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Where’s the Relief? The Distribution of Federal Funding in Massachusetts

As difficult as this past year has been, it would have been worse without the more than $70 billion in federal relief to Massachusetts so far from just the first five of the COVID-19 federal relief bills. About $39 billion in federal dollars goes directly to individuals and businesses, through stimulus checks and programs like the Paycheck Protection Program. About $3 billion goes to regional transportation authorities and Head Start providers. And about $29 billion is expected for programs operated through the state’s executive agencies. But how does this money get distributed? Since March 2020, Congress has passed six major ...
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Does it Make Sense to Collect Bus Fares?

Eliminating fares on Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and Regional Transit Authority (RTA) buses makes sense for practical economic reasons as well as for equity and environmental sustainability. The resources spent collecting bus fares don’t serve any transportation function. Selling bus passes and tickets, verifying and collecting them, and enforcing fare payments do not help transport bus riders more quickly or safely to their destinations. On the contrary, bus fares discourage people from using the bus, and fare collection slows down travel while making it more stressful and inconvenient. Everything related to fares diverts resources that could otherwise provide more ...
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Free Buses Advance Equity

Transit fares deepen existing income inequalities and racial disparities. Transit riders tend to have lower-than average incomes, especially bus riders. Black and Latinx residents are also more likely to be transit riders than white residents, again especially on buses. Enforcement of fare policies, such as through arrests and citations, also tends to impact people of color disproportionately. Transit fares are regressive, meaning that they claim a larger share of income from people with low- and middle-incomes than from higher-income people. While several other kinds of taxes and public fees fall disproportionately on lower-income households in Massachusetts, perhaps none falls more ...
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The Dollars & Sense of Free Buses

There are many reasons to eliminate transit fares, especially on buses. In addition to advancing equity and reducing climate change emissions, fare-free service is more efficient, faster, and more convenient. Eliminating fares also increases transit ridership and helps stimulate the local economy. The major rationale for continuing to require fares is that officials have become accustomed to counting on this traditional – although relatively minor – source of revenue. Bus fares are a relatively minor part of transit budgets Public transportation is a public good that is mostly funded by public support. Most funding for transit authorities comes from the ...
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Freeing the Climate: Environmental Benefits of Eliminating Transit Fares

In addition to being more efficient and equitable, eliminating bus fares would benefit the climate. The transportation sector is the biggest and fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts, and personal vehicles are responsible for the majority of those emissions. Transportation accounted for 42 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts in 2017, the latest year with official data. The Commonwealth has made specific commitments to reduce emissions from transportation, specifically in its new “Next Generation Climate Roadmap” law and the Governor’s Transportation and Climate Initiative. Eliminating transit fares can be part of achieving those goals. The Commonwealth’s Decarbonization ...
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Choosing Equity: Options for Affordable Public Higher Education in Massachusetts

This page  presents a preview excerpt that explains the problem in public higher education. Click here to view the full report.      
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Beacon Hill’s “Double-Dip” Tax Break Misses the Mark for Struggling Communities, Families, and Small Businesses

Statement by Marie-Frances Rivera, MassBudget President, on the PPP “double-dip” tax break   “The Legislature’s decision yesterday on Emergency Paid Sick Time and Unemployment Insurance (UI) creates cause for celebration. Providing targeted tax relief for unemployed workers whose income falls below 200 percent of the poverty line is commendable. As stated in our recent brief, Black, Latinx, and Indigenous workers, as well as low-income workers, have particularly benefited from UI. These two policies provide opportunities for an equitable recovery from the pandemic.   The Legislature’s decision is also cause for concern because it creates a new “double-dip” tax break only for those business ...
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Massachusetts Should Prohibit “Double-Dip” Tax Break for Profitable Businesses

Click here for a PDF version of this statement. S.D. 172, “An act providing financial relief to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic”, is bad fiscal policy, bad economic policy, bad social policy and bad tax policy. Moreover, the problem that supporters of S.D. 172 argue must be fixed doesn’t actually exist. PPP loans were provided by the federal government to businesses to help them meet payroll, pay rent or mortgages, and cover utility costs. If used as intended, business owners’ PPP loans will be converted into grants on which they will pay no federal or state income tax – ...
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Testimony before the Health Equity Task Force on the importance of work and family mobility for all, regardless of immigrant status

Testimony by Monique Ching, Senior Policy Analyst at the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, for the Health Equity Task Force public hearing on February 8, 2021. Members of the Health Equity Task Force, thank you for the opportunity to speak today about An Act Relative to Work and Family Mobility During and Subsequent to the COVID-19 Emergency (HD.448/SD.273). My name is Monique Ching and I am a Senior Policy Analyst at the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a nonpartisan research organization that focuses on state fiscal and economic policy. Imagine, for a moment, that you do not have a driver’s ...
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Governor’s FY 2022 Proposal: Short-Sighted Recovery Budget Leaves Opportunity to Chance for K-12, Transportation & More

Statement by Marie-Frances Rivera, MassBudget President, on Governor Baker's Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Proposal filed Wednesday, January 27, 2021.
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How will the state government pave our way to an equitable recovery? What to watch this FY 2022 budget season.

1. How will the state generate enough revenue to meet everyone’s needs? Before state lawmakers even begin creating a budget, they need to determine how much money the state will likely collect for that fiscal year. For FY 2022, state leaders now estimate Massachusetts will bring in $30.12 billion in tax revenue, which is a 3.5 percent increase from the amount the Governor now projects will be collected in FY 2021 — a far more optimistic outlook than many experts had adopted only a few months ago. Nevertheless, both the recently revised FY 2021 estimate of $29.09 billion and the ...
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The Pandemic Persists: Pain Points for the Children of Massachusetts

Policymakers have the responsibility and an opportunity to make smart and fair policy choices that will support children and families. This is particularly true now amid the twin health and economic emergencies that expose and make worse long-standing racial and economic inequities. COVID-19 and the economic downturn have hit hard, particularly in households with children and in communities already disadvantaged by lack of access to stable employment, housing, and economic security: The economic downturn has had a particularly deep impact on women, on families with children. and on Black and Latinx households.[1] More than half of Massachusetts households with children ...
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Unemployment Insurance Saved the Massachusetts Economy. How Can We Ensure It Will Be Strong for the Future?

Many Massachusetts businesses today owe their survival in part to UI sustaining customers’ demand for products and services. Over the years, even though the UI system funding has run low, legislators have repeatedly waived rules requiring employers to increase their payroll contributions. The state has had to borrow from the federal UI Trust Fund which puts Massachusetts in debt to that fund. While no state UI system was prepared to handle the tidal wave of unemployment brought about by the pandemic, the Commonwealth is particularly badly prepared. In 2021, Massachusetts employers will be required to pay assessed interest on unpaid ...
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Statement on Senate Ways and Means Committee’s FY 2021 Budget

Read the statement by Marie-Frances Rivera, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget), on the Senate Ways and Means Committee's Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Budget.
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Raising Rates on Unearned Income: An Equitable Way to Avoid Cuts and Support a Robust and Just Recovery

As a Commonwealth, we must respond to these intertwined health and economic crises in ways that acknowledge and correct for these deep-seated and longstanding inequities. Raising additional revenue through rate increases on unearned income would help the Commonwealth address the immediate harms of the pandemic, as well as make the investments that will speed us toward a just and robust recovery. What is “unearned income”? Broadly speaking, the income people receive can be divided into two categories, “earned income” and “unearned income.” Earned income typically comes in the form of wages and/or salaries directly connected to the daily work that ...
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