Senate President Karen Spilka told Boston Public Radio Friday the she expects the legislature to reject Gov. Charlie Baker's proposal for a two-month tax free holiday this summer.
"The House and the Senate have already passed the two days for August 14 and 15," Spilka said. "We probably will defer to take up the Governor's bill on the two-month" proposal.
Baker told Boston Public Radio earlier this week he wanted to "give back" to Massachusetts residents, who generated more tax revenue than expected, through the extended holiday.
“The people in Massachusetts, despite the pandemic and everything else, managed to generate a lot more tax revenue than we thought they would generate, and I think a deal’s a deal,” the Republican governor said Thursday. “We should give that back to them.”
But Spilka — and others in the Democratic controlled legislature — were immediately critical of the proposal, arguing that the tax revenue for those two months should be collected and would be better used on public programs, such as on food insecurity, housing and education initiatives.
"The people of the Commonwealth need our help to recover from the pandemic, and tax revenue does help us with the very programs and services that can provide that help," said Spilka.
Lawmakers must decide in coming weeks whether they will support the proposal, but Spilka's comments indicate lawmakers will let it languish.
"A lot of my colleagues and I feel this is not the best way to help our residents and small businesses right now, most of the benefit would go to the big box retailers and online retailers," she said.
Additionally, Spilka said that consumer spending spending is already up and argued residents don't need further incentives to spend.
"I don’t think we need two months to incentivize people to spend when there’s that much pent up demand," she said.
Baker and the Legislature are sparring not just over the tax-free holiday, but also over how to spend federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
House lawmakers rejected Baker's proposal to spend more than half of the $5.3 billion from the federal government, opting instead to place most of the money into a separate account under the Legislature’s control.
"We weren’t always certain where the governor was spending prior federal dollars," said Spilka, acknowledging expanded powers Baker held during the pandemic state of emergency. "That was a real urgent time period, we needed immediate fast action, I agreed. We no longer are in a state of emergency, but we still have so many families and small businesses that are hurting."
Baker has argued that he should be able to allocate the money himself — on things like housing, infrastructure and job training — rather than go through a lengthy legislative process.
Baker on Boston Public Radio Thursday insinuated that extended remote conversations due to COVID-19 restrictions have chilled the relations between himself, Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano.
"The fact that I haven’t seen Karen Spilka and Ron Mariano in person except maybe at one event for a couple of minutes ... and that we don’t sit down and eat stale cookies and drink bad coffee once a week, I think is a problem," Baker said. "Human beings see each other as people when they spend time with each other in person."
Spilka said that comment got her "back up," noting that she always provides Baker "a full variety of delicious pastries" at the weekly meetings between legislative leaders usually held at the statehouse — and recalled a gentle dig at Baker during a St. Patrick's Day breakfast, where she hand-delivered Baker many pastries because he usually has 2, 3, or 4 of them during their meetings.
But, "he is right," she eventually conceded.
"Like all other contacts we've had during this pandemic, it does not meet the same level of meeting in person, and the interpersonal relationship," she said.