By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
BOSTON -- Gov. Charlie Baker will sign into law a new $2 fee on rental cars because law enforcement wants funding for more training and that is how the House and Senate propose to pay for it, he said Monday.
The Republican governor, in the spirit of a 2014 campaign pledge, has generally opposed new taxes and fees, but he has also signed into law new assessments on the health care industry and proposed taxes on short-term rentals that operate like hotels, which he considers a tax on a new industry and not an increase in an existing tax.
The $2 fee would generate up to $10 million annually to fund training programs for veteran police and new recruits, which the governor said has taken on outsize importance given police officers killed in the line of duty in recent years. Police, family and members of the community attended the funeral last week of Weymouth Police Sgt. Michael Chesna, who was allegedly killed along with bystander Vera Adams by Emanuel Lopes.
“We made a series of proposals that would have funded the same $8 million for the Municipal Police Training Council without raising any fees or putting any new structures in place, but the Legislature pursued this particular path and coming on the heels of the loss of three officers over the course of the past 18 months, the chiefs and many of the folks in the law enforcement community made very clear to us that this was a very high priority for them and they really wanted to see this happen,” Baker told reporters after meeting with the House speaker and Senate president.
“And within the context of a political process where we have a real urgency amongst our folks in law enforcement about this, I think our view was we should go ahead and accept the Legislature’s version as they submitted it, even though I would prefer not to raise fees,” the governor continued.
The fee assessed through rental car contracts would go into effect in January, and the Chiefs of Police Association estimate it will generate $8 million.
Conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats alike have rallied behind the proposed $2 fee, which Acton Democrat Sen. Jamie Eldridge said would support training for police on how to de-escalate situations and how to keep racial bias from affecting their decision-making.
The governor had previously proposed funding police training with surplus revenue left over from the fiscal year that ended June 30.
Asked about his campaign platform four years ago when he said he would be a check on the Democrat-controlled Legislature and promised not to raise fees or taxes, Baker told reporters, “I could come up with a long list of things where we have managed to be quote unquote a check on decisions that are made by the Legislature, and my colleagues over here and I have have lots of respectful conversations about spending on a whole variety of issues.”
Baker faces conservative pastor Scott Lively in the Sept. 4 primary, where he is expected to win easily, and will then likely face the winner of the Democratic primary, either Bob Massie or Jay Gonzalez. Baker has also been cruising when matched up against those Democrats in polls.
In 1997, lawmakers imposed a $10 surcharge on car rental transactions in Boston as a way to finance construction of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
The governor has also responded to the killing of police by voicing support for a reinstatement of the death penalty in certain circumstances and supporting tougher penalties on those who assault law enforcement.
In 2016, Auburn Police officer Ronald Tarentino was killed during a traffic stop, and earlier this year Yarmouth police officer Sean Gannon was killed while serving a warrant.