Legislature Fails to Pass Economic Development Bill
The Legislature failed to pass an economic development bill by the close of the legislative session, which ended on July 31. A conference committee could not agree to a final bill as it negotiated differences between each chamber's respective versions.
For housing, the Economic Development Bill contained potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in capital authorizations for affordable housing programs, including nearly $100 million for public housing capital repairs. The legislation could have also included up to $400 million in the state's American Rescue Plan Act Fiscal Recovery Funds and budget surplus funding for homeownership, workforce housing, and affordable housing for extremely low- and very low-income households. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill also included critical public housing reforms that would have helped redevelop and rehabilitate our public housing.
The bill also included proposed tax relief for millions of Massachusetts residents.
In the usual hectic lead up to the end of the legislative session, when legislators often come together with last minute deals on major pieces of legislation, the Economic Development Bill faced an unexpected challenge. Until the last week of session, legislators were unaware of a state law that will likely be triggered requiring $3 billion in direct tax relief because of unexpectedly high revenue collections.
Lawmakers were unsure if the state could afford the $3 billion in unexpected tax relief in addition to the $4 billion full price tag of the current economic development proposals. Legislative leaders announced that the bill would remain in conference until they could better understand the scope and impact of triggering the tax rebate law.
Unfortunately, this leaves all of the provisions of the economic development bill in limbo. With the end of the formal legislative session on July 31, the House and Senate will only meet in informal sessions between now and the beginning of 2023.
Informal sessions are not typically used to pass large or controversial pieces of legislation, like a multi-billion dollar economic development bill, because any member can object to a bill and hold up the process. Also, certain legislation cannot be passed during informal sessions, like borrowing authorizations, because they require recorded votes, which only happen during formal legislative sessions. The borrowing authorizations would include the nearly $200 million in capital authorizations for affordable housing.
The House and Senate both indicated they will decide if pieces of the Economic Development Bill could be taken during informal sessions but anything passed would likely be a much slimmed-down version of either the House or Senate Economic Development Bills.
CHAPA is disappointed that the Economic Development Bill did not pass. The bill would have provided the opportunity to plan for growth to ensure everyone in every community could thrive, meet the growing demand for housing, and invest in our neighborhoods in ways that benefit everyone.
CHAPA will be advocating for the Legislature to pass these pieces of the Economic Development Bill during informal sessions, including over $400 million in resources for homeownership, workforce housing, and homes for those with the lowest incomes as well as funding and policies to rehabilitate our public housing.