Westfield

Update from Rep. John Velis

I want to begin by expressing my condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the terrible tragedy that occurred this past week in Charleston, South Carolina. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in the city as they mourn those whose lives were stolen that night.
This past week in Boston there were hearings on education matters. One bill of particular interest at this hearing was the expansion of tenured positions at institutions of higher education. If you ever get a chance, I would recommend heading to the legislature’s website, malegislature.gov. It is a great resource to view upcoming events, hearings, and sessions. If you want to learn more about a certain bill or topic, you can contact me or my aide Neesha and we can do research for you.
With the House and Senate versions of the budgets passed in their respective bodies, the members of a conference committee are hard at work hammering out the disparities between the two. The conference committee has six members: three members from the House, one of them being the Chair of the House Ways and Means committee, and three from the Senate, one of them being the Chair of the Senate Ways and Means committee. The House and Senate budgets are not far off in dollar amount, but there are quite a few differences when it comes to where that money is going. The mission of the conference committee is to hash out those differences and create one budget to be sent to the Governor’s desk for approval.
As I explained a few weeks ago, there is another event of significance surrounding the FY2016 budget. Question over whether or not the House budget is a “money bill” has brought this year’s fiscal debate to a new level, and the Speaker of the House asked the Supreme Judicial Court to weigh in on this issue at the end of May.
A “money bill” is legislation that transfers money from people to the state. Essentially, a money bill would raise or lower taxes, allowing for more or less money from the people to the state. There is a clause in the Massachusetts Constitution that states that all “money bills” must originate in the House of Representatives. The House did not raise taxes or fees in the budget we passed back in April. When the Senate was debating their version of the budget, it raised taxes on flavored cigars and tobacco, increased the Earned Income Tax Credit, and froze the income tax at 5.15 percent, rather than lowering it as is scheduled.
The Supreme Court ended the debate over whether the House version of the FY2016 budget was a money bill earlier this week. The decision was unanimous; that the provision in the House budget to delay the implementation of a business tax deduction increases the amount of revenue the state is expected to collect in 2016, making the legislation a “money bill.” The conference committee now has to decide if it will include the senate’s proposal to delay a rollback of the income tax and implementing taxes on flavored cigars. The budget must be passed by July 1, as that is the start to the 2016 fiscal year, so the legislature will be voting on it any day in the coming weeks.
On the Westfield front, there is a lot happening during the summer months. The farmer’s market is open and thriving each Thursday at the Church of Atonement on Court Street. This coming week, there is a Strawberry Festival at the same location starting at 5pm, which is a great place to grab a treat before heading to the Summer Concert on the Green. Everyone is also welcome to help me kick off summer at the Tavern this Tuesday night. Stop by and grab a drink or some food and say hi!
As always, please contact me with any questions, issues, or concerns at john[email protected] You can also stop by my district office at 52 Court Street.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not the staff, editor, or publisher of this publication.

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