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With Massachusetts returning $3B to taxpayers, what's another $500M? Maybe too much

A stack of $1 U-S paper currency.
Federal Register
A stack of $1 U-S paper currency.

Massachusetts still has a whole pot of money that, by law, must be returned to taxpayers. That 1986 law caps state revenue growth and triggers the return of money. So, there will be rebate checks issued to many residents. Months ago, as Matt Murphy of the State House News Service explains, state lawmakers were talking about another separate economic relief measure which could still be in the works.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: Well, as far as we know, it's still on the table now that the numbers have been certified, and we know that roughly $3 billion is going back to taxpayers and refunds this fall under that 1986 law. Democrats on Beacon Hill have returned to negotiations over this economic development bill, and that includes the billion dollars in tax relief and tax policy reforms that they had been contemplating before they figured out that this '86 tax refund law was going to be triggered.

And $500 million was supposed to be set aside to go back to taxpayers in relief checks of $250 to income eligible people. But interestingly, Senate Ways and Means chair Michael Rodrigues, in an interview with a local radio station on the South Coast last week said "probably not" when asked about these checks, citing the fact that $3 billion was already getting returned.

This was a step further than we've heard any other lawmakers say. And we expect that this is still being negotiated. But it was interesting to hear the chairman say that they may be looking at a much smaller package without those checks as part of it.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: Well, while we're talking about money, millions of dollars separate the candidates for governor of Massachusetts, Maura Healey and Geoff Diehl. Healey is all over TV with ads. Diehl, who refused to accept taxpayer funded campaign money, doesn't seem to have enough money for TV ads?

Yeah, that's right. I mean, he just doesn't have the financial support that he needs to go up on air. Attorney General Healey last week launched her third television spot. That's the second of this general election campaign. This one, a testimonial from a father who lost a son to opioid addiction, crediting Attorney General Healey with listening to his family's story and taking on the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma.

But Jeff Diehl came into September coming off of the primary and his primary victory with very little money in the bank. Not nearly enough to go on television. He is doing radio spots and some online messaging. We'll know more about the state of his campaign's finances at the beginning of October when he reports on fundraising for the month of September. But it would have taken a huge haul and something that we haven't seen him be able to do throughout the course of this campaign for him to have the resources to go up on TV, which is probably something he could really use to get in front of voters given where he stands in much of the public polling so far.

He trails well behind in polls in the race, and early voting is rapidly approaching. Does Diehl have a possible "path to victory"?

You know, we've seen some polling suggest that he has some traction among independent voters. And this in addition to some of his crossover appeal with Democrats that current Governor Charlie Baker had. He really cleaned up among these independent voters who are looking for a more moderate voice to be somewhat of a contrast to the Legislature.

So far, it does not look like Diehl is having that kind of traction with independent voters. A lot of them reporting in polling that they're turned off by the pro-Trump conservative bent of his campaign, that he would have to turn things around. But that would be his path to swing a lot of these independent voters, because we've seen Democrats, even those who voted Republican for Baker, maybe the past two cycles, flocking to Healey, not really interested in the Diehl campaign at this point.

And finally, Chinese Manufacturer CRRC who years ago was chosen to build and deliver new subway cars for the Boston T, and which has a Springfield factory, is a company that has been plagued by delays. They recently told state officials they now anticipate delivery of Red and Orange Line trains to be a year and a half late. Officials were, let's say, not pleased. Matt, should this company and the western Mass. employees here be worried about that contract with the state?

Yes. Certainly frustrating, and leaders are not happy. They're pretty deep into this contract. Now, it's not like you can just turn it off. So, I know they are exploring whether or not there can be fines against the company for the late delays here. A lot of new trains now running on the Orange Line, but a lot of the Red Line cars will be delayed at least a year or more. So, I think you're more likely to see penalties here, but they're going to try and get this contract fulfilled.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.
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