Muni advocate Richard Neal wins Democratic primary

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House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., led his committee to include several muni-friendly provisions in the Moving Forward Act which passed the House in July.

Public finance advocates are breathing a sigh of relief after House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal beat back a Democratic primary challenge Tuesday in Massachusetts.

Neal, the most influential advocate for tax-advantaged bonds in Congress, is assured re-election in the 1st Congressional District covering the state’s central and western regions because Republicans are not fielding a candidate against him in the November general election.

“There is no question that his primary victory is very good news for the public finance community, state and local governments and nonprofits,” said Chuck Samuels of Mintz Levin in Washington, counsel to the National Association of Health & Educational Facilities Finance Authorities.

The Associated Press projected Neal the expected winner over Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse less than two hours after the polls closed Tuesday night. By Wednesday morning with 92% of precincts reporting, Neal led Morse 59%-41%.

Morse had the backing of Justice Democrats, a liberal political action committee that has successfully helped three other insurgent Democrats win primaries against House incumbents this election cycle. The group backs candidates who have vowed to not take political donations from corporate political action committees.

Neal, who is seeking a 17th term in the House and formerly served as the mayor of Springfield, decisively won in his hometown with 65.4% of the vote. He also won in Holyoke, beating that city’s mayor with 52.5% of the vote.

Neal said in his victory speech outside Union Station in downtown Springfield that he grew up near the building. The train station has played a pivotal role in his political career as he made its rehabilitation a long-term goal since launching his first campaign for City Council there in 1978.

That $103-million train station rehabilitation has often been cited by public finance advocates as hometown evidence of Neal’s support for tax-advantaged bond financing.

Neal’s victory speech included a pledge to continue advocating for an expansion of east-west passenger rail across Massachusetts and the Affordable Care Act, according to the news website MassLive.

MassLive reported that Neal predicted renewable energy legislation would be passed by the Senate in the next Congress and signed into law by Joe Biden if he is elected president.

Samuels of Mintz Levin said Neal’s background in local government has made him acutely aware of state and local government needs.

“Massachusetts also has many nonprofits in healthcare, education, and other sectors,” Samuels said. “And Mr. Neal recognizes their needs, whether they be large or small institutions.”

Public finance advocates expect Neal to play a key role in lobbying for Senate passage — whether it’s this year or in the next Congress — of the Moving Forward Act, House Democrats’ template for infrastructure development.

Neal has played a leading role in the tax provisions of the bill, which passed the House in July.

The legislation includes a revision in the definition of bank-qualified bonds issued by small issuers to increase the limit to $30 million from $10 million and applying the limit at the borrower level.

Another provision would create direct-pay Qualified Infrastructure Bonds which would start with a federal 42% subsidy for interest expenses that would phase lower to 38% in 2025, 34% in 2027, and 30% permanently thereafter.

It also would create a new program of $30 billion for qualified school infrastructure bonds through annual increments of $10 billion from fiscal 2020 through 2022.

The legislation also would allow states to distribute up to 10% of their total bond limitation to enable local education agencies to support existing programs or public-private partnerships focused on expanding access to high-speed broadband to support digital learning.

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Election 2020 Muni tax exemption Direct-pay bonds Private activity bonds Richard Neal Massachusetts Washington DC