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Keller @ Large: Healey's proposed tax cuts aim to keep people from leaving Massachusetts

Keller @ Large: Gov. Healey's proposed tax cuts aim to keep people from leaving Massachusetts
Keller @ Large: Gov. Healey's proposed tax cuts aim to keep people from leaving Massachusetts 02:39

BOSTON – "We live in an awesome place, but it's not awesome if you can't afford it," Gov. Maura Healey said at a Joint Revenue Committee hearing on her multi-faceted tax relief package.

And with our state losing an eye-popping 110,000 residents over the past three years as people flee the sky-high cost of living, this was an important early opportunity for the governor to lobby for legislative approval of her plan to help stop the bleeding. 

"This package was put together in an effort to make Massachusetts more affordable for families, more affordable for residents, in an effort to make Massachusetts more competitive," Healey said.

There was no dissent over the tax breaks for struggling low- and middle-income earners. Jo Ann Simon of Swampscott, an advocate for the disabled who cares for a 43-year-old son with Down Syndrome, applauded the $600 tax credit for dependents.

"Why aren't we recognizing the heroic sacrifices that families are making every day in this Commonwealth to care for their children and especially for their adult children with disabilities at home?" she asked.               

But on proposals for cuts in the capital gains and estate taxes that would help upper income residents, there was intraparty pushback.

"I'm particularly intrigued by the fact that at least some national tax policy experts say there's no connection between tax rates on capital gains and economic growth," said a skeptical Sen. Becca Rausch (D-Needham).

Replied Healey: "Certainly we're concerned about higher income households leaving because of the tax revenue they generate for the state."

Sen. Lydia Edwards (D-East Boston) suggested Healey boost the breaks for lower-income residents but slow down on pushing for the upper-income cuts.

"I've heard the narrative a couple of times about us being an outlier on this," she said. "I'm ok with being an outlier because we lead, on civil rights so on and so forth."

"I just don't believe that Massachusetts should be the only state in the country in this situation," responded the governor. "I'm not looking to create more reasons for people to leave here even if it's back to my home state of New Hampshire."

A similar tax-cut plan was proposed last year by then-Governor Charlie Baker. The legislature threw out the upper-income tax breaks but was set to pass the rest when the whole thing was derailed by the mandatory tax rebate.

If the exodus from the state keeps up and inflation stays high, Healey could have public sentiment solidly behind her by the time this comes to a vote. But it will be a telling early test of her political skill.

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