| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – State Rep. Angelo Puppolo said that he is “very pleased” with what he has seen in the state budget released by Gov. Charlie Baker.
Puppolo made the comment as part of an interview to be released next week by Focus Springfield. His district includes parts of Springfield, East Longmeadow and all of Wilbraham.
Baker made education funding one of the priorities in his budget and Puppolo noted one of the goals of the Legislature is to finalize the Foundation Budget, which would reform education funding. The General Court was not able to agree on a bill during its last session.
“We were close last session,” he explained when the House and Senate versions were not reconciled.
Public safety and opioid treatment issues are also in the budget and Puppolo said baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito have been “good partners” in addressing these issues with the Legislature.
Puppolo said the House version of the budget will come out in April and in the meantime members of the House are doing their due diligence. He said some lines items would be decreased, while others will be increased.
“There’s always that tug of war,” he said. “Do you put more money in the rainy day fund or do you fund programs today because people are always clamoring where to get as much money as we possibly can. It’s always a balancing act.”
He added, ”It’s the beginning of the process. We’re right on schedule.”
Baker’s budget includes new taxes, which Commonwealth Magazine reported, “The state’s cigarette excise tax would be extended to the liquids used in e-cigarettes. And a new tax would be assessed on opioid manufacturers who sell their products in Massachusetts, generating revenue for state programs to deal with opioid abuse. The budget also contains accelerated sales tax remittances that would provide one-time revenues to help pay for the Baker administration’s education plan – the biggest initiative in his fiscal 2020 budget proposal. Another provision of the budget bill would apply the sales tax more broadly on the internet, requiring online marketplace facilitators to collect the tax on behalf of vendors whose sales in Massachusetts exceed a threshold determined by the Department of Revenue.”
Puppolo said taxes on online purchases “evens the playing field.” He noted that online customers who are purchasing items from retailers based in the Commonwealth people are already paying sales tax for it.
“I think it’s a matter of fairness,” he spoke of the online sales tax.
The state is benefitting from new sources of revenue, he said and noted the taxes from casino gaming and from cannabis sales.
Another potential increase in revenue would come from sports betting, on which the Legislature is now starting to work, he added. Puppolo is not concerned that other states have already started sports betting programs.
“We’re going to take our time and do it right,” he said. He added, “We’re not going to lose that much.”
The funding gap for Western Massachusetts is still an issue.
“We work hard to try to close that gap. Is it real? Yes in some areas, certainly,” he said. Calling it a “numbers game,” funding goes to where people live, but Puppolo noted that education funding formula is one example of inequity.
He said the Speaker of the House, Robert DeLeo, has been “a great friend” to Western Massachusetts and has visited a number of times, “more so than any other speaker.”
Unlike the gridlock on the federal level, Puppolo noted that’s not happening here. “We don’t have the acrimony, nowhere as near as they have out in D.C. We do work together,” he said.