Kate Dineen, Executive Vice President, A Better City
June 18, 2019
On behalf of Rick Dimino, President & CEO of A Better City and the 131-member ABC Board, I thank you for the opportunity to testify on S10. I am Kate Dineen, Executive Vice President of ABC. Prior to joining ABC in May 2019, I served in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Office for nearly six years—first as the Deputy Director of the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, then as the Governor’s Assistant Secretary for the Environment, and most recently as Chief of Staff for State Operations. In these various roles, I garnered significant expertise in climate resilience as the state endeavored to build back better in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
Since its inception in 1989, A Better City has fought to enhance the Boston region’s economic competitiveness, growth, and livability by developing solutions in three critical areas: transportation, land use, and energy and the environment. Since 2006, ABC has been working with member buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the last five years, ABC has also been helping members plan for and adapt to the impacts of climate change. ABC chairs the Green Ribbon Commission’s Commercial Real Estate Working Group and has participated in the last two Climate Action Plan updates for the City of Boston.
On behalf of ABC, I thank Governor Baker and Secretary Theoharides for their leadership on both climate mitigation and adaptation policies—their bold vision has positioned Massachusetts as an undisputed national leader. I applaud S10 as an acknowledgement of the dire need to raise new revenue for climate resilience, especially for the critical infrastructure that must be built to protect our communities and economic hubs from the impacts of sea level rise, storm surge, and increased precipitation.
However, after surveying our membership, which represents a broad cross-section of the Boston area business community, ABC has several concerns about the legislation, as currently drafted. Firstly, the bill lacks critical detail about how the new revenue will be spent. It is encouraging that 1/3rd of the revenue will be directed to the Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund to support the vital work of the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program, providing direct aid to cities and towns. But it’s concerning that 1/3rd of the revenues will be swept to the General Fund and 1/3rd of the revenues are not yet accounted for. Secondly, the proposed increase to the real estate excise tax will impact a sector already burdened by a variety of taxes and surcharges like the Community Preservation Act’s property tax-based surcharge that ABC supported. Moreover, there are additional proposals at the City and State levels calling for an increase to the real estate excise tax to fund other priorities, like affordable housing. We have asked the Administration for more data to better understand the revenue projections for S10 and the anticipated impacts on the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors, respectively.
Above all, ABC believes that we cannot take a piecemeal approach to raising revenue for the immense resilience needs of the Commonwealth. That is why ABC is leading the business community’s call for the creation of a Climate Resilience Commission. This Commission would develop a long-term strategic vision for the governance, finance, and implementation of infrastructure investments in the Commonwealth. We join a diverse coalition of stakeholders from The Boston Foundation, Environmental League of Massachusetts, Green Ribbon Commission, Boston Harbor Now, and others in calling for the establishment of this Commission. The necessary investments required to tackle climate resilience in the Boston area will require broad-scale and diversified funding streams, far greater than one single sector tax or revenue stream alone.
We look forward to continuing to engage with the Governor and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, among others in the State House, to address these challenges of climate finance, governance, and resilient infrastructure investment in Massachusetts. Thank you for your time.