Healey, Legislative Leaders Holding First Meeting Of Session

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BOSTON (State House News Service) — When they sit down together for the first known time at 2 p.m. Monday, the three Democrats who have their hands on the levers of Beacon Hill power will have plenty they can talk about.

In addition to their party affiliation, Gov. Maura Healey, Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano share many of the same broad priorities -- but they predictably don't completely see eye-to-eye-to-eye on the fine details that could turn those priorities into policies.

One glaring example was highlighted Sunday when WBZ-TV aired an interview that Spilka did with Jon Keller. The Senate president, who called on Wednesday for free community college (tuition and fees) for all, told Keller she did not know why Healey's proposal is to make community college free for students over 25 without a college degree.

"I look forward to working with her on this issue to iron it out," Spilka said. "So we both have the same values, same priorities, in this area, which is very exciting and makes it more likely that it's doable. I look forward to hearing why it's over 25 on her plan. I believe that we should open it up to all students because I'm hearing from so many working parents of 19-, 20-year-olds who are opting to have to work instead of going to college to put food on the table, to pay the mortgage or rent or whatever."

There's also the issue of tax reform and relief. Spilka and Mariano last summer agreed to a $1 billion package of tax code changes and immediate relief, but later abandoned that plan. Healey and Spilka each said last week that they are interested in resurrecting at least parts of that plan in the new session, but Mariano suggested last week that he had not "thought about any of that stuff" and said the House would have to "look at where we are economically" before making any commitments.

And in fairly short order, Healey's young administration will have to come to an agreement with legislative budget-writers on the revenue estimate they will each use as the basis of their forthcoming fiscal year 2024 budgets. That agreement is usually in place by now, but is not due until Jan. 31 this year because newly inaugurated governors are given additional time until they have to file their first budget proposal. Healey's is due by March 1.

Legislative Republicans appear to have been left out of Monday's meeting after being regular participants in the Monday afternoon sessions under former Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr told the News Service minutes after Healey's inauguration last week that "it's incumbent on the new governor and lieutenant governor to continue with that form of inclusiveness because it has helped us to get through some very difficult times and it will certainly help us to get through the challenges that we face in the future."

Tarr's office confirmed Monday morning that he will not be part of Monday's meeting. House Minority Leader Brad Jones's office confirmed that he was not invited to Monday's meeting.

Written by Colin A. Young/SHNS

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