Mayor Tom Ambrosino gave his shortest State of the City speech to date on Monday and he spoke about the future and the inevitable.
Some of the inevitable he touched on in the speech included trash fees, revisiting the meal’s tax increase and revamping health insurance via Plan Design.
“My priority is not to focus on the past decade, but rather to chart our course for the next decade – something that will likely land more on the shoulders of some of you [on the City Council] than on me,” he said.
The heart of his 10-minute speech revolved around three tough decisions that he said are coming, and would require tough decisions by the Council.
First on that list was finding new revenue growth.
The target on that one was the local option meal’s tax, an increase that was uniformly denied by the Council last year despite impassioned pleadings by the mayor.
The proposal is to add 0.75 percent to the existing meal’s tax.
“The meal’s tax offers one concrete way of dealing with that problem [of generating new revenues] because it is spread out…I’m likely to come back here before the end of the fiscal year for a revisiting of that…We’re going to have to generate new revenue and this in one tool we can utilize,” said the mayor.
Second on his list was trash costs, and though he didn’t fully advocate the institution of a trash fee, the hint of it was not to be ignored.
He said that he wanted to give the new RecycleBank program up to 18 months to see if a trash fee can be avoided through increased recycling efforts.
“In the event that and other conservation measures don’t reduce trash costs, we’re going to have to find financial disincentives for those people who use more than their fair share of our solid waste disposal costs,” he said.
The third and final point in the address was about health insurance, and the mayor was consistent with his recent call for Plan Design – taking health care out of the sphere of union collective bargaining.
He said that the state Legislature would likely make a decision soon on whether or not to allow cities and towns to take over health insurance via Plan Design. That system allows the city to design its health care plan and set costs without needing union approvals. While unions have used health insurance as a bargaining chip in the past, it would no longer be on the table in Plan Design.
Ambrosino estimated that it would save Revere $4 million per year.
He challenged the City Council to approve Plan Design if and when it lands on their laps.
“I honestly believe that at some point in the not too distant future, the Legislature is going to give cities and towns more flexibility on health insurance,” he said. “Locally, that’s probably going to require a very tough vote of approval…We can’t allow a room full of municipal employees – retired or not retired – to unduly influence what are important financial decisions.”
He finished his comments by looking even further into the future – looking at a time when he might not occupy the top seat in the city.
He implored that next leader not to lead with “demagoguery, vitriol and venom,” but rather with strong ideals.