The governor and House speaker each have a similar plan to provide $1 billion over 10 years to help cities and towns prepare for and adjust to climate change, though the speaker wants to borrow the money while the governor is proposing a specific tax increase to fund his program. At a hearing Monday, activists and lawmakers suggested a third option – how about doing both?

Gov. Charlie Baker’s bill (S.10) would raise the state’s real estate transfer tax to generate as much as $137 million a year to protect properties and help cities and towns cope with climate change impacts, while House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s bill (H.3941) would borrow the money and make the 20 years of debt payments exempt from the state’s statutory debt ceiling. Many in the real estate industry, including commercial real estate development association NAIOP-MA and the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, have criticized Baker’s bill and voiced support for DeLeo’s bill, saying they are concerned about any move that would increase home prices and harm the market for commercial real estate.

The speaker’s bill, which was filed by Rep. Thomas Golden and redrafted by the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, got a warm reception from environmental groups, realtors and municipalities at a House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets on Monday morning, though some said the scope of the problem is greater than either bill is able to address singlehandedly.

“Ideally, our coalition would like to see a combined bill that brings together the best elements of each proposal,” Steve Long, government relations director for The Nature Conservancy, said as he testified alongside officials from the Rivers Alliance and the Conservation Law Foundation. Long said he likes the speaker’s proposal, dubbed GreenWorks, because “it gets really specific about how the money would be spent” and likes Baker’s proposal “in that it suggests a new source of revenue.”

Alexandra Schluntz of CLF encouraged the Legislature to study and support other funding proposals alongside DeLeo’s bill.

“The magnitude of the challenges the commonwealth faces will require significant resources beyond those proposed in this bill,” she said. “GreenWorks and S.10 are complementary approaches and we need all hands on deck.”

Climate Activists Back State Real Estate Taxes and Borrowing

by State House News Service time to read: 1 min