Last week was an important one for policy forecasting in the Commonwealth. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh delivered his State of the City address on Tuesday, January 19th, and two days later, Governor Charlie Baker gave his first State of the State address in the Massachusetts’ House Chamber. Both elected leaders told a story about where Boston and the state at-large are ahead in 2016. Here are a few key policy priorities highlighted from their speeches:
- Affordable Housing: It is no secret that Boston is one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. To help control what is becoming an immense financial burden on residents, Mayor Walsh announced the creation of the Office of Housing Stability. According to the Mayor, the office will “develop resources for tenants, incentives for landlords who do the right thing, and partnerships with developers to keep more of our housing stock affordable.”
- Wage Equality: From Sen. Elizabeth Warren to presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders, we are hearing a lot about income inequality across the nation. Mayor Walsh took a stand during his speech, announcing a city task force to study a minimum wage increase to $15/hour for Boston.
- Opiate Crisis: As opiate addiction continues to plague communities across New England, Governor Baker highlighted the need for both better treatment opportunities as well as greater restraint from the medical community in prescribing opioids. The House and Senate are currently in negotiations on legislation that will hopefully address both of these concerns.
- Budget Priorities: The State budget process will soon commence, with the Governor to release his draft budget in late January. He stated that his budget will increase funding to unrestricted local aid (translation: more money to cities and towns) as well as a commitment to no new taxes in the coming year.
Where they came together:
- Education: Both elected leaders highlighted education as a major policy priority—although they differed in the specific tactics.
- Governor Baker is an outspoken supporter of raising the charter school cap and has filed legislation to do so. He pressed upon lawmakers to take action this year and Senate President Rosenberg has already come out saying that the Senate will take up the legislation.
- Mayor Walsh proudly announced that the city budget would include an increase to the education budget providing a total of $90 million in funding. Additionally, he made an impassioned plea to state legislators to expand access to high-quality pre-kindergarten through additional state funding. For his part, Governor Baker remained noncommittal about providing additional state aid.
This will certainly be a busy year on Beacon Hill and SM&’s new Government Relations team is looking forward to keeping you in the know!