Upon re-election as Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D – Winthrop) outlined plans for taxpayer savings and economic growth in the new legislative session.
In remarks before the newly-inaugurated House of Representatives, Speaker DeLeo announced a cost-saving plan to bring municipal employee health insurance into the Group Insurance Commission (GIC). He also spoke of his intention to work toward solutions to rising healthcare costs in the upcoming session.
“Last session, I asked city and town governments to work with unions to reach a cost-savings compromise – by moving their municipal health insurance into the GIC,” Speaker DeLeo said. “I have been sorely disappointed that so few communities have brought their municipal health insurance into the GIC. If all of the state’s 351 cities and towns were to take this step, some $100 million could be saved and reallocated to local aid.”
Considering the magnitude of potential savings, Speaker DeLeo will move to require cities and towns to join the GIC unless they can show that they can offer health insurance to municipal workers at an equal or lower cost.
“The reality is that municipal employee health insurance is a budget-buster which puts untenable strain on municipal services,” Speaker DeLeo said. “Unless cities and towns can find health insurance at the same or lower cost than the GIC, we should force them to join — bringing them under the more efficient and cost effective state system.”
In addition to municipal healthcare savings, Speaker DeLeo also indicated his intention to build on last session’s efforts to curb healthcare costs. “Last session, the Legislature passed and the governor signed a sound measure to control the cost of
health insurance for small businesses,” Speaker DeLeo said. “This session we will see further work in this area. I look forward to working with Governor Patrick and Senate President Murray and healthcare leaders throughout the Commonwealth as we continue to seek solutions for spiraling healthcare costs.”
Speaker DeLeo also addressed his plans to stabilize and strengthen the Massachusetts economy through consistent tax policies, workforce development initiatives and a strong commitment to higher education.
“If there is one message that I’ve heard time and time again, it is a plea for consistency in our tax laws,” Speaker DeLeo said. “I will do my part to maintain stability in the current corporate tax structure so that businesses know where they stand and can plan for the future.”
Speaker DeLeo praised Massachusetts’ system of public higher education – citing the University of Massachusetts’ recent rating of 56th in the world by The Times of London – before focusing on the role community colleges play in developing the state’s workforce.
“Our community colleges help bring to life our commitment that all of our residents will have access to meaningful employment in a changing and challenging economy,” Speaker DeLeo said. “As I have travelled across the state, I have been delighted to learn of the programs these colleges already run to help their students gain professional experience.”
Speaker DeLeo stressed the importance of supporting community colleges in these challenging fiscal times to support those struggling to make ends meet across the state.
“We will not forget them as we struggle with tough economic times,” Speaker DeLeo said. “Instead, we would be smart to lean on them more than ever to provide real opportunity to our fellow citizens experiencing unexpected professional challenges.”
And to ease the burden on Massachusetts taxpayers, Speaker DeLeo promised no tax increases in the upcoming House budget for the second consecutive year.
“There is one thing we will not do: we will not raise taxes,” Speaker DeLeo said. “Just as I vowed last year to support no new tax initiatives in the budget that came out of the House Ways & Means Committee, I will do the same this year.”
Concluding, the Speaker acknowledged the many challenges ahead while calling on the membership of the House to work together to tackle these issues.
“We face a difficult path before us. Last session, we met enormous hurdles and produced historic reforms,” Speaker DeLeo said. “This session the challenges are perhaps even greater. Guided by faith in the resilience of our state and the historic mission of this chamber, I am confident that we will meet and surpass those challenges. With your help, your commitment and your diligence, I know we will.”