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‘I’m Asking For Your Partnership,’ Healey Tells Business Leaders After Releasing $5.5B Budget

A day after she unveiled her first state budget proposal, Gov. Maura Healey addressed the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce to lay out her vision and call for the business community's support.

Gov. Maura Healey after addressing the business community at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce's Governor Affairs Forum.

In her $5.5B budget proposal, Healey took action on her campaign promise to make Massachusetts more affordable, in part through the creation of a new housing office that will be tasked with building and preserving more affordable housing. Healey also laid out plans to boost rental assistance and voucher programs to families and individuals. 

In her address Wednesday morning at the Westin Copley Place hotel, Healey also called on the business community to support her efforts to sharpen the state's competitive edge through further investments in education, transportation and workforce training. 

"I'm asking for your partnership and your collaboration," Healey said to the crowd of business leaders. "The more that you can show a willingness to have skin in the game as a state, to create a pipeline for workforce and job growth and to show a readiness to roll on these, the more likely it is we will be successful in securing these federal funds."

Healey's plans include investing almost $1B toward creating the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities. The office will come with a new cabinet-level secretary that will oversee the creation of new affordable housing in the state, something that hasn't been implemented since the Gov. Mike Dukakis administration in the 1980s, the Boston Globe reported.

"It's going to help us focus on the urgent need to build more places to live that are affordable, closer to transit and give residents access to jobs, medical care and other needed services," Healey said at the forum.

Her plan also includes $324M toward emergency assistance family shelters and $7K per household for emergency rental assistance for people at risk of homelessness. 

The governor proposed at least $186M in investments and improvements to the MBTA, a transit system that has faced backlash from communities because of an onslaught of issues that have led to delays and slowdowns across the Boston area. 

Gov. Maura Healey speaks to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce after releasing her first budget proposal.

Healey said that fixing the MBTA will take time and money but is crucial, as the state needs a reliable transportation system to keep its economy moving. She said transportation is a major factor in where people choose to live. 

"There is no question that concerns around traffic and access to reliable bus and trains are factors in people's decisions on where to locate and where to stay," Healey said. "That's important for workers and employers alike as they look to expand their businesses, expand families or enjoy all the attractions Massachusetts has to offer."

Fixing the T is also significant, as Healey and Lieutenant Gov. Kim Driscoll have vowed to uphold some of former Gov. Charlie Baker's housing initiatives, including the MBTA Communities law. That policy just passed a major deadline last month that required communities to submit their action plans for multifamily zoning around MBTA stops.

Before the rollout of her budget proposal, Healey unveiled an almost $1B tax relief package Monday that included two proposals backed by the business community: short-term capital gains tax breaks and plans to reshape the state's estate tax to eliminate tax on estates valued at $3M or less.

Business leaders argued that the state's constricting taxes on these two items have made business owners and residents rethink moving to the state, the Boston Globe reported.

"We know that Massachusetts is an outlier," Healey said at the forum. "We are one of 12 states with an estates tax, and we share one of the lowest thresholds of those 12. We want to change that and not make Massachusetts that outlier and make Massachusetts as attractive as it can be."

Healey’s address to the chamber is the most recent example of her efforts to be a centrist figure for the state and one that business leaders have begun to rely on as more progressive politicians like Mayor Michelle Wu have proposed ambitious housing and real estate policies, the Boston Globe reported last month

Last month, the mayor's rent control plan received major pushback from the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, which started a $400K lobbying campaign against it. GBREB CEO Greg Vasil told Bisnow last month that other government officials like Healey showed hesitation toward the proposal, hinting at future tension between the two Democrats.

"I'm only going on based on what I've seen from legislators from both the House, the Senate and the governor, and I think there was pause," Vasil said.

Healey's proposal will be reviewed by the Massachusetts Senate in the spring. It isn't clear if state lawmakers will approve some or all of her proposals as they push forward with their own spending goals.