Seldom does Rep. Thomas Finneran speak to the full house. Most of his control is exercised during whispered conversations at the Speaker’s podium.
But yesterday, in middle of a disastrous budget crisis, the Speaker gave a speech. Did he urge that health care be preserved? That the homeless be given shelter. That public health be maintained? No. He urged that tax breaks for well-connected business interests be continued.
To see the news article from the Boston Herald click here. Or see the text below.
In other action, a bill paving the way for legislative pay hikes to incumbents in leadership positions sailed smoothly through both chambers of the Legislature.
May 2, 2003
Speaker takes floor to save biz tax credit
by Elisabeth J. Beardsley Friday, May 2, 2003
House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran preserved a major tax break for businesses last night – overriding liberal lawmakers’ objections the money should be used to restore deep cuts in services to thousands of the poor, sick and elderly.
The five-year extension of the investment tax credit, which was set to expire Dec. 31, is worth $32 million a year to companies that buy equipment and deduct a portion of the costs from their tax bills.
The 10-year-old policy is designed to spur business investment and job creation, but liberal lawmakers protested corporations shouldn’t be given special breaks while House leaders refuse to allow tax hikes to save social services.
“We’re giving businesses a tax break for something they would have done anyway, even while we’re gutting one of the commonwealth’s most important programs for children,” said Rep. James Marzilli (D-Arlington), who filed unsuccessful riders to plow the tax break money into programs designed to reduce the number of children in public school classrooms.
The opposition was futile – crushed on a vote of 144-10 – after Finneran took to the floor for a rare speech to the full House.
Finneran argued the multiple rounds of harrowing budget cuts are precisely why an aggressive economic stimulus is needed.
Pointing to Gov. Mitt Romney’s election and the near-abolition of the income tax, Finneran said the public is overcome with “exhaustion and resistance” to tax hikes and program cuts.
The only option left, Finneran said, is for lawmakers to try to give the economy a shot in the arm by making Massachusetts ready to become the “next Silicon Valley.”
“The time for passivity has indeed passed,” Finneran said. “What we have to do is try to become a little more active.”
The investment tax credit allows any company that buys new equipment to deduct 3 percent of the purchase value from their tax bills, which means that a $1 million outlay would translate into a $30,000 tax reduction.
House leaders say the $32 million cost of the tax break – which would have to be approved by the Senate and Romney – would be offset by an estimated $35.6 million growth in corporate excise, income, sales and property taxes.
Last year, the tax break sparked the creation of 4,220 manufacturing jobs that pay an average of $59,000, officials said.
The second day of budget deliberations had been billed as a tax debate – but the House last night adopted a “consolidated” amendment that quietly disposed of dozens of tax hikes.
Among those nixed: sales taxes on beer and wine.
The consolidated amendment includes scores of fee hikes – on top of the $700 million in fees tucked into the House budget – including a $5 monthly fee assessed to convicted criminals on probation, which would raise $3.7 million a year to undo cuts that would have shuttered 21 rape crisis centers.
While most eyes were on the House, the Senate, as expected, quietly approved a controversial bill allowing leadership pay hikes without Romney’s OK.