Representative Jay Kaufman has been named Chairman of the Committee on Revenue by Speaker Robert DeLeo. This will be Representative Kaufman’s fourth term as chair of this committee, one of the busiest and most powerful on Beacon Hill. Over the past six years, the committee has explored all elements of the state’s revenue system, including income, sales, and property taxes, and special tax breaks, comparing Massachusetts revenue and tax policies to those of other states across the country. Kaufman chaired a special commission to examine so-called “tax expenditures,” the accounting term for exemptions, deductions, credits, exceptions, and targeted tax breaks. The committee’s work on tax expenditures provided the model and inspiration for a “best practices” document recently adopted by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Kaufman also chaired a special commission to examine the fairness of Massachusetts’ taxes. The report of the Tax Fairness Commission, released last spring, concludes that our tax system is fundamentally unfair, with the poorest in the Commonwealth paying about 10% of household income in state and local taxes while the wealthiest are paying only 5%.
“The special commission’s work affirms what we have long suspected, that the way we tax ourselves today is fundamentally unfair,” Kaufman said. In thanking the Speaker for the trust and confidence he showed in reappointing him to the chairmanship, Kaufman added “the commission’s recommendations point to the work we must do this term. Americans are increasingly aware of the dangers to our economy, to our political system, and to our fundamental values of the nation’s and this Commonwealth’s large and growing wealth and income divides. Our revenue system is part of the problem, and I am confident that we have both the will and the way to have an open, informed debate about how to reform our taxes so that they are both fairer and better able to sustain the critical public services that we count on in Massachusetts.”
For this upcoming legislative session Kaufman has sponsored two dozen bills. In addition to budget and revenue initiatives, Kaufman’s bills deal with election laws, energy and the environment, health and safety, and good governance practices. The following bills are his legislative priorities:
An Act to promote sales tax fairness for Main Street retailers
An effort to level the playing field between local retailers and online sellers by ensuring state sales tax is collected for all purchases.
An Act relative to the tax expenditure budget
This bill requires a yearly review of the various sections of the TEB and an equal reduction for any added expenditures. Also establishes criteria for any newly proposed tax expenditures.
An Act relative to broadened eligibility for relief from disproportionate property tax burdens
The circuit breaker program, passed as part of the FY01 budget, provides a refundable state tax credit to qualified senior citizens whose property taxes exceed 10% of their income. The circuit breaker is designed to moderate the most regressive elements of the property tax. The new bill would expand the property tax circuit breaker to citizens regardless of age.
An Act establishing a special commission on the tax expenditure budget
This bill creates a special commission to identify tax expenditures that are an inherent part of the tax code as well as review and evaluate all other tax expenditures and recommend regular intervals at which each tax expenditure shall expire unless renewed.
An Act to promote municipal collaboration and regionalization throughout the Commonwealth
This bill promotes existing regional opportunities while creating new regional solutions to help make municipal government more efficient at a time when many communities are strained financially.
An Act to establish a Legislative Budget Office
Creates a Legislative Budget Office, a non-partisan office within the Legislature charged with providing independent, objective fiscal estimates to all legislators and staff upon request, similar to the federal Congressional Budget Office.
An Act for Healthy Families and Businesses
A wide array of toxic chemicals we use in our everyday lives are contributing to an epidemic of chronic diseases and disorders, including asthma, birth defects, cancers, developmental disabilities, diabetes, endometriosis, infertility, and Parkinson’s disease. The Healthy Families bill will establish a pragmatic approach to reducing health and environmental impacts from many of the toxic chemicals we are exposed to in everyday life. It creates a careful process to identify such chemicals for which there are economically feasible, safer alternatives, and then creates a program of transition from the dangerous to the safer chemical with technical and financial assistance available.
An Act relative to the disclosure of toxic chemicals in children’s products
This bill requires manufacturers who make children’s consumer products and formulated products that are for sale in the Commonwealth to notify the Department of Environmental Protection in writing if said products contain a toxic chemical at a level above a de minimis level. The DEP is then responsible for using the Interstate Chemical Clearinghouse database to log this information and make it available to the public via the DEP website.
An Act to ensure secure voting equipment
This bill would mandate that all electronic voting machines allow voters to verify his or her ballot before the vote is cast. The Secretary of State currently abides by this practice, but this bill would put that policy into statute.
An Act relative to voting by the instant runoff voting method
This bill would create a method of casting and tabulating votes that simulates the ballot counts that would occur if all voters participated in a series of runoff elections with one candidate eliminated after each round of counting.
An Act relative to voting by the instant runoff voting method in primaries
Same as above but for primary elections only.
An Act Relative to the cost of living adjustments for retired public employees of the Commonwealth
Immediately moves the base we use to calculate Cost of Living adjustments from $13k to $16k and then gradually moves the base so that it is eventually indexed with the social security base.