LAWMAKERS POISED TO SEND BAKER FEE BILL TO TRAIN POLICE
By Colin A. Young
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JULY 18, 2018.....The new $2 fee on rental cars that both branches of the Legislature are on record supporting was dropped from the compromise fiscal 2019 budget, but the Senate is expected to advance the proposal separately Wednesday afternoon.
The fee, which the House endorsed in the form of standalone legislation (H 4516) and which the Senate added to its budget, would fund municipal police training programs and is expected to generate as much as $8 million in new revenue.
Having eliminated the fee from budget consideration, the Senate Ways and Means Committee polled the House bill on Wednesday, with plans for the Senate to consider it during a formal session Wednesday afternoon.
"Big news! The municipal police training proposal that the Senate has passed several times is heading to the Governor’s desk," Sen. Julian Cyr, who has spearheaded the Senate's efforts to establish a dedicated revenue source for police training this session, wrote on Facebook on Wednesday. "This afternoon the Senate will take up and pass House Bill 4516, which will provide stable funding for municipal police training up to $10 million annually."
Asked during a budget briefing Wednesday morning if the fee was dropped from the conference committee budget in anticipation of the standalone bill advancing, House Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez said that was "the hope."
"That was our hope since we had passed it and it was pretty defined and there were so many people that were so engaged," he said.
The bill would impose a $2 surcharge on each vehicle rental contract in Massachusetts and have the funds deposited into the Municipal Police Training Fund. The fund could receive up to $10 million a year from the surcharge, according to a bill summary, with any excess money going to the state's General Fund.
"When fully implemented, the Municipal Police Training Fund will provide ample funding to reduce or altogether eliminate the costs municipalities currently incur for recruit training, effectively provided additional local aid across to every city and town," Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association President and Dudley Police Chief Steven Wojnar said in a legislative update from the association.
Asked Wednesday why he thought imposing a new fee on rental cars was a good idea, Sanchez first said that it's mainly "folks coming to visit the commonwealth that are renting cars" rather than Massachusetts residents who already pay the state's taxes and fees.
"There was a sense that we had to create a -- let's figure out how to create a funding stream for municipal training because it's so important, especially for those smaller police departments that don't have the resources," he said.
Asked in May about his thoughts on fees in the budget, Gov. Charlie Baker said his approach to fees is "fact-specific" and did not directly address the proposed police training surcharge that could be on his desk by the end of Wednesday.
"I think people in Massachusetts pay a lot in both taxes and fees, and I think increasing fees as long as there's a benefit associated is one conversation, but increasing fees just to increase fees I think that's something we should try to avoid," the governor said in May.
The bill that passed the House and has been polled in the Senate would take effect Jan. 1, 2019, if the governor signs it into law.
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