Economic Development Bill Passed

Today, the House and Senate finalized negotiations on the Economic Development Bill (H. 5374). We do an “Ec Dev” bill at the end of every session. It is mostly a spending bill. This year, our legislation needed serious reevaluation as a result of the application of Chapter 62F. Negotiations continued from the end of July until today (November 3).

The $6.7 billion bill rolls in the $3 billion in Chapter 62F reimbursements to assure that they are returned from FY22 surplus, not from FY23 funds. It spends an additional $3.76 billion in “one-time funds.” I’m especially pleased with the bill’s strong support of the Human Services Sector, Clean Energy and Affordable Housing.

In addition to the major items summarized further below, the bill includes local spending items across the state, including the following House and Senate initiatives in my district:

  • $300,000 for design of bicycle, pedestrian and vehicle safety improvements on Grove Street in Belmont — this goes along with a $3,000,000 construction cost earmark already passed in the Transportation Bond Bill (Sen. Brownsberger);
  • $250,000 for improvements in public housing in Belmont (Rep. Rogers);
  • $100,000 towards the rink project in Belmont (Rep. Rogers);
  • $100,000 towards the library project in Belmont (Rep. Rogers);
  • $210,000 for rehab of O’Reilly Plaza in Fenway (Sen. Brownsberger);
  • $50,000 for the Fenway Cares Initiative for food insecure residents of Boston (Rep. Livingstone)
  • $900,000 for rehab of Saltonstall Park in Watertown (Sen. Brownsberger);
  • $6,000,000 for upgrade of fencing and open land along the MassPike in Brighton (Rep. Moran);
  • $9,000,000 for improvement of the intersection of Western Avenue, Soldiers Field road and Birmingham parkway in Brighton (Rep. Moran);
  • $35,000 for improvements to Ringer Park in Allston (Rep. Honan).

The originally approved versions of the economic development bill included a host of “outside sections” addressing a range of policy issues that hadn’t made it through the legislative process as standalone bills. For example, I inserted a version of Digital Right to Repair as an amendment to the senate version of Ec Dev. Essentially none of these outside sections were adopted in the final conference report — that is not an unexpected outcome: It is hard enough for the budget conferees to negotiate the financial terms, never mind complex collateral policy issues.

The summary below of the largest pieces of the Economic Development Bill (H. 5374) is derived from a presentation made to Senators today by Mike Rodriques, Chair of Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Overview

The conference report includes $6.7B in critical investments and relief, including:

  • $3.76B gross ($2.85B net) in investments between the economic development bill and FY 2022 closeout supplemental budget.
  • $2.94B in one-time rebates to taxpayers to assist with rising costs.
  • $20M transferred to the Community Preservation Act Trust Fund and $10M transferred to the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.

This agreement utilizes up to $510M in ARPA State Fiscal Recovery Funds, leaving approximately $1.75B for future considerations.

Spending Highlights

Health & Human Services ($1.4B)

  • $350M for fiscally strained hospitals.
  • $225M for Ch. 257 enhanced payments for human service workers.
  • $200M to support COVID-19 public health response efforts.
  • $165M for nursing facilities and $30M for rest homes.
  • $100M for community health centers.
  • $25M to expand low threshold housing options for individuals with substance use disorder.
  • $25M for food security infrastructure grants.
  • $20M for migrant supports, including housing and wraparound services.
  • $20M to reduce gun violence and related trauma.
  • $20M for Victims of Crime Act bridge funding.
  • $17.5M for reproductive and family planning services.
  • $5M to support harm reduction efforts and services to address substance use disorder.

Clean Energy & Environment ($540M)

  • $250M to accelerate and support clean energy initiatives, including notable priorities from this session’s climate legislation:
    • $50M for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to accelerate the transition to and expansion of renewable energy.
    • $100M to support the adoption of electric vehicles, as well as the creation and expansion of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
    • $100M for port infrastructure improvements.
  • $175M for investments in public land with an emphasis on underrepresented communities.
  • $115M for the Clean Water Trust.

Affordable Housing Development ($410M)

  • $100M for the CommonWealth Builder Program to create for-sale, below market housing opportunities primarily for first-time homebuyers.
  • $100M for the production of workforce housing.
  • $100M for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
  • $50M for the Equitable Developers’ Financing Program.
  • $25 million for regional low threshold housing to support homeless or housing unstable individuals with substance use disorder 
  • $20 million for housing options and additional support services and resources to address the needs of immigrants and refugees 
  • $10 million for public housing redevelopment 

Economic Development, Workforce & Education

  • $153M for grants to businesses with a particular focus on minority-owned businesses.
  • $150M for early education and care stabilization grants.
  • $112M (paired with more than $265M in the FY23 GAA) for safety improvements at the MBTA.
  • $100M for the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
  • $75M for investments in broadband infrastructure.
  • $57M for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to support families dealing with increased home energy costs.
  • $50M to promote the attainment of debt-free higher education for students pursuing careers in high-demand industries, such as health care, education and cybersecurity.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

Join the Conversation

19 Comments

  1. Did I miss an allocation for the MBTA? Maybe to help the financial viability of the Parcel 13 project?

  2. Thanks so much for your efforts to obtain additional Ch. 257 funding for human services workers. These people do so much good and are grossly underpaid.

  3. Why are we investing more in renewables than affordable housing? Also why was nothing address to assist low income renters but investment was secured for immigrants, some that maybe here illegally? There should be more options and assistance to our citizens first. Also, a major problem for first time home buyers, besides the current high prices of homes, are the current interest rates. I propose a state program that would offer first time home buyers a fixed low rate, something around 2-4% and/or based off their income. This would incentivize more young individuals to remain in the state and we can retain more young talent that attend our prestigious colleges/universities.

    1. The bill like most of our legislation reflects a balance of multiple priorities. Reasonable people can disagree on how much money to put in each bucket — indeed, that’s why the bill took three months to negotiate.

  4. Senator,
    We have talked may times in person. I always appreciate your good work.
    Just a thought. Belmont’s population is 26,ooo and change. Watertown’s is 35,000 and change. There are many things I can think of in Watertown that needs to be improved–and Belmont gets the lion share of the money. There could be completely valid reasons for this that I am unaware of. I get that. But somehow, I can’t seem to separate this in my mind from a simple everyday observation: On a regular basis, I see 2, even 3 #73 buses start from Harvard Square before a #71 bus appears. “Them that has, gets.”

    And no, though I am proudly liberal (and was openly so when it was made into a slur by the Republicans), I am not a flame-throwing ultra leftist. In my career, I have been an exec officer of a NASDAQ company myself, and also an advisor to multiple CEOs/CXOs of brand name firms.

    One example: I would really be interested in knowing, for example, why no one thought of putting aside money to upgrade the traffic systems on Galen/Watertown Square to make the crossing safer for pedestrians, runners, and bikers. I had raised this issue in 2017 or 2018 when a pedestrian died on the Watertown Street/Galen Street crossing. At that time, the Chief of Police of Watertown–to whom YOU had directed my concerns–had written that the project was in the works and would take 2-3 years because of funding constraints. Here we are 4-5 years down the road and I’m still waiting for my life, and that of the walkers and runners in my family, to be made safer.

    1. Hi Amit,

      There is no disparity in spending — in fact, if you look at the list above, you’ll see that Watertown got more money in this bill. I give even-handed and diligent attention to all the communities I serve. I consult with local officials before allocating local priority funds and my allocations reflect those conversations.

      One thing that many people do not know is that bond bill money is subject to the Governor’s decision making in her capital planning process; bond bill allocations do not guaranty any funds. This bill allocates cash which is guaranteed to be delivered and Watertown does very well in this bill.

      Regarding the 71 and 73, if buses are bunched as they often are, then a bunch of the other line’s buses will go by while you wait for your bunch. I have plenty of people complain that the 71 gets all the buses. In fact, there are somewhat more on the 73 because there are more riders on the 73.

  5. What is the status of reform as to the estate tax ? There is no mention in your update. It should not be that difficult to address. Blaming the fact that the legislature was unaware of 62F is not an excuse.

      1. Thanks for the update Will. Despite all the fear inducing no on 1 commercials before the election it must be made clear to your colleagues and leadership that the Estate Tax is a much higher burden that adversely impacts a much larger percentage of people in this state, especially those in the middle class.

  6. Thank You for your work, Will. Is there ANY local money to fix the streets in Belmont? There isn’t a street in Belmont that
    doesn’t need Re-paving !!!!

  7. We may think more about aligning the tax burden with the beneficiaries. There is soo much need for affordable housing etc. but no revenue stream well matched to it. Just manufactured poverty (failed public policy) created by external subsidy (low interest rates caused a lot of real estate speculation for the gentrification market, when interest rates rise, property assessments on the high end fall off more than the low end causing the low end to market to take up the slack) while the speculators have grabbed their loot and ran.
    I am thinking, in this case, these 2 are mostly for automobile accommodations and should come out of the gas tax levy. not the general levy. The more road you use the more tax you pay .
    $6,000,000 for fencing along MassPike
    $9,000,000 for .. intersection of Western Avenue ..
    These roads are used by motor vehicles (the beneficiary) so the gas tax should fall on them (the burden).

  8. Will, thank you for all of your work on this and for keeping us informed on the substance of the bill. I would like to echo the comments of Martha Krache and David Smith On the importance of the legislature taking action on the state estate tax.

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