A large number of governmental reforms have been passed during the 2013-2014 legislative session.Â Many of these reforms were born by necessity as the great recession caused significant reductions in statewide tax collections and forced the legislature to find new ways of saving money and increasing efficiency.Â The legislature was committed to protecting core services for those who need them the most while avoiding raising any new taxes.Â This was accomplished by disciplined fiscal policy and a series of reforms that will save the commonwealth hundreds of millions of dollars now and well into the future.
I supported the following reforms:
- Pension Reform:Â These new rules will save the Commonwealth 5 Billion dollars over the next ten years.Â The changes increase by 2 years the retirement age for new employees, and also increase the retirement averaging formula from 3 to 5 years.
- Municipal Health Reform:Â This new legislation allows for municipalities to negotiate health insurance plans outside of collective bargaining.Â It sets rules for how the savings are shared between a municipality and its employees.Â This legislation has saved cities and towns across the Commonwealth over 100 million dollars and has allowed police and fireman to stay on our streets and teachers to stay in our classrooms.Â It was a difficult vote for me to make, but I am confident it was the right vote.
- Court Reform:Â These reforms create guidelines for hiring and promoting individuals based on merit, create a Court Administrator position to run the business side of the Trial Court so Judges can focus on court proceedings, and provides for Legislative approval before any Court can be closed to ensure justice can be provided to every citizen of the Commonwealth in a reasonable amount of time.Â The measures in the court reform legislation aim to restore public trust in a judicial system that was in need of repair.
- Unemployment Insurance Reform: This new legislation increased the taxable wage base from $14,000 to $15,000, saving Massachusetts employers between 3% and 29%. The law also instituted a three-year rate freeze between 2015 and 2017, providing rate relief for businesses in the Commonwealth. Most importantly, the legislation reframed the debate on unemployment insurance reform to ensure it does not include benefits or restrict eligibility.
- Veteransâ€™ Affairs Reform: The VALOR Act II provides increased property tax relief and enhances employment, education, and healthcare support services for our veterans. The bill also creates a home modification program to ensure veterans the ability to stay in their homes and function with independence and dignity. The law also includes provisions which increase penalties for disturbing military funerals or services and provides new protections against charity fraud.
The combination of reforms and sound fiscal policy that have taken place this legislative session have positioned the Commonwealth to recover from the Great Recession quicker and stronger than the rest of the country.Â The Legislature has taken the challenges we have faced very seriously and responded accordingly.Â Â As a result, in spite of the tough economic picture, we were able to improve the Commonwealthâ€™s Bond rating to AA+ and are one of only three states with over 1 billion dollars available in our rainy day fund.Â By making the difficult choices that had to be made, and by facing challenges head on, we have been able to lower the cost of doing business for years to come.