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What's in your mailbox? Likely mailers, postcards urging support for Massachusetts ballot questions

A dental chair sits in a treatment room at a dentist's office.
Liz West
/
Creative Commons / flickr.com /photos/calliope/
A dental chair sits in a treatment room at a dentist's office.

The red Massachusetts Information for Voters booklet is hitting mailboxes. So are the postcards and mailers urging support for certain ballot initiatives. There is just over a month to go before Election Day, and the four ballot questions appearing statewide are generating buzz. Supporters and opponents of these questions are getting their messages out to voters through any available medium. A lot of money is at play in some of these ballot question contests.

Matt Murphy, of the State House News Service, talks about the support for, and financing of, some of them.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: The big fight here, obviously, is over the proposal to add a surtax on income over $1 million. The so-called millionaire's tax has seen money flow in on both sides of this. And that's translating into a plethora of television, online ads, social media. I mean, you really can't escape it. And the proponents behind this have raised over $15 million. Now, much of this coming from unions, the biggest backer, of course, being the Massachusetts Teachers Association, because this money generated from the new tax is supposed to benefit education and transportation.

But businesses have also raised over $9 million that they are spending fighting this, worried that it's going to drive business people out of state. So this is where a lot of the action is.

But some of the lesser known ballot questions are also generating money. We're seeing a lot of dentists, for instance, pour money into this question about insurance and whether or not insurance companies would be forced to put a certain percentage of their premiums towards care and not into administrative costs. Dentists are supporting this, including one doctor, Dr. Mouhab Rizkallah from Arlington, the major benefactor behind this ballot question. But it's being fought by insurance companies and dental plans who have put significant resources into this.

We're also seeing single benefactors push questions like the effort to repeal the licenses for immigrants. Rick Green, a major Republican donor, (being) the main funding source behind this ballot question.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: Senator Adam Hinds has now resigned as state senator from a Berkshire County based district effective on Sunday. He will move on to lead the Kennedy Institute in Boston. It's a few months before the end of the term. Hinds chaired the State Revenue Committee. How does his absence impact the Senate while they're not in formal sessions?

Well, it certainly removes someone who is was very active this session, and especially in the close of the session and the talks and negotiations between the branches over tax relief and proposals to reform parts of the tax code, lowering some rates, sending back rebate checks. This is, as you know (and we've talked about this) still up in the air and under discussion now that we know that close to $3 billion under a decades old law is going to be returning to voters. Lawmakers are back talking about whether to do additional tax relief as well as the economic development package that faltered at the end of the session. So, his voice and his experience debating these issues and working with his House counterparts could be missed in the Senate. That said, they have other people who are involved in these talks who could step in and fill in. And as he noted, he's stepping away at a time when the Legislature is by and large gone dormant for the year, not a lot of votes left. If there is a good time to step aside, this would be it.

And finally, as Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito prepare to leave office in a few months, residents are learning electricity rates will skyrocket this winter. Is this situation expected to be under control when the new administration takes office, or does it loom on the horizon for whomever gets elected?

I don't think this is going away, it's certainly going to be an issue for the new administration. But we do know and we've heard from Gov. Baker that they are not just waiting and punting this to the next governor who will come in in January. They're working with the feds, trying to find solutions here. We know Secretary of State William Galvin is urging the state to respond by creating a fuel reserve to make sure that there's adequate supply on hand, to keep homes heated and to keep costs under control.

This is something that the Biden administration has flagged for New England governors already and has been talking with the Baker administration. And there's the potential here, if the Legislature does take up an economic development bill with tax changes, that they could look to put some more money into winter heating. They still have to do a closeout supplemental budget.

So, there is a lot on the table here in terms of spending and working with the feds for Baker and this Legislature to get done before all the newly elected people get sworn in, in January.

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.