Governor Patrick’s Proposed Reforms: Municipal

One of the promises Governor Patrick made during his campaign for governor was property tax relief.  He vaguely attempts to keep that promise in his proposed municipal reform bill, An Act Strengthening the Commonwealth’s Partnership with its Municipalities. Most of what is in this bill is good for communities and taxpayers because it frees their community from the grip of the legislature. There is no reason a city or town needs to go the House to request an increase in the number of liquor licenses available in their community. This legislation will potentially help break the stranglehold of government employee unions on local communities by giving municipalities the power to join the state employee health insurance program, or GIC.

There is a separate proposal, although still lumped in with the municipal reforms the governor is proposing, that will increase the local meals and lodging tax by 1%. The governor’s projects this increase will result in $149 million dollars in local aid for cities and towns. The new revenues will supposedly be “dedicated” to local municipalities. (A similar trick was tried when there was the push to exempt seniors from Prop 2 1/2 overrides. Part of the idea behind the local meals tax was that a portion of it would cover the decrease in revenue from the seniors. Fortunately, recent attempts to mess with Prop 2 1/2 have failed.)

There does not appear to be any numbers on how this particular legislation, as it is presented, will lower property taxes. It may result in savings for local communities and make municipal business smoother but nowhere does it cover lowering property tax rates. There is no guarantee that the revenues generated from the increase in local meals and lodging taxes will lead to a decrease in local property tax rates, either. Excluding the creation of/increase in local taxes, this legislation is great just do not call it property tax relief because it is not.  

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