Governor Baker announced today that, as part of his FY 2020 budget, he would be proposing to increase the real estate excise tax in order to fund the Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund. The Governor stated that, in the long run, the tax increase would provide $137 million annual to fund adaptation efforts.
Though my friends in the real estate industry may not be happy, I think that this is a fine idea. They do have a point, though. Climate change is a little bit bigger than just the real estate industry, and adaption is not just about protecting property. Governor Baker has been unreceptive to a variety of taxes during his time in office. His unreceptivity includes both a gas tax increase some years ago and – at least so far – a carbon tax.
At the same time, he’s been saying all the right things about our obligation to address climate change (and, in fairness, his administration has been doing some good things on the climate front). This famously cautious Governor has been sounding as though he’s really thinking about his legacy as his second term starts and he wants part of that legacy to be connected to the Commonwealth’s response to climate change.
If the Governor has erased the bright line that precludes tax increases, then it’s time to think big. Time for a carbon tax. Invest the money in building a renewable economy. Or return the money to those who would really be adversely impacted by a carbon tax. Either way, be bold, Governor. It’s legacy time.