enact their own rent control protections. Three cities, Boston, Cambridge and Brookline, had rent control since the 1970s. But in 1994, a landlord-backed referendum question changed everything: the referendum asked voters to outright ban the use of rent control across the state. Voters in all 312 towns and cities would be voting on an issue that only affected three. After campaigning ferociously in parts of the state that did not have rent control, the referendum squeaked into law: 51% to 49%. Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline all voted against the ban.
The bill (H.1378), which has now been filed in the legislature two sessions in a row, would lift this statewide ban on rent control. In 2021 it was reported favorably out of the first committee, and died in the Policy & Scheduling committee. This time around, it didn’t even make it that far: it was “sent to study.”
Why in the world does our legislature have such deference to landlords and real estate developers? The same reason politicians have deference to any special interest: money. Because they contribute to their reelection campaigns, Beacon Hill continues to choose the interests of housing profiteers over the interests of their constituents who are being bled dry and displaced by housing costs. As if we needed another reminder to get money out of politics.
Canvass for Teresa English: Sunday 10/16 3:00PM, Billerica
We’ll be knocking on doors in Billerica for State Rep Candidate Teresa English, who is running against one of the furthest right Republicans in the House. Join us on Sunday, October 16th at 3PM in Billerica to canvass for Teresa!
Letter to the Editor Workshop for State House Transparency: Thursday 10/13 at 6:00PM!
As we approach the November 8th general election, it’s time to start making some noise for Yes on 6: our ballot question campaign for public committee votes! Writing an op-ed or a letter to the editor in your local paper is a powerful way to spread the word and let your community (and your representative) know why you support Yes on 6.
Volunteer for Yes on 4 for Safer Roads!
The recently-passed Work and Family Mobility Act to allow residents without federal status to obtain a driver’s license is vulnerable to being repealed via ballot referendum in November. The Yes on 4 for Safer Roads campaign needs your help to protect immigrants rights and defeat the Republican-backed effort on Election Day. Sign up for a canvass near you
Show your support for Yes on 6 for Democracy on Beacon Hill!
As we approach the November 8th general election, it’s time to start making some noise for Yes on 6: our ballot question campaign for public committee votes! We're trying to identify as many supporters as we can before election day. If you plan to vote yes on 6, sign your name here! And to help spread the word, please send this to 5 friends, neighbors, or family members that live in your area.
That's all for this week. Enjoy the sunshine while it lasts!
Executive Director, Act on Mass