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This Week in Massachusetts – January 10, 2023

Posted on January 10, 2023

Governor Healey Tackling Priorities

WWLP – Now that Governor Maura Healey has officially taken office her administration is already tackling top priorities.

Healey took the Oath of Office on Thursday and got right to work in the days that followed. One of the first moves in her new role was naming the nation’s first cabinet-level state climate chief.

Healey has said that addressing climate change is one of her administration’s top priorities and that’s something that local voters say is important.

“Every time we have these unseasonably warm days, which I’m fine with but it scares me you know. It makes me wonder how much, if we’re going to be around for much longer,” Kerry Henriques from Chicopee.

Healey also vowed to address the high costs of living.

“I think inflation is a big thing, I used to spend like $200 at the grocery store, I’ve had to narrow it down to $150 and that’s a challenge every week,” said Henriques.

For other local voters no one specific issue holds prominence but rather the overall well-being of the Commonwealth as Healey takes the reins.

“Didn’t vote for her, but I wish her well because she is our governor,” said Rudy Martinez from Chicopee.

Local residents also expressed optimism to 22News that the new governor would keep the western part of the state in mind while ironing out her priorities.

“Eastern Mass. is great, but don’t forget western Mass. over here, we need things too,” said Martinez.

Business Confidence Down Amid Employee Shortfall, Recession Fears

Boston Herald – Following a startling rise in November, business confidence declined sharply in December, according to a survey conducted by a Bay State business association.

“Employers remain concerned that efforts by central banks to moderate inflation by raising interest rates will slow the economy, perhaps into recession,” the Associated Industries of Massachusetts said in a report released early Monday morning. “At the same time, labor remains in tight supply with many employers continuing to struggle to hire and retain employees.”

According to the association, most of the nearly 8-point gain seen in November’s Business Confidence Index was lost in December, when confidence among the 140 businesses surveyed fell from 58.7 to 54 points. That’s also about 2.7 points lower than the confidence index rate released for December of 2021.

Businesses participating in the index, which has been published monthly since 1991, “reflected the shift in concern from rising prices to slowing growth” seen nationally, according to the association.

“The path to 2 percent inflation will inevitably be painful. Most economists forecast a recession in the first half of 2023, led by declines in residential investment, commercial construction, inventory investment, and consumer spending on goods,” Sara Johnson, chair of the AIM Board of Economic Advisors, said with the report’s release.

The index’s decline comes following the December announcement by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that the central bank would raise its key rate by another half a point, bringing it to a range of 4.25% to 4.5%, the highest level seen in 14 years. The bank is acting, according to Powell, to slow the rate of inflation without tipping the economy into recession.

Jobs Report Shows Signs of a Cooling Economy — as Well as Its Resiliency

The Hill – The final jobs report of 2022 showed U.S. employment growth slowing under the weight of higher interest rates and stubborn inflation, but not enough to derail a historically strong labor market.

The U.S. added 223,000 jobs in December and brought the unemployment rate down to 3.5 percent, its level in February 2020, from 3.7 percent in November, according to the Labor Department.

While job growth slowed from November’s revised total of 256,000, December’s employment gain still came in above economists’ expectations—and without other warning signs of an overheating economy.

“It’s hard to imagine a jobs report in better balance. Job growth is still strong, so many Americans seeking a job can find one and the economic expansion should continue,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, in a Friday analysis.

Wage growth continued to slow in December, as earnings rose 0.3 percent on the month and 4.6 percent over the past 12 months. Slower wage growth may leave some Americans further behind in the race to catch up with inflation, but the Federal Reserve considers it an essential step in their mission to bring down price growth.

US Moves to Bar Non-Compete Agreements in Labor Contracts

Boston Globe – In a far-reaching move that could raise wages and increase competition among businesses, the Federal Trade Commission on Thursday unveiled a rule that would block companies from limiting their employees’ ability to work for a rival.

The proposed rule would ban provisions of labor contracts known as non-compete agreements, which prevent workers from leaving for a competitor or starting a competing business for months or years after their employment, often within a certain geographic area. The agreements have applied to workers as varied as sandwich makers, hair stylists, doctors, and software engineers.

Studies show that non-competes, which appear to directly affect roughly 20 percent to 45 percent of private-sector US workers, hold down pay because job switching is one of the more reliable ways of securing a raise. Many economists believe they help explain why pay for middle-income workers has stagnated in recent decades.

Other studies show that non-competes protect established companies from startups, reducing competition within industries. The arrangements may also harm productivity by making it hard for companies to hire workers who best fit their needs.

The FTC proposal is the latest in a series of aggressive and sometimes unorthodox moves to rein in the power of large companies under the agency’s chair, Lina Khan.

“Non-competes block workers from freely switching jobs, depriving them of higher wages and better working conditions, and depriving businesses of a talent pool that they need to build and expand,” Khan said in a statement announcing the proposal. “By ending this practice, the FTC’s proposed rule would promote greater dynamism, innovation and healthy competition.”

‘An Exciting Day,’ Maura Healey Sworn in as Massachusetts Governor in Historic Ceremony

CBS News – Maura Healey was sworn Thursday afternoon as the first woman and first member of the LGBTQ community to be elected governor in Massachusetts.

Healey took the oath of office in the House chamber shortly after 12:30 p.m., becoming the 73rd governor of the Commonwealth.

“I’m thrilled. It’s really, really exciting,” Healey told WBZ-TV’s Nick Giovanni Thursday morning before the ceremony. “It’s an honor and an exciting day.”

“It is the honor of my life to lead this state,” Healey told the chamber after getting a standing ovation that lasted about two minutes before she could begin her speech.

In her address, she outlined some of the goals of her administration. She faces several challenges including fixing the MBTA, making housing more affordable in the state and improving education.

“We have untold wealth in the Commonwealth. But record public revenue does little good when families can’t pay the rent, or buy a home, heat their home, or pay for child care,” Healey said. “This is the greatest state in the union. But people are leaving at some of the highest rates in the country. Giving up on the Massachusetts story.”

Workers are Organizing at Historic Levels. Small-Business Owners Should Take Note

Head Topics – Workers are organizing at rates not seen in years — and experts say small-business owners need to be ready in 2023. The National Labor Relations Board, the government agency that oversees union activity and collective bargaining, saw 2,510 petitions for new unions in fiscal year 2022 — up 53% from the year before and the highest number since 2016. Charges for unfair labor practices also grew 19% from 15,082 in fiscal 2021 to 17,988 in fiscal 2022.

Taken together, the total number of cases at the NLRB in fiscal 2022 reached 20,498 — an increase of 23% — which was the largest increase in cases since 1976 and the largest percentage increase since 1959.

“After years of declining membership, unions are gaining representation rights for workers at unprecedented rates,” said Jerry Cutler, an attorney, author and lecturer at Columbia University and an expert on labor relations. “My perspective is that it’s not temporary. It’s hard to get the cat back in the bag.”

Healey, Spilka, Mariano Agree: Housing, Child Care, and Public Transit Need Action

MassLive – The three most powerful state politicians in Massachusetts agree on at least three things — the cost of housing in Massachusetts is hurting the state, the child-care industry needs a boost and public transit is in need of desperate help.

After two days of a bustling Beacon Hill, filled with ceremonial pomp and circumstance to mark the start of the 2023-2024 Legislative session on Wednesday and the Healey administration on Thursday, residents have a clear idea of where newly sworn-in Gov. Maura Healey, Senate President Karen Spilka, and House Speaker Ronald Mariano are putting their efforts first.

The big three, as they are known to Beacon Hill insiders, outlined their start of session priorities in separate speeches. Common themes included tackling the cost of living in the state, boosting child care, fixing the MBTA, and addressing economic uncertainty in some form, whether by some type of tax relief or working on increasing jobs.

But the Democratic trio will now face the test of putting aside rousing speeches and actually working together.


SJC Tax Ruling Settles Issue for Online Retailers

Lawyers Weekly – An out-of-state internet retailer whose only local contacts were through its use of apps, cookies and content delivery networks could not be required to pay taxes in Massachusetts, a unanimous Supreme Judicial Court has ruled.

The ruling in U.S. Auto Parts v. Commissioner of Revenue affirms a decision of the Appellate Tax Board that a 2017 regulation could not be applied retroactively by the commissioner of revenue after a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case that overruled 50 years of precedent by requiring a retailer to have a physical presence in the taxing state.

“[W]e conclude that the regulation incorporates the bright-line rule set forth in the Court’s pre-2018 jurisprudence and does not by its plain terms permit the commissioner to apply the Court’s new rule to the tax period at issue in the present case,” Justice Dalila Argaez Wendlandt wrote for the SJC.

For more than half a century, the Supreme Court held firm to a bright-line rule that required a nondomiciliary seller to have some physical presence in the taxing state in a long line of cases, including 1992’s Quill Corp. v. North Dakota.

In 2018, in light of “far-reaching systemic and structural changes in the economy,” the Supreme Court disavowed the longstanding physical presence test in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. As part of that case, a coalition of states, including Massachusetts, represented to the high court that any change to the test would not be applied retroactively so as not to upset settled expectations.

However, the Massachusetts revenue commissioner took the position that a pre-2018 regulation should be applied to collect and remit a use tax for periods prior to the Wayfair decision and issued a notice of assessment to U.S. Auto Parts in March 2018 in the amount of $60,139.81.

The SJC disagreed.

“[T]he regulation, by its own terms, cabined its enforcement to the parameters of Quill, which in turn limited States’ ability to tax out-of-State sellers to only those with physical presence within the State,” Wendlandt wrote.

Further, the SJC found that what the commissioner described as “electrons” — the apps, cookies and content delivery networks stored on customers’ devices located in Massachusetts — did not satisfy the applicable physical presence test established by the Supreme Court’s longstanding rule in place at the time the regulation was promulgated.

Again, the SJC looked to U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence on the subject, noting that its case law has “strongly suggested” that such contacts would not constitute the requisite physical presence in the taxing state.

“To the extent that the Court wavered on the issue whether the ‘“physical” aspects of pervasive modern technology,’ like the use of apps, cookies, and CDNs, were sufficient physical contact under Quill, the board correctly resolved the ambiguity in favor of the taxpayer,” Wendlandt wrote. “Accordingly, we defer to the board’s reasonable conclusion that the use of apps, cookies, and CDNs does not constitute in-State physical presence as required by the regulation.”

The 36-page decision in U.S. Auto Parts is Lawyers Weekly No. 10-147-22.

Health Care 

Most of Massachusetts Now at ‘High’ Community COVID Levels, Says the CDC

Boston Globe – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention elevated Suffolk County’s community risk level for COVID-19 from “medium” to “high” Friday, as public health officials urged residents to take increased precautions.
The classification comes as Boston continues to see concerning levels of COVID-19 in local wastewater samples, including a 42 percent increase of viral concentration over the past 7 days and a 116 percent increase in the past 2 weeks, according to the Boston Public Health Commission. As of Monday, BPHC’s COVID-19 testing sites are also reporting a 22 percent increase in the amount of positive cases per day.

“Based on the trends, it is imperative that we all protect ourselves and others,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, Commissioner of Public Health and Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission in a press release. “I understand there’s a very high level of pandemic fatigue, but the numbers speak for themselves.”

More than half of Massachusetts counties are now at the highest community risk levels, including Middlesex, Worcester, Barnstable and Nantucket. The Berkshires, Essex County, Hampden County and Hampshire County are at medium risk. No counties are at low levels.

With Boston Vaccine-Mandate Case before SJC, What’s Next?

Boston Herald – The state’s top court seemed highly skeptical of the decision against the city’s vaccine mandate — but as for what throwing it out would mean for the city’s unvaccinated workers, opinions differed and the administration wouldn’t say what comes next.

The lawsuit filed by multiple of the city’s public-safety unions against Boston and Mayor Michelle Wu came before the Supreme Judicial Court on Friday morning, and the high court is now mulling whether to uphold a lower court’s injunction against the administration.

A couple of the justices present seemed less than impressed with appeals court Associate Justice Sabita Singh’s ruling last spring to overturn a lower court’s decision in favor of the city. Singh ruled that the Wu administration had to place its enforcement of the coronavirus vaccine mandate against union members on hold as the proceedings continued.

The city was allowed to enforce it against workers not covered by the three unions in question, but it opted not to as this case went ahead. The initial decision to create the mandates drew heated protests of Wu at various events around the city.

Now, the Department of Labor Relations continues to pick its way through the various allegations by the police and fire unions that the city broke the rules by overriding previous agreements and announcing a hard mandate in December 2021, and the SJC is deciding whether or not to throw out the injunction against the city enforcing the policy.

It’s the Third Winter of COVID. But This One is Different

WBUR – It’s the third winter of COVID.

Cases and hospitalizations are climbing again after the December holidays. Boston-area wastewater data show a steep spike in COVID levels in recent weeks. It’s a now familiar pattern.

But this period looks different from the last two pandemic winters. COVID is not the same threat — or the same strain on the health care system — that it once was.

Many people traveled or spent time with friends and family during the December holidays, and Thanksgiving before that, which likely contributed to greater spread of COVID and other respiratory diseases.

But there’s another factor at play. A contagious new COVID strain called XBB.1.5 has been spreading quickly. It accounts for nearly three-quarters of cases in New England, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s difficult to know the full extent of this latest COVID upswing because so many people now test at home, and home tests are not reflected in state data.

COVID hospitalizations in Massachusetts have doubled in the past month to about 1,300. It’s a concerning increase — but still about half of what hospitals experienced around this time last year, when the still-new omicron variant was soaring. (The current strain dominating in the Northeast is a subvariant of omicron.)

The FDA Allowed Pharmacies to Dispense Abortion Pills. But Will They Do It?

Boston Globe – The Food and Drug Administration’s decision Tuesday to permit pharmacies to dispense abortion pills has been hailed as a major step in easing access to the procedure. But it’s unclear how many pharmacies will offer the drugs.

Although the ruling includes administrative requirements that could deter some pharmacies, abortion rights advocates expressed optimism that in states like Massachusetts where abortion is legal, most drugstores would make the pills available.

CVS and Walgreens said they planned to seek certification to sell the pill. The pharmacy chains did not provide details about when they expected to be able to offer the pills, in which states, or whether they would offer them only in stores or via mail order, or both. They said they would comply with laws in states that ban or restrict abortion, currently about half of the states.

Mike Wilson, president of the Massachusetts Independent Pharmacists Association, said that he expects that most of the state’s approximately 80 independent community pharmacies will take on the task.

“This will be a huge step toward increasing access and personal autonomy,” said Rebecca Hart Holder, president of Reproductive Equity Now, a Massachusetts-based advocacy group. “This mainstreams abortion care.”

At issue is mifepristone, the first of two drugs administered to end a pregnancy of 10 weeks or less. Until now, mifepristone could only be obtained directly from a physician or clinic, or through a few online pharmacies. A rule change posted late Tuesday now means that people can get a prescription and pick up the pills at their local drugstore, as they would any other medication.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

As First Woman, LGBTQ Governor in Massachusetts, Healey’s Inauguration is More Than Just a History Lesson

Boston Globe – On Thursday, Arline Isaacson witnessed something she once never thought she would see.

“Who would have thunk that in our lifetimes, we’d see a very out and proud lesbian elected governor,” said Isaacson, a prominent activist and lobbyist who led the fight for gay marriage on Beacon Hill. “Thirty years ago, did we think it? No.”

As Maura Healey placed her hand on a family Bible originally owned by her great-great-grandmother, history was made in front of the hundreds packed into the State House and countless others watching at home.

A momentous mood surrounded the inauguration of Healey, who not only became the state’s first openly gay governor but also its first elected female governor and part of one of the country’s first female governor-lieutenant governor duos. There were nods to the number of female officeholders on the dais and mentions of the groundbreaking day. Later, at a basketball-themed inaugural bash at TD Garden, women, many with their daughters in tow, reflected on the milestone.

“This is a state where we will never relinquish the right to reproductive freedom,” Healey said in her speech from the State House rostrum, wearing white, the color of the women’s suffrage movement. “Where we prize and protect human rights. And civil rights. And gay rights. And equality. And democracy.”

Politics and the City: Minority-Owned Businesses on Track with Union Station Project

Telegram – For Edward Fisher, the Union Station Center Platform Project represented an “opportunity.”

“It’s awesome, they gave us a chance,” Fisher, owner of E.G. Fisher Construction, said Tuesday as officials gathered at the station.

The 32-year-old, minority-owned Worcester company, which specializes in demolition and site work, has excavated the underground side of the circa 1911 station building to waterproof it, and dug a 25-foot pit to install a new elevator that will connect the access tunnel to the platform.

There isn’t a lot of room for error — a few feet, in fact, between the pit and the train tracks.

“It’s a tight site,” said Tommy Frongillo, whose company, F&D Truck Co. of Millbury, teamed up with Fisher’s on the project.

Add in a full train schedule, and the site presents some challenges.

But Fisher and Frongillo said the project was on schedule for overall completion by the end of 2023.

City officials on Tuesday praised the company and the example it set.

Sustainability and Climate

Power Plants Face Millions in Penalties after Failure during Christmas Eve Storm

 Telegram – Some power plants scheduled to feed the region’s electric grid during peak demand on Christmas Eve failed to do so, grid operator ISO New England said this week, resulting in a shortage of operating reserves.

Those energy generators now face $39 million in penalties for not performing when needed as per agreement with ISO New England, which declared a capacity deficiency on Christmas Eve, meaning the region’s supply of electricity was insufficient to meet required operating reserves, in addition to satisfying consumer demand.

The capacity deficiency occurred while swaths of New England experienced widespread power outages as a result of electricity distribution system issues caused by the storm that came through, said ISO New England spokesman Matt Kakley.

Maine was hit hardest by outages − approximately 300,000 Central Maine Power customers lost power during the storm and its aftermath. Tens of thousands were without power on Christmas Day.

ISO New England started the winter season warning of potential energy emergencies coming down the line, including electricity blackouts during prolonged cold spells. But the grid operator explained capacity deficiencies like the one that occurred on Christmas Eve aren’t what it was previously ringing the alarm about.

“Capacity deficiencies are typically short-duration events caused by the unexpected loss of resources and affecting the peak demand hours of the day,” ISO New England said in a news release. “Energy emergencies, by contrast, would typically occur when a significant amount of resources lack the fuel to operate and produce electricity, and can affect all hours and last several days until resources are able to replenish their fuel supplies.”

Climate Change Taking Toll on Farms

Commonwealth Magazine – Ryan Voiland, owner of Red Fire Farm in Montague and Granby, says growing organic vegetables is hard enough, but doing it amidst climate change makes it nearly impossible.

In 2021, his crops suffered significant damage due to excessive rains. This past year the drought forced him to water his crops repeatedly, which yielded a decent harvest but required him to pay more for labor and fuel than he could get for his crops at market.

To make up the difference, Voiland recently borrowed $600,000, and raised another $120,000 on Go Fund Me just to make payroll and other operating expenses.

While crowdsourcing may be an unusual strategy among farmers, Voiland’s problems are anything but. Many farmers are facing the same challenges, struggling with losses related to climate change that are severe enough to threaten the viability of their businesses and, at least to some degree, the state’s food supply.

By the end of August, most of the state experienced severe to extreme drought, according to the US Drought Monitor. Connecticut and Rhode Island were in similar shape. Only the western part of the country and Texas had it worse, with large areas of those regions experiencing severe drought and some areas experiencing the highest level, what’s called “exceptional drought.”

According to Dan Smiarowski, the state director of the US Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, extreme drought automatically triggers a “disaster declaration” by the federal government, opening up a number of different emergency loan programs for farmers in those counties. The Farm Service Agency has received applications from a wide range of farmers around the state with production losses.

Berkshire County Residents Call their Recent Electric Bills ‘Horrifically Expensive’

Berkshire Eagle – Sonya Mongeon of Adams knows all too well the price of energy has gone up. For two months last year, her electricity was shut off. She had fallen behind on payments. During October and November, Mongeon couldn’t pay her electric bill, which had gone up $60 to $80 a month, on top of other expenses, like rent and food. “I just didn’t have it,” she said.

Electricity customers across Massachusetts face sticker shock, as they open bills that include pass-throughs from utilities related to higher costs for fuels used to generate electricity.

Eversource’s fixed rates for residential customers rose as of Jan. 1 from 13.7 cents per kilowatt hour to 21.9 cents per kilowatt hour, an increase of 60 percent, regulatory filings show, over the same period in 2022. The increase will result in around $40 more for an average household using 600 kilowatts of power, the company estimates, but that will vary on use.

Advocates say Massachusetts Clean-Heat Policy Needs Focus on Heat Pumps, Equity

Energy News – Massachusetts climate advocates say a clean-heat standard proposed by state officials could fail to create meaningful progress toward decarbonization if it overvalues alternative fuels and doesn’t prioritize equity.

“The devil is in the details,” said Amy Boyd, vice president of climate and clean energy policy at the nonprofit Acadia Center, one of several environmental groups closely following the developing state policy.

In January 2022, then-Gov. Charlie Baker convened a Clean Heat Commission to develop strategies for decarbonizing the state’s building sector, which accounts for about 40% of its total emissions. Among its final recommendations released in November was the adoption of a clean-heat performance standard.

The policy would create a system similar to a renewable portfolio standard but for heat instead of electricity. Heating fuel suppliers would be required to contribute to clean heat projects, likely by buying credits generated from activities such as heat pump installations and weatherization improvements. Over time, the amount of clean-heat credits required would increase.

Other strategies recommended by the commission include reforms to state energy efficiency programs, establishing a climate bank to finance heat pump installations and weatherization projects, and scaling up workforce training to ensure there are enough contractors to perform the work.

Massachusetts Shifts Transition to Electric Vehicles into Drive

Boston Globe – In a move hailed as a major step in the state’s climate battle, Massachusetts has approved a $400 million plan to install tens of thousands of electric vehicle chargers as part of an effort to encourage larger numbers of drivers to switch from gas cars to electric.

The order from the state’s Department of Public Utilitiesissued last weekallows electric utilities Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil to put a surcharge on ratepayers’ electricity bills to support the build-out of needed infrastructure. Under the plan, the utilities over the next four years will upgrade and lay wires to support chargers and offer rebates to individuals and businesses looking to install them at homes, apartment buildings, workplaces, and public locations like retail parking lots. The plan reserves money for charging hubs in poor and minority neighborhoods, as well as for marketing the rebates.

The effort aims to knock down one of the biggest barriers consumers face in switching to electric: range anxiety. Experts say 80 percent of EV charging will take place at home. But worries about being able to find chargers when needed — for those on the road or for “garage orphans”— can make the prospect of owning an electric vehicle look less appealing.

“Right now we don’t see as many EV chargers out there as are needed, and we don’t see as many electric vehicles out there as are needed,” said Jake Navarro, director of clean transportation for National Grid. “Those two things are interrelated.”

Local Communities to Receive State Funding for Clean-Energy Projects

Lowell Sun – Dracut, Littleton and other area communities were among the 50 municipalities across Massachusetts to receive Green Communities grant funding.

The outgoing Baker Administration announced Tuesday nearly $6.2 million will be spread across the commonwealth for clean energy initiatives, such as electric vehicle charging stations, upgraded ventilation in municipal buildings and hybrid police cars, among other projects. The grants are distributed through the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.

Dracut earned $197,610 in funding, which Town Manager Ann Vandal said will go toward installing a new heat pump, water heater and weatherization work at the library and the Council on Aging, as well as adding insulation and making other weatherization updates at the Department of Public Works’ annex and fire stations 1 and 2.

But the bulk of the funding, $85,000, will go toward an LED project at George H. Englesby Elementary School, Vandal said. It’s one of the last buildings to make the switch, Vandal said, and making such changes will hopefully result in savings for the town and reduce its carbon releases.

“Over the past couple of years, we’ve done all the LED lighting and all town buildings, and that’s why the we’re only doing the Englesby because we weren’t able to get to that one last time,” Vandal said. “We just put out an RFP (request for proposals) for electric charging stations… We can only do so much with Green Communities each year, so we’re basing our projects on that availability of the grants, and they’ve been great to us.”


Spilka, Healey Both Push Free Community College

Boston Herald – With a new governor in place and her position leading the upper chamber of the state Legislature secured, the Senate’s President wasted little time before taking to the airwaves to push her plan for free community college.

“When people ask me about the cost, I feel my best and first response is ‘what is the cost if we do not do it?’” Senate Pres. Karen Spilka said.

The Ashland Democrat was speaking to WBZ’s Jon Keller during his weekly politics segment, which is taped Thursdays but broadcast during the network’s Sunday morning news program. The Senate President would make a second TV appearance Sunday, with Ed Harding and Sharman Sacchetti for WCVB’s On the Record, also traditionally filmed Thursday and released over the weekend.

Spilka won her third full term leading the Senate on Wednesday and apparently went on message immediately.

“We figure, particularly right now, it would (cost) approximately $50 million,” she told Keller.

“We can’t afford to not do it,” she told Harding later, citing the $50 million cost again.

Spilka may have found an ally in the corner office, after Gov. Maura Healey called for a similar initiative in her inaugural address Thursday, saying the cost was an “investment in our people.”

“In my first budget, I will create and fund a new program called MassReconnect. This will offer free community college to students over 25 who don’t have a college degree. We’ll also enhance early college opportunities and increase funding to our state university system so everyone can afford a higher degree,” Healey said Thursday.

Spilka told Keller she isn’t sure why Healey’s plan would set an age restriction, but that she “looks forward to working with her on this issue to iron it out. We both have the same values and 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 we should open it up to all students,” she continued.