Rosenberg Warm to the Concept of State Entities Paying Property Taxes

August 23, 2016 GMT

LOWELL -- While lawmakers, especially those in the Senate, were uncomfortable with Lowell Rep. David Nangle’s nonprofit tax legislation last month, the Senate’s leader appears open to taxing certain entities that don’t otherwise pay local property taxes.

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg told The Sun’s Editorial Board Tuesday that there should be a middle ground -- “something between $0 and the property tax rate.”

“The question is, though, what’s a reasonable answer,” Rosenberg said during a 90-minute, wide-ranging interview. “There could be a scale so smaller nonprofits can be exempt or have a minimal payment.”

The senator has dealt with educational institution tax agreements in his western Massachusetts district; UMass Amherst has a hotel tax, while the Mullins Center arena on campus has a ticket tax.

Nangle’s nonprofit tax legislation has been a hot-button issue in Lowell as UMass Lowell has expanded and taken over buildings, which means lost tax revenue for the city. The university recently purchased the Perkins Mill building, leading to Nangle’s legislation this summer. As a state entity, UMass Lowell doesn’t pay property taxes.

Nangle’s bill would require any charitable nonprofit or educational institution to be subjected to property taxation of a declining scale for four years after the initial property purchase.

However, the Lowell Democrats’ bill did not survive negotiations on Beacon Hill.

“I just think there’s certain individuals, not on the House side, maybe on the other side that are a little leery or nervous going into it,” Nangle told the State House News Service.

Lowell Senator Eileen Donoghue has told The Sun that more consideration should be given to limit the bill’s effects on smaller nonprofits. Donoghue attended Tuesday’s meeting at The Sun’s offices on Dutton Street.

Nangle is already looking to fine-tune his plan for next session, which would retain the sliding tax scale but limit its application to nonprofits and educational institutions of a certain size -- along the lines of what Rosenberg told The Sun on Tuesday.

In addition, Rosenberg touched on:

* Tension with House Speaker Robert DeLeo: “You’ll always have tension at the end of a legislative session because so much is going on, but it was more tense than I would have liked.

“My attitude is we should be partners. You get the best results when working together. With the transgender bill and the pay equity bill, we got together and solved those problems. So now we need to figure out how to do better next term, and build on our successes.”

* The end of the legislative session: “If you look overall, it was a very productive session. There were six major bills, and five made it back to the governor’s desk.

“There ought to have been more time, though, so both the House and Senate could have had adequate time to work on them. The Senate didn’t have enough time to work on the bills, the conference committees were rushed, so it wasn’t as good as a product. A new, earlier timetable should be set.”

* Charter schools ballot question: “If the question passes, we’ll totally honor it. We will not fight that.

“If it fails, then there will be legislation to freeze any new charters. That would most likely be coming.”

* Offshore wind: “I think it’s coming here off the Cape. There are three different companies with area in the ocean to operate in.

“When I was in Europe, it was so different from anything I would have thought. I thought I would hear this ‘whoooosh,’ but you couldn’t hear anything.”

For more on this story, read Wednesday’s edition of The Sun and visit www.lowellsun.com .

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter and Tout @rsobeyLSun.