How the state’s new laws in 2019 will affect you (and your wallet)

Among the changes coming to Massachusetts in 2019 is a newly enshrined summer tax holiday.
Among the changes coming to Massachusetts in 2019 is a newly enshrined summer tax holiday.John Blanding/Globe Staff/File 2015

Don’t just count calories this new year. Your bank account stands to bulk up, or slim down, too.

A cascade of changes awaits the average Massachusetts taxpayer in 2019, thanks to a mixture of a tax cut, a tax hike, new fees, and a slowly rising minimum wage.

There’s also a newly enshrined summer tax holiday, which could come in handy as you pay more for that vacation rental home . . . and the car you rent to get there. And if you work Sundays, you could be taking less money home each week.

Many of the changes sprout from a bill known as the grand bargain, which, aside from the state’s annual budget, may deliver more pocketbook-altering initiatives than any other single piece of state legislation in years. Individually, some are small, the difference of tens of dollars in your annual pay. But cumulatively, they could mean big things, including laying the groundwork for a $800 million program to aid sick workers and new parents.

So dust the confetti off your shoulders, throw back that champagne, and pull out a calculator: This is your paycheck we’re talking about.


Wages rise and fall

An estimated 662,000 workers will receive a pay hike Tuesday, when the state’s minimum wage rises to $12 from $11. It’s the first in a series of bumps that will eventually push it in 2023 to $15 per hour, the highest state wage floor, matching California’s and New York’s.

The hike is the year’s headline-grabbing change — for workers and employers alike — but it’s one of many baked into the so-called grand bargain, which Governor Charlie Baker signed in June.

Under the deal between the Republican governor and Democrat-controlled Legislature, the $3.75 minimum wage for tipped employees also rises Tuesday, to $4.35, and will hit $6.75 four years from now.

Conversely, premium wages for Sunday workers will begin to disappear. Mandatory time-and-a-half pay on Sundays drops to “one and 4/10” on Tuesday, the first of five annual declines expected to affect retail workers until the premium pay requirement is phased out in 2023.


How many? That’s unclear, according to the left-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, which measured the impact of the shift. But it estimates that retail employees who work five days a week, including a normal Sunday shift, will earn 10 percent less come 2023.

A new tax — and program

The groundbreaking paid family and medical leave program that was also included in last year’s grand bargain will allow workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child and up to 20 weeks if they or a family member have a serious illness or injury.

But it won’t actually be available to workers until 2021. This year, the 0.63 percent payroll tax to pay for it does come into play on July 1, costing about $4 to $4.50 a week for each employee. The Legislature expects workers and employers to split the cost about 50-50.

Lawmakers have estimated the program will cost $750 million to $800 million annually, and virtually every employee who qualifies for unemployment insurance will be eligible to take paid leave.

To lessen the tax hit, here’s a bit of good news — the emphasis on “a bit”: The state’s income tax rate is dropping Tuesday, from 5.1 to 5.05 percent.

It’s part of a complicated, drawn-out formula that’s been years in the making, and many may not even notice the chance.


For example, a married, home-owning couple with a $100,000 income and two children under age 12 stands to save $39, state officials have estimated. That’s enough to pay for a night at the movies, but hold the popcorn.

A tax holiday

That same family could realize more savings this summer, if they’re in the market for a new washer, television set, or other consumer goods.

That grand bargain also makes permanent a sales tax holiday after years of Beacon Hill playing a game of will-they-won’t-they as lawmakers weighed whether they could afford the late-summer tax hit.

Now, consumers can bank on a reprieve from the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax for a Saturday and Sunday every August. Lawmakers must designate a specific weekend by June 15 each year, and if they miss the deadline, the state’s revenue commissioner must pick one by July 1 — with the direction to pick a weekend that will “maximize the economic benefit to the Commonwealth.”

A short-term rental tax

With little time to spare last month, lawmakers finalized a new law that will regulate and tax the booming short-term rental industry.

For hosts, that will mean new requirements to register and get insurance.

For those scouting out an apartment for a weekend in Boston or a beach-side cottage for a week in Truro, it may mean paying more come July 1.

After that, short-term rentals booked through websites such as Airbnb will be subject to the state’s 5.7 percent rooms tax, and depending where you’re staying, it could mean more. Cities and towns can add another 6 percent local excise tax — and 6.5 percent in Boston. On Cape Cod, there’s an additional 2.75 percent fee to help pay for water pollution abatement projects. Towns and cities could also impose a 3 percent community impact fee on any “professionally managed unit.”


With all the new taxes, a $100 Airbnb room in Boston, for example, could cost an extra $15.20 after July.

But it’s not universal: Hosts who rent their homes 14 or fewer nights a year would be exempt from the new taxes.

Rental costs for cars

Renting a car in the state will become more expensive.
Renting a car in the state will become more expensive.Molly Riley/AP/File

Renting a vehicle in Massachusetts also becomes more expensive Tuesday. An additional $2 fee will be applied to many rental transactions, with the intent of generating up to $10 million for training local police.

An extra $2 is, in itself, not much, but it’s just one of numerous costs tacked on to rental cars.

When the Globe checked into renting a compact car for one day at Logan International Airport in July, the $149 price had ballooned to $211 after at least a half-dozen other taxes and fees were factored in.

The new law does allow exemptions: The fee does not apply to transportation network companies (think Uber) or to hourly rentals that add up to less than 12 hours (think Zipcar).

Opioids and cigarettes

There are other laws taking effect this year that won’t necessarily pop up in yourpaycheck.


On Sept. 1, a three-year pilot program to provide anti-addiction medications to inmates at five county-run houses of correction will be launched.

A smoker extinguished a cigarette in an ash tray in Sacramento, Calif.
A smoker extinguished a cigarette in an ash tray in Sacramento, Calif. AP/File

Under it, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Norfolk, and Franklin counties will provide the two main medications used to treat opioid addiction — methadone and buprenorphine — to inmates who had a prescription when they arrived and to inmates 30 days before their release.

Sheriffs in Essex and Suffolk counties have asked the Legislature to add them to the pilot program, news that came weeks after a federal judge ordered Essex Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger to provide methadone to a prospective inmate.

And just before the new year, the legal age to buy tobacco rose from 18 to 21 on Monday. The Legislature’s move to increase the minimum age came after more than 170 municipalities, including Boston, had already done so. It applies to electronic cigarettes and other devices that vaporize nicotine or deliver it through aerosols.

Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on twitter @mattpstout.