Not a member? Become one today!
         iBerkshires     Berkshire Chamber     MCLA     City Statistics    
Healey, Driscoll Announce Local Funding, Municipal Empowerment Act
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
05:30PM / Friday, January 19, 2024
Print | Email  

Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll address the annual Mass Municipal Association on Friday morning.

The goals laid out by Healey and Driscoll were met with cheers and applause.

Mayor Michelle Wu speaks with an MMA member before taking the stage to welcome the gathering.

North Adams Councilor Lisa Blackmer, first vice president of the Massachusetts Municipal Councillors Association, with Pittsfield Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Michael Obasohan, left, and new North Adams Councilor Andrew Fitch.

Professor, author and political commentator Eddie Glaude Jr. gives the keynote address on democracy and race.
BOSTON — Municipal officials were presented a bounty of new measures and funding designed to help cities and towns weather the changing economic conditions.
The announcement included raises in unrestricted local aid and Chapter 90 road funds and the filing of a Municipal Empowerment Act to that looks to maintain certain pandemic-era relief, address procurement regulations and raise the caps on local tax options
Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll laid out their budgetary and legislative plans to an appreciative audience Friday at the opening of the annual Massachusetts Municipal Association conference. 
"We still have revenue growth, but it's not the way it's been," said Healey, with a nod to a falling revenue forecast. "So we recognize that there are real challenges for all of us."
The event at the Hynes Convention Center featured the introduction to the broader membership of MMA's new Executive Director Adam Chapdelaine, a welcome from Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, remarks by outgoing President Jill Hai, a Lexington select board member, and a keynote address on democracy and race by Eddie S. Glaude Jr., a writer, commentator and professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. 
The conference includes a trade show, workshops and the annual business meeting on Saturday at which John McLaughlin, a Waltham councilor, will be elected president. 
Healey and Driscoll displayed their close-knit working relationship, taking turns at the microphone spelling out their plans. Driscoll joked to laughter that they were a little like Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. 
The governor said the budget she will be presenting next week will see an increase of 3 percent in unrestricted local aid — above the 2 percent consensus revenue forecast — including $16 million for rural communities. Funding for Community Compact programs will triple at $6 million and a half-million each will go to two programs for promoting careers in municipal finance.
Chapter 90 funding will come in at $400 million over two years and supplemental funding at $100 million, Driscoll said, "making sure that we're building more resilient, but tackling those things that we know residents really care about."
"Because we know the formula has challenges, we have $24 million in rural road aid," she continued.
If they liked those numbers, the lieutenant governor said, they were going to be "very happy" with the next package.
"We're pleased to announce today that next week along with the FY25 budget and our Chapter 90 proposal, we will be filing significant act reform to strengthen local government known as the Municipal Empowerment Act," she said. "It is designed to provide local government the resources, the tools and the flexibilities we need locally to try and ease this moment. ... 
"This is a packet of really great things I'm super excited to be a part of this effort."
The governor said the proposals are a direct result of the many listening sessions held across the state with officials on how some processes and regulations had made it harder to do their work on behalf of citizens. 
Among the proposals is a new property tax exemption for seniors with a cost of living adjust; a new look at unfunded liabilities such as other post-employment benefits; integration of regional boards of assessors to address the lack of services in that field; a special valuation of telecom and utility property; easing and streamlining the procurement process in some cases; increasing borrowing on small projects from 30 to 40 years; and addressing "double poles" (when a utility leaves the old pole with the new) which was greeted with whoops and applause.  
Revenue generators include increasing the caps for local tax options: up to 7 percent for lodging, 1 percent for meals and 5 percent for motor vehicle excise tax surcharges.
"For the first time that I can ever remember in 20 years, we're going to adjust that motor vehicle excise allocation in a way that's going to deliver real dollars for the needs that you have at the local level," said Driscoll, former mayor of Salem.
Healey pointed to the large of amount of federal funding being made available through measures like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act. 
"When we started, we said we're going put together a team to make sure we are chasing every single last federal dollar and maximizing everything that we can to bring back to the state and municipalities," she said. "It paid off. In one year alone through that effort We brought back $3 billion."
Both officials wore buttons promote the Affordable Homes Act that they and Secretary of Housing and Livable Communities Ed Augustus had testified in favor of on Thursday before the Joint Committee on Housing. Housing has become a focus of the administration with Healey describing the high cost of housing as critical deterrent to workforce development and quality of living.  
Driscoll reminded the MMA membership that their support was critical to pushing through these measures. 
"It doesn't happen unless we advocate for it. We come together to really showcase how meaningful this is, how important it is," she said. "We're going to need your help together with the whole line."
More Featured Stories is owned and operated by: Boxcar Media 102 Main Sreet, North Adams, MA 01247 -- T. 413-663-3384
© 2011 Boxcar Media LLC - All rights reserved