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This Week in Massachusetts – August 23, 2022

Posted on August 23, 2022

The Surprising Benefit Some Companies Are Taking Away—Parental Leave 

Wall Street Journal – Many employers are shrinking the number of paid weeks of maternity and paternity leave they will offer.

New data show that the share of employers offering paid maternity leave beyond what is required by law dropped to 35% this year, down from 53% in 2020, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, a trade association for HR professionals that surveyed 3,000 employers. Companies including Hulu and some small to midsize firms are trimming weeks off their benefits for new parents as some employers confront inflation, anticipate a recession and try to re-establish pre-pandemic norms.

Companies also downsized paternity-leave programs. The share of employers giving paid paternity time off fell to 27% in 2022, from 44% in 2020, the SHRM survey found.

The declines might stem from companies changing their leave policies back to what they were in 2019 after extending more parental benefits to workers during the pandemic, according to SHRM. In the two years leading up to 2020 when the pandemic hit, many companies were contending with hiring shortages and rolled out enriched perks, including more time off, as a way to lure new talent. In the Covid-19 era, cognizant of the stresses that many working parents faced, many employers expanded benefits such as paid time off.

Now, some employers are shrinking the amount of paid leave they offer new parents to the legally required minimums, which can range from nothing to eight or 12 weeks, depending on the region. Eleven states, including California, Massachusetts and New York, have laws that require most employers to offer some paid leave to new parents; 39 states don’t. Under U.S. federal law, qualifying workers can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth of a child.

Most employers are aware of how important parental leave is to recruiting and retaining employees. As some companies take leaves away, others are expanding benefits, widening the divide between workers who have parental support at work and those who don’t. Leave benefits tied with retirement savings and planning benefits this year in employer-ranked importance, according to SHRM’s survey, with 82% of employers deeming them “very important” or “extremely important.” Only healthcare benefits, at 88%, ranked higher.

Devon Richey, a Texas-based viewer-experience agent with Hulu, the streaming service owned by Walt Disney Co., said parental leave has been on his mind as he and his wife weigh the costs of having a child. Hulu recently trimmed its fully paid parental-leave policy to eight weeks, down from 20.  Depending on an employee’s individual circumstances, including the state in which they live and their eligibility for short-term disability benefits, workers can still get up to 24 weeks of leave to care for the arrival of a child in a 12-month period, according to company policy.

With less paid paternity leave offered now, Mr. Richey said the couple would need to begin paying for full-time child care sooner.

“If my job is cutting back on my parental leave, how am I going to afford child care if I don’t get paid more?” he said.

Child care, including nannies, preschools and nursery schools, is one of the greatest costs for most families in the U.S. A shortage of workers at day-care centers and summer camps has led to reductions and closures that often leave working parents scrambling or drive them out of the workforce entirely.

Employers in certain industries offer more paid leave than others. More than half—54%—of professional, scientific and technical employers offer paid maternity leave separate from what is required by law, up from 52% in 2020, according to data from SHRM. Roughly a third of employers in construction, utilities, agriculture and mining, and government and education offer paid maternity-leave benefits.

By comparison, nearly all employers surveyed, 99%, offer paid vacation, up from 98% in 2020, SHRM data show. Similarly, 96% offer paid sick leave, up from 95% over the same period. Two-thirds of employers, 67%, said they offer a bank of paid time off that covers both, up from 66% two years ago.

Some companies are expanding benefits to stand out. Ferring Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company with more than 700 employees in the U.S., said this summer that it would expand paid parental leave to 26 weeks; previously, U.S. employees were eligible for eight weeks.

Rich Fuerstenberg, senior partner at consulting firm Mercer LLC, said he has seen many company-sponsored parental leaves steadily increase in recent years. In a recent Mercer survey of 451 employers with more than 500 workers, 70% said they planned to offer paid parental leave in 2023. He said that many companies, if faced with an economic downturn, would be more likely to cut other benefits first, such as 401(k) matches.

SHRM data show that ahead of the 2008 recession, 18% of companies surveyed offered paid maternity leave. By 2009, that share had dropped to 14%, with 7% of employers saying that they planned to reduce or eliminate paid maternity leave in the coming year.

Monkeypox Vaccine Providers Start New Method of Injection 

Boston Globe – Vaccine providers in Massachusetts are starting to employ a new method of administering the monkeypox vaccine, in an effort to stretch the scarce supplies by using smaller doses for each injection.

The method, authorized by the federal government on Aug. 9, involves injecting the vaccine at a shallow angle, sliding the needle near the skin’s surface rather than into the fat underneath.

This intradermal approach is thought to spur a stronger immune reaction so that less vaccine is needed in each shot. Up to five doses can now be extracted from vials originally intended for one dose.

The state Department of Public Health allowed its vaccine providers to begin administering shots this way on Thursday, and three major Boston institutions — Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston Medical Center, and Fenway Health — said Friday that they had already trained their staff in the method and started to administer the vaccine intradermally.

“We’re all happy now that we have a bit more capacity,” said Dr. Jacob Lazarus, an infectious disease specialist who is supervising the shift to intradermal injections at Massachusetts General Hospital. “This presents additional challenges but additional opportunities. It’s going to allow us to reach more people and hopefully bend the curve on this.”

License Law Repeal Campaign Plans to Run Across the Finish Line 

State House News – The campaign to repeal the new driver’s license law, which is set to open up license access to immigrants without legal status in Massachusetts, said it hit a milestone Wednesday and turned in the requisite number of signatures to print the repeal question on the November ballot. But Secretary of State Bill Galvin’s office contested that Thursday and said the signatures were “probably not” all actually filed yet.

“[Wednesday], we were informed by the secretary of state’s office that we had … that the number of qualified signatures we have on file with the secretary of state’s office exceeds the number that we need for ballot access,” Wendy Wakeman, administrator of the Fair And Secure Massachusetts committee, told the News Service on Thursday. The number necessary for ballot access is 40,120.

But Galvin spokeswoman Deb O’Malley drew a distinction and said that isn’t what the secretary’s office told the campaign.

Using a statewide voter database, the secretary’s office can view how many signatures have been certified at the local level by city and town clerks, an intermediary step that comes before the signatures are filed with Galvin’s office.

O’Malley said the campaign called Wednesday and was told the statewide total of signatures on file in clerks’ offices around the state. That number was indeed “more than the 40,000 they needed,” the secretary of state’s office spokeswoman said, but they were “not physically here.”

O’Malley told the News Service that the campaign filed a batch of signatures Thursday, but they have not yet been counted, verified, or checked for extraneous marks. Voter signatures to place the license law question on November’s ballot must be filed with city and town clerks by Aug. 24, then handed over to Galvin’s office by Sept. 7.

Wayfair Lays Off 400 Boston Employees, Citing Optimistic Sales Projections 

WGBH – Hundreds of Wayfair employees in Boston were laid off on Friday.

In a letter to employees, Wayfair co-founder and CEO Niraj Shah said nearly 900 employees were being laid off because the company overestimated sales growth and had an employee base that was “too large for the environment we are now in.” The company confirmed to GBH News that figure includes 400 employees in Boston.

“We’ve grown Wayfair significantly to keep pace with the ecommerce growth in the home category. We were seeing the tailwinds of the pandemic accelerate the adoption of ecommerce shopping, and I personally pushed hard to hire a strong team to support that growth. This year, that growth has not materialized as we had anticipated,” Shah wrote in the letter.

With more than 18,000 employees in North America and Europe, Wayfair’s layoffs represent a 5% cut. The company has corporate headquarters in Boston and Berlin.

This isn’t the first time Wayfair has announced major layoffs. In February 2020, they cut 550 employees, including 350 in Boston. Second-quarter financial highlights, released earlier this month, show that Wayfair had a total net revenue of $3.3 billion, down nearly 15% year over year. The number of active customers, 23.6 million, was down 24%.

The company’s stock took a dive on Friday, opening the day at $65.79 and quickly dipping to around $57 by the early afternoon.

But Wayfair represents an outlier in the broader retail industry, according to Ken Morris, founder of Cambridge Retail Partners. Morris said, while there might be a dip in ecommerce, most large brick-and-mortar retailers are struggling to find good employees to hire rather than making layoffs. He noted that the company staffed up during the pandemic when online-shopping demand exploded — without realizing that it wouldn’t last forever.

New England May See a Regional Fuel Shortage, Biden Administration Says

Boston Globe – The US Department of Energy on Thursday night sent letters to each of the six New England governors urging them to begin shoring up their oil supplies in advance of the coming winter and the peak of hurricane season.

As it stands, the region’s oil stockpile is low — not low enough to prompt emergency action — but at a level the US government believes could lead to disruptions during a New England winter storm or extreme weather in the Gulf of Mexico, where the region imports much of its oil and fuel from. Stockpiling now, the Energy Department says, will prevent strain on the system during extreme weather.

In a letter to Governor Charlie Baker, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm wrote: “I urge you to consider what additional steps you can take in the coming weeks to improve preparedness, including using any legislative or executive tools at your disposal, working with responsible state agencies to require increased storage levels, and encouraging industry to voluntarily prioritize increasing gasoline and distillate inventories at this pivotal period of heightened risk.”

On the East Coast, gasoline inventories are at their lowest point in nearly a decade, Granholm said in the letter, and in New England, the diesel supply is roughly 63 percent below the five-year average, she added. Should an extended winter storm pummel the East Coast, New England, which relies on home heating oil more than any other part of the country, could find its energy supply chain disrupted.

The United States is exporting large amounts of oil and diesel fuel to Europe to make up for a decrease in supply flowing in from Russia amid the war in Ukraine, and oil production still has not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

The Department of Energy also sent letters Thursday to seven major oil companies in the United States, asking them to hold onto their stocks to help offset the shortage. Granholm has been meeting regularly with their top executives to coordinate efforts.

New England is more at risk of feeling the pain of the shortage than other areas because the region imports large percentages of its oil and fuel from other parts of the country and gets hit with extreme weather frequently, a Biden administration official said Friday.

But even if a major storm were to disrupt supplies, the region has handled weather-induced oil supply restrictions before, such as when a blizzard rocked the East Coast in 2018. The energy market was upended then, and there was no crisis-level shortage.

MBTA in Full-Blown Crisis, Report Says

WGBH – The MBTA is in a “full-blown crisis,” asserts the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation in a new report, and it’s one that won’t be solved by a federal receivership or dissolution of the agency.

Those suggestions may attract a lot of attention, the report released Thursday said, but they “fail to address the core challenges afflicting the MBTA today.”

Resolving the T’s “dysfunction,” which will largely fall to the next gubernatorial administration, boils down to three key components: working physical infrastructure, fiscal health and a functioning organization, the report said.

“That requires the T to fix or upgrade its tracks, power, signals, vehicles and the rest of its infrastructure — quickly,” the report said. “It means the T’s grave fiscal problems … must be resolved within the next two years. And it means remaking the T into an effectual organization.”

That third factor could be the most difficult to achieve, the report contends, saying that this will require governance that provides an “appropriate level of public oversight,” can set priorities and has a clear organizational structure to carry them out.

It would also have a skilled workforce and healthy work culture that attracts and retains staff and would be an agency that communicates clearly and transparently in terms of its decision-making, the report said.

In terms of infrastructure, MTF asserts that the T’s problems extend far beyond the track repairs it is trying to make with

Massachusetts Sports Betting: Casinos ‘Set to Move’ on In-Person Wagering

MassLive – A new sports wagering industry is already being set in motion as existing casinos and simulcasting facilities in Massachusetts consider how fast they can launch in-person sports betting once state officials finalize regulations and come up with a launch date.

A week after Gov. Charlie Baker signed a law legalizing sports betting in the state, members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and representatives from licensed gambling entities sat down to discuss a range of issues from initial preparations to betting kiosks placement and tax considerations to responsible gaming.

One theme emerged early in the meeting — the five licensed gaming operators in Massachusetts are ready to go once the commission sets up a regulatory framework.

Health Care

New Law Will Drop Drug Prices for Older Residents, but Savings Will Come over Time

Boston Globe – Retired interior designer Sandra Harris is the volunteer president of AARP Massachusetts, the advocacy group for seniors. She’s also a 71-year-old woman who, like tens of thousands of older residents in the state, spends more than $2,000 a year, after insurance, for prescription drugs ranging from blood thinners to meds that prevent strokes.

“I just picked up one prescription yesterday and my out-of-pocket cost was $289,” said Harris, who lives in Boston’s South End. “When you get people my age around a table, the talk is about the cost of medicines.”

The massive climate, health, and tax bill that President Biden signed into law Tuesday promises long-sought relief for the more than 63 million older Americans insured by Medicare. But while some savings will come sooner, notably the $35 monthly cap on insulin costs taking effect next year, the largest benefits from the bill are still two to four years away.

Out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare-insured seniors will be capped at $2,000, but not until 2024, giving Medicare and the health plans that provide supplemental coverage time to adjust their billing and payment systems. And savings from Medicare’s first-ever negotiations with drug makers over the prices of 10 of the most expensive medicines — the most highly publicized and contentious benefit from the bill — won’t be seen until 2026, though preparations for the bargaining will start next year.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers at Center of Renewed Debate over Abortion Rights 

WBUR – Little-known nonprofit organizations called “crisis pregnancy centers” are finding themselves in the spotlight in the renewed fight over abortion rights.

The centers, many of which advertise “free pregnancy services,” offer pregnancy testing and ultrasounds with no health insurance required. They do not offer abortion services and are supported by anti-abortion rights groups.

Critics accuse them of hiding an anti-abortion agenda, providing inaccurate information and working to lure pregnant people to their facilities, so they can encourage them not to terminate pregnancies.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion in June, the work of these centers has become the subject of national, state and local debate.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren testified in the U.S. Senate this month about legislation she co-sponsored that seeks to prohibit the centers from using deceptive or misleading advertising. Warren said crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs, claim to provide reproductive health care, but their goal is to prevent abortions.

Sustainability, Climate and Energy

Europe’s Natural-Gas Crunch Sparks Global Battle for Tankers

Wall Street Journal – Europe’s energy crisis has unleashed a global battle over natural-gas tankers, leading to a shortage of ships and further boosting the fuel’s record prices.

European countries ramped up their purchases of liquefied natural gas from the U.S., Qatar and other sources this year as Russia cut supplies to the continent. They are competing with peers in South Korea and Japan—where gas demand has surged during a heat wave—for a finite amount of supply ferried by a limited number of vessels.

The jostling has increased orders for new tankers transporting LNG—specialized ships the length of three football fields—as well as their price. Rates to charter existing tankers have jumped too, which has helped push gas prices to records in Europe and Asia.

Gas prices in Europe jumped a further 19% Monday after Russia said it would temporarily close a major pipeline for unexpected maintenance later this month.The rise in Europe dragged the U.S. natural-gas market up 5.6% to its highest level since 2008. Traders expect gas prices and tanker rates to zoom even higher if China, where demand has been curtailed by Covid-19 lockdowns, steps back into the market before winter.

The race to secure tankers is another sign of the reshuffling of the global energy map following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war has intensified competition for tight energy supplies, reoriented commodity flows and fractured parts of the global oil-and-gas market, with supporters and opponents of Russia paying different prices.

LNG and the tankers that carry the fuel were in high demand even before the conflict, as extreme weather curtailed hydropower and many economies sought to ditch coal to reduce carbon emissions. The war has turbocharged that trend.

Before the war, Russia covered 40% of the European Union’s gas supplies, mostly via a network of pipelines. Given that it will take time to upgrade the continent’s pipeline network to receive imports from other nearby exporters, the main short-term alternative is LNG, which can be bought from producers further away and shipped, albeit at a higher price.

In the production of LNG, gas is chilled to minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit and shrunk to a liquid that can be stored and shipped to terminals. There it is returned to a gas state and used to power factories and heat homes.

Just one LNG tanker is available to be chartered for a single voyage in Asia two months or more from now, said Jason Feer, head of business intelligence at Poten & Partners, a shipbroker. None is available in the Atlantic Ocean.

“Everything out there is going to be snapped up,” said Toby Copson, head of trading and advisory at Shanghai-based Trident LNG. “Effectively you’ve got Europe and Asia bidding against each other and propping the market up.”

The scramble for ships adds another challenge for Europe, where governments are racing to fill storage facilities ahead of the heating season and companies are buckling under high gas prices. Russia has capped deliveries to Germany via the key Nord Stream pipeline at 20% of its capacity, blaming Western sanctions. German and European officials have called the throttling an economic attack.

Amid the gas rush, daily charter rates for existing tankers that traders will take hold of between mid-September and mid-November have risen to $105,250 a day, up from about $64,000 now and about $47,000 a year ago for vessels heading from the U.S. to Europe, according to Spark Commodities.

Rates were above $100,000 a day in June, before dropping when a fire at an LNG export facility in the U.S. reduced exports and demand for boats. Analysts and traders expect them to rebound because trading companies have booked many more boats on a long-term basis to make sure they can ferry LNG, in turn reducing the pool of vessels immediately available.

To avoid getting caught out in the future, traders are going on a buying spree for ships. Customers have shelled out $24.1 billion on orders for new LNG tankers—including orders for eight vessels in August—so far in 2022, according to Stephen Gordon, managing director at London-based shipping firm Clarkson. They have already blown past the full-year record of $15.6 billion from 2021.

Currently, 257 vessels are on the order book globally, according to consulting firm Rystad Energy. Shipmakers in South Korea, the world’s biggest producer of LNG tankers, don’t have free capacity for new orders until 2027, Rystad estimates.

Among the biggest buyers of LNG tankers is Qatar, one of the world’s largest LNG exporters. This tiny Persian Gulf kingdom has emerged as one of Europe’s best hopes to wean itself off Russian gas, and European countries have been in talks with it about long-term LNG contracts.

Demand for tankers has raised the price of the new vessels. Surging steel prices and limited shipyard capacity are also contributing to the tanker inflation, with newbuild prices approaching $240 million a ship from $190 million a year ago, according to Rystad.

Higher tanker prices and rising rates for chartering ships are feeding into the LNG value chain and boosting already high gas prices worldwide, said Kaushal Ramesh, an analyst at the consulting firm. “The recent focus on energy security means the entire market has gone back to taking a long-term view on supply and shipping,” he said.

Demand has also risen for so-called floating storage and re-gasification units, which are often converted LNG tankers moored at the coast. Setting up these facilities, known as FSRUs, is faster than building a dedicated LNG terminal, which usually takes years.

Across Europe, 14 FSRUs are currently planned. FSRU charter rates have risen to $200,000 a day in some cases, more than double the rate in early 2021, according to Rystad.

Germany, which had for years been dependent on cheap Russian piped gas, doesn’t have a single LNG terminal. Now, Berlin is planning to have two such FSRUs ready by the end of the year, with several others following next year.

Drought Warns of Increasing Climate Variability 

Boston Globe – Fires racing through dry brush. Wells and rivers running low. Fairways and front lawns parched under the hot August sun.

This summer’s drought, with parts of Massachusetts, Connecticut,and Rhode Island at extreme levels, may be but a preview of the future as climate change brings prolonged dry spells alternating with periods of heavy rainfall. July 2021 was the wettest on record for the state.

“We’re going to be locked in with these droughts and floods for decades,” said Stephen Young, an environmental sustainability professor at Salem State University. “It really is a crisis.”

These extreme weather cycles will test the fortitude of the hardiest New Englanders and likely require changes to their lifestyles.

“In the last three years, we’ve had two major droughts and then the wettest growing season on record in the last 30 years,” said Trevor Hardy, a seventh-generation fruit and vegetable farmer with a farm in Hollis, N.H. “We’re talking about complete opposites.”

The projected swings between wet and dry periods may seem counterintuitive, especially with scientists predicting that, on the whole, New England is trending wetter as a result of climate change.

But Young said the intensified climate variability is a consequence of a warming planet: Higher temperatures allow the atmosphere to pull more water out of the ground and hold it for longer, resulting in periods of drought. Because a warmer atmosphere can hold more water, when atmospheric conditions call for it, the rainfall is much heavier. The warming atmosphere will at times pull more water from the earth for extended periods, while at other times it will release more water.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

It May Be a Great Year for Women Governors – The share of governorships held by women might reach or even exceed 20 percent this year. That may sound unimpressive, but it would still represent a historic advance.

Currently, there are nine women governors. That number ties the all-time record for women governors serving at the same time, first reached in 2004 and repeated several times since.

Following the November elections, there could be more, with women looking likely to succeed men in several states, notably Sarah Huckabee Sanders in Arkansas, Maura Healey in Massachusetts and one of the two women nominees in Arizona. Sanders would be the first woman governor to serve alongside a woman lieutenant governor.

“There has been a growing momentum of women running for office,” says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “We’ve seen it at every other level.”

There are not only record numbers of women candidates in total but record numbers of Black, Hispanic and Asian women who ran this year.

The biggest change, however, has not been demographic but partisan. While lots of Democratic women ran for governor in 2018, this time it’s Republicans who are surging. The previous record of GOP women candidates, Walsh says, was 20. This year, there were 37. A record number of states are seeing women vs. women contests, including key matchups in Arizona, Michigan and Oregon.

Taxation and Budget

Electric Vehicle Incentives are Getting a Total Makeover

Boston Globe – Thinking of buying an electric car? Two huge new climate policies — the Inflation Reduction Act that President Biden signed last week, and a major bill that Governor Charlie Baker signed Aug. 11 — include subsidies intended to make them more affordable.

Once both policies kick in, you could be eligible for up to $12,500 in federal and state incentives combined, cutting the price on a qualifying car by a quarter or more.

But it’s not yet clear when the state’s new, higher EV incentives will kick in. And, for now at least, there are some major limitations on which cars actually qualify for the federal program; only 21 models are currently eligible, and that number could soon shrink, depending on how quickly automakers can adapt.

If you’re in the market for an EV, use this guide to figure out if you should move fast or pump the brakes.

The federal bill includes tax credits of up to $7,500 for new electric or fuel-cell vehicles, extending the previously existing tax incentives. Some plug-in hybrids qualify, too.

Starting Jan. 1, 2023, those rebates will be available only to individuals who make less than $150,000, or $300,000 for married couples.

The new Massachusetts bill will increase rebates for new fully electric cars and fuel-cell cars from $2,500 to between $3,500 and $5,000 — the exact amount is yet to be determined — with an additional $1,500 rebate for low-income residents and an extra $1,000 for those who trade in an internal combustion vehicle.

But the state bill doesn’t include a timeline for implementing any of these changes. And it’s not clear how the new program will be paid for: The new climate bill sets up an Electric Vehicle Adoption Trust, but doesn’t actually fund it. (The money could come from a separate economic development bill, but the Legislature failed to complete it before the session ended last month, so the timing and outcome remain uncertain.)

For now, the old program is still open and funded until the middle of 2023, according to Kyle Murray, Massachusetts senior policy advocate at the Acadia Center.

If you bought an EV before Biden signed the IRA on Tuesday and it previously qualified for a credit, you can still claim it on next year’s taxes. But the moment Biden signed the bill, a new requirement kicked in: To qualify for federal credits, EVs must now be assembled in North America.

With that change, just 21 models of EVs in North America are eligible, the Biden administration said Tuesday.

The full list is on the Department of Energy’s website. (If you’ve already entered into a written contract to buy an EV that’s not listed, you should be all right.)

Two more stipulations — set to start being phased in sometime after Jan. 1, 2023 — will mean that qualifying cars must use a battery that is both built in North America and made with a certain percentage of minerals mined or recycled within the continent or a trade partner country. If a vehicle meets only one of those criteria, it can qualify for half of the credit, said Chris Harto, a senior policy analyst for transportation and energy at Consumer Reports.

These three stipulations are a clear attempt to push China out of the EV market and boost local supply chains. The problem is the supply chains that the bill requires are currently virtually nonexistent. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a key automaker trade group, says not a single model in the United States meets all these qualifications.

Brian Willis, communications director for the Zero Emission Transportation Association, said the Inflation Reduction Act also includes billions to help auto companies move their manufacturing and sourcing to the United States.

But Harto said it’s impossible to say how long it will take manufacturers to come into compliance. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation says it could be a few years.

So if you want an EV credit fast, consider quickly snapping up one of those 21 models if you can find one, because some may become ineligible.

On the bright side, on Jan. 1, 2023, the legislation will toss out a limit that prevented manufacturers from offering tax credits once they sell 200,000 vehicles. That means cars made by companies like General Motors, Tesla, and Toyota, which have already exceeded that cap, will become eligible again.

But also starting in 2023, federal credits will come with price restrictions. New electric vans, SUVs, and pickup trucks can’t cost more than $80,000, and new sedans, hatchbacks, and wagons must cost $55,000 or less.

Keep in mind: The amount of federal tax credit you can receive also depends on how much you owe in taxes. If the car you buy is eligible for up to $7,500 in credits, you must owe that amount or more to receive the full incentive amount. The Massachusetts rebates are available regardless of how much a taxpayer owes.

Which new EVs qualify for state rebates?

Right now, only vehicles that cost less than $50,000 qualify for Massachusetts rebates. But the new climate law will increase that cap to $55,000.

Thanks to the bill, the state will also, for the first time, provide rebates, worth at least $4,500, for medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles.

Anna Vanderspek, electric vehicle program director at the Boston-based nonprofit Green Energy Consumers Alliance, expects the bill will eliminate state rebates for plug-in hybrids, which are currently worth $1,500.

Both federal and state incentives for used EVs are also on the way.

Beginning in 2024, federal incentives of up to $4,000 will be available for used EVs that cost up to $25,000. If you meet the income requirements, that is — a maximum of $150,000 for couples or $75,000 for an individual. Used EVs don’t have to meet the new federal manufacturing and material sourcing rules.

It’s not yet clear how much the state’s used EV rebates will be worth; lawmakers left it up to program administrators to decide.

Currently, federal and state incentives are available only after you file your taxes. That’s set to change.

Starting in 2024, federal incentives will be available when you buy your car at the dealership. The new state climate bill, too, will allow the state to offer point-of-sale rebates, though we don’t yet know exactly when.

So, if upfront costs are a concern, consider waiting to buy.

What about chargers?

The federal law, starting next year, will provide subsidies for home chargers — up to $1,000, or 30 percent of the cost, whichever is less.

The new state law doesn’t include home charger subsidies. But it does require electric utilities to establish discounted charging rates during off-peak hours when demand is low, and it requires the state to install more high-power chargers at service areas along the Massachusetts Turnpike, as well as at subway and commuter rail stops and at least one ferry terminal. The bill sets up a trust to fund charging infrastructure, but again, doesn’t put money into it.

I’m confused!

To help people navigate state and federal incentives, Consumer Reports is updating its online Electric Vehicle Savings Finder. The goal is to have it fully updated before most of the new federal incentives kick in.

Governor Holds Out Hope for Tax Cuts

Boston Herald – Gov. Charlie Baker apparently has not given up hope that some version of his tax cut proposal will clear the Legislature in time for him to sign it before he leaves office.

“I got asked this the other day about am I optimistic that this will still happen and actually, I am kind of optimistic,” he said. “I mean, I don’t know exactly what it will look like, but I do believe that there will be a piece of legislation that gets to my desk.”

Baker was making an appearance on GBH’s Boston Public Radio for an ‘Ask the Governor’ session with hosts Margery Eagan and Jim Braude.

The Legislature wrapped its formal sessions this year after passing a number of landmark pieces of legislation, but failed to advance a $4 billion economic development bill which would have sent $250 back to taxpayers and codified several of Baker’s tax priorities before they ran out of time to act in formal session.

Also at issue were the ghost of 1986 and the efforts of the late Barbara Anderson to control the legislature’s taxing authority.

A law passed then, used once after passage but never since, was triggered by the state’s unexpected boom in tax revenue last year, potentially sending $3 billion back to taxpayers. Legislators bulked at the potential cost of both occurring at once, with some claiming Baker had blindsided them with the laws’ requirements.

Baker has maintained that both tax rebates — the 1986 law and the Legislature’s plan to send money to low income taxpayers — are affordable. He stressed again Thursday the state had the funds to do both.

Baker Deflects Blame on Botched Economic-Development Bill

MassLive – Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker pleaded “not guilty” to withholding financial information from Beacon Hill lawmakers in early May that ultimately scrambled their plans to deliver $1 billion in tax relief to cash-strapped Bay Staters at the end of the formal legislative session earlier this month.

The Republican leader, during an interview Thursday on WGBH, half-jokingly responded to ongoing scrutiny, particularly from Democratic House Speaker Ron Mariano, over how his administration handled a seemingly forgotten 1986 state statute that will likely result in some $3 billion in excess tax revenues being returned to commonwealth residents.

Legal Teams Ready to Defend Tax Relief Law

State House News – Should Beacon Hill officials try to duck the tax relief requirements of Chapter 62F over the next month, at least two groups of taxpayers have organized themselves to be prepared to ask the state’s court system to step in.

“The taxpayers have lawyered up,” Dan Winslow, a former judge, Romney administration official and state representative who now leads the New England Legal Foundation, said Monday.

A 1986 ballot question initiated by Citizens for Limited Taxation and its subsequent law, Chapter 62F, created an annual state tax revenue growth limit based on the level of growth in total wages and salaries of Massachusetts citizens. If the state collects more than the allowed amount of tax revenue in any one fiscal year, the law says that the overage is to be returned to taxpayers.

The late-July revelation that 62F could eat up some of the state’s $5-plus billion surplus from fiscal 2022 derailed the Legislature’s own tax relief plan and a massive economic development bill.

The law allows a group of at least 24 “taxable inhabitants” of Massachusetts to petition the Supreme Judicial Court or Superior Court to enforce the provisions of Chapter 62F, and at least two parallel efforts are afoot on that front in the event that officials attempt to evade the requirements of the law.

“We’re aware that the auditor is receiving significant political pressure to delay the certification with the thought that the Legislature would repeal the statute when they come back into session at the top of the new session and there’s even talk about possibly having the Legislature come into session now to repeal the law as part of another package,” Winslow said during a press conference Monday to announce that the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, the Fiscal Alliance Foundation and Citizens for Limited Taxation had partnered with the New England Legal Foundation and the Goldwater Institute to prepare to bring suit to enforce Chapter 62F.

The commissioner of revenue is required by Sept. 1 to send the state auditor a report of the net state tax revenue and the allowable state tax revenue for the fiscal year that ended June 30. By the third Tuesday of September — Sept. 20 this year — the auditor must “independently determine” whether tax collections exceeded that allowable amount and then notify the executive branch, House and Senate of the amount of the overage. The auditor’s determination “shall be conclusive,” the law states.

There has been no indication from Auditor Suzanne Bump that she intends to depart from the required timeline and her office has said it cannot prepare its report until it receives the necessary information from DOR. But lawmakers, chiefly House Speaker Ronald Mariano, have suggested that they might try to tinker with Chapter 62F in some fashion. Mariano also, however, has called 62F “the law of the land and it’s going to happen.”

Republican auditor candidate Anthony Amore announced on Aug. 4 that he had lined up at least 24 taxpayers “who stand ready to file a petition with the state’s highest court should Auditor Suzanne Bump fail to act with urgency in certifying billions of dollars in tax rebates under the state’s Chapter 62F law.”

On Monday, Amore announced that former U.S. attorney Michael Sullivan will provide legal representation to his taxpayer petition effort. Sullivan and Winslow ran against each other (and both came up short against Gabriel Gomez) in the 2013 Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat that John Kerry resigned.

“With record inflation straining the budgets of working families, I share Anthony’s belief that our state government must respect the decision of the voters across the Commonwealth to quickly get tax rebate checks in the hands of residents,” Sullivan, the father of Rep. Alyson Sullivan, said. “If the State Auditor does not do her job and move swiftly and accurately through this certification process, our coalition will file an enforcement action with the Supreme Judicial Court.”

The latest group of more than 24 individuals lined up as plaintiffs includes people from each Massachusetts county and is made up of representatives of Citizens for Limited Taxation, Mass Fiscal, Beacon Hill Institute, the local chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and the Mass. High Technology Council.

“While we expect the Auditor to continue to comply with the certification requirements, taxpayers have promised to uphold the will of Massachusetts voters by seeking to enforce these critically important and statutorily guaranteed fiscal safeguards, demanding the government follow the law,” MassFiscal said in a press release. “Should it become clear that Massachusetts officials are seeking to sidestep the plainly laid out requirements of Chapter 62F, taxpayers have promised to uphold the will of Massachusetts voters by seeking to enforce these critically important and statutorily guaranteed fiscal safeguards.”

Chip Ford, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, said Monday that the difference between Amore’s effort and the one he is involved with “is [that] ours is comprised of the original supporters, the original organizations who went to the ballot in 1986, put it on the ballot, ran a campaign, and won the surtax repeal and the tax cap. And that’s Citizens for Limited Taxation, my organization, and the Mass. High Tech Council.”