Pittsfield: BRTA announces evening route change (copy)

State lawmakers expect to override several vetoes from Gov. Charlie Baker, including one that struck the Legislature’s plan to add $3.5 million for regional transit.

While some lawmakers have voiced displeasure with vetoes made by Gov. Charlie Baker to parts of the state budget, most are confident in the Legislature’s ability to override the Baker vetoes.

Baker rejected $7.9 million worth of spending in the $47.6 billion annual budget. But, Democrats in the House and Senate have the two-thirds majority necessary to override vetoes.

Baker rejected the Legislature’s addition of $3.5 million for regional transit authorities. While the budget passed by the Legislature included $94 million for RTAs, Baker cut that number to $90.5 million, the level he recommended in January.

State Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, called that veto “insulting” to places like the Franklin County communities she represents. Like Berkshire County, those communities do not have public transportation service on evenings or weekends.

Baker, in his veto letter, said federal COVID-19 relief already has delegated more than $400 million for RTAs.

When inconvenient schedules prevent more riders from taking the bus, and RTAs do not generate enough revenue to expand service, state investment is what is needed to help RTAs respond to community needs, Blais said.

“We know that each community is different, and our RTAs need to be the ones to have the expertise to develop the plans to best serve their communities,” said Blais, calling public transportation “critical” for residents who need service to get to jobs. “But, they need the resources to be able to do that.”

While the Legislature had voted to eliminate three tax credits that a commission found no longer serve their intended purpose, Baker vetoed two of those changes. State Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, worked on the Tax Expenditure Review Commission that recommended eliminating the credits.

Hinds said those changes were “low-hanging fruit” for reforming state tax credits because they are claimed by only a small number of entities.

Baker vouched for keeping tax credits for harbor maintenance and for medical device companies.

The medical device credit, which fully reimburses companies for fees to submit applications and supplements to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is claimed each year by a half a dozen companies, totaling $400,000 to $600,000, Baker said. The harbor maintenance credit gives $1.5 million in credits annually to more than 80 taxpayers, he said.

While Baker said those credits should be maintained because they benefit Massachusetts companies and residents, Hinds justified eliminating the credits on the reasoning that the harbor maintenance credit is not replicated in other states and that the medical device credit serves only a few companies.

Baker also vetoed the Legislature’s proposal to delay the start of a tax deduction for charitable donations. Voters approved the measure in a 2000 ballot question, although its implementation was delayed by a budget crunch.

While Baker says an improving revenue picture means now is the time to implement the deduction, Hinds said the deduction would decrease tax collections by $300 million at a time when lawmakers are seeking to make investments responding to inequalities exposed by the pandemic.

The Legislature might take up veto overrides as early as this week, ahead of its traditional August recess.

Danny Jin, a Report for America corps member, is The Eagle’s Statehouse news reporter. He can be reached at djin@berkshireeagle.com, @djinreports on Twitter and 413-496-6221.

Statehouse reporter

Danny Jin is the Eagle's Statehouse reporter. A graduate of Williams College, he previously interned at The Eagle and The Christian Science Monitor.