Massachusetts pushes real estate tax hike to fight climate change

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker wants to raise the taxes homeowners pay when they sell their property in order to raise money to fight climate change.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker

The proposal, which Baker floated at a government meeting Friday, would increase the state’s excise deed tax — or the fee homeowners pay to the state at the time of a sale — from $ 2 per $ 500 of the home’s value to $ 3 in most counties. That means someone selling a house for $ 500,000 currently pays $ 2,000 in excise taxes, but under the new proposal would instead pay $ 3,000.

In a statement, Baker described the proposal as a “modest increase.”

Baker’s proposal also involves spending $ 75 million during fiscal year 2020 to protect Massachusetts residents from climate change. Cities and towns can access the money and use it to deal with floods and droughts, to retrofit infrastructure such as dams, and for land use planning.

The tax increase should also raise “$ 137 million on an ongoing, annualized basis” for the state’s Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund, according to Baker’s statement.

Baker’s office did not immediately respond to Inman’s request for comment, but in his statement he explained that “over the last four years, we have increasingly witnessed the effects that climate change has on communities and infrastructure across the Commonwealth, and know that the investments we make today are critical to ensure cities and towns are prepared to face the challenges of tomorrow.”

The proposal from Baker — a Republican who has in the past generally spoken out against new taxes — comes as various regions in the U.S. grapple with the adverse impacts of climate change. Last month, for example, a report revealed that the cost of housing skyrocketed in communities that were devastated by California’s Camp Fire. Climate-related disasters such as fires and flooding have also pushed up home delinquency rates in impacted communities.

Other experts have argued that climate change will lead to more flooding, fires and displacement, and that global warming is already impacting property values in an assortment of communities.

Perhaps of most immediate concern to a coastal state like Massachusetts, a government assessment last year further found that roughly 50 million homes along U.S. shorelines could be threatened by rising sea levels.

Baker’s climate change proposal is part of his new budget, unveiled Wednesday. In his statement, he said that the new funds would build on “the over $ 600 million we have already invested to mitigate and prepare for the adverse effects of climate change and help to build more resilient communities.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II