• MassINC names leadership award after late Brockton mayor

    BROCKTON – MassINC is honoring the memory of former Mayor Bill Carpenter with an annual award for leadership.

    Nonprofit think thank MassINC held its seventh annual Gateway City Innovation Awards last week, when the group unveiled a new category, named after Carpenter, who died on July 3 during his sixth year in office.

    The award is called the “Mayor Bill Carpenter Award for Excellence in Gateway City Leadership,” and each year in the future it will be awarded to an elected official “who seeks out new ideas and works collaboratively to advance them,” thus furthering the interest of their community but also inspiring other “gateway cities” in the process of innovation, according to MassINC. Gateway cities, like Brockton, are defined as mid-sized urban centers throughout the state that face stubborn, longtime economic challenges, often due to the loss of the manufacturing jobs from their industrial pasts.

    Carpenter was recognized for his support of transit-oriented development downtown, with several new apartment projects underway around the downtown Commuter Rail station, he was also widely known for gus approach to substance abuse problems in the community, unveiling “The Champions Plan” in 2016 as an option for people to seek treatment for addiction by presenting themselves at the police station.

    “Over the course of three terms, he earned acclaim near and far,” said MassINC, in a statement about the Carpenter award. “He was an indispensable partner to MassINC’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute. We are proud to honor his spirit, intelligence, and sense of duty and hope that this new award will carry it forward by inspiring future leaders.”

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  • How transit-oriented development can help transform struggling urban cores in Massachusetts’ gateway cities

    Across Massachusetts, gateway cities like Worcester, Lawrence and Lowell are struggling to deal with a lack of investment over the last three decades.

    As experts study how to revitalize these midsize urban cores, one strategy has emerged as a frontrunner — transformative transit-oriented development. Centering on future development in inclusive urban areas, this solution focuses on providing electrified high-frequency regional rail service and better integrating the state’s many regional economies to give residents better access to jobs and other services.

    “Today, Americans are realizing first-hand that not only are their housing costs a determinate of their success in life, but also their transportation costs,” Christopher Coes, vice president of Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Smart Growth America, told attendees at the 7th Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards and Summit in Worcester on Wednesday.

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  • Transit touted as key to growth for Gateway cities like Worcester

    WORCESTER — Worcester and other Gateway Cities should embrace the opportunity to grow by increasing mobility and stimulating reinvestment with transit-oriented development.

    That was the message of the 7th Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Institute Awards and Summit held at the DCU Center on Wednesday. The theme of the event was “Catalyzing Transformative Transit-Oriented Development.”

    Keynote speaker Christopher Coes, vice president of land use and development at Smart Growth America, urged several hundred attendees to envision a country in which no matter where or who you are, you can live in a place that’s “healthy, prosperous and resilient.”

    Mr. Coes noted that transportation is the second largest expense for U.S. households, with the average household spending 47 percent of its income on housing and transportation. Later, he mentioned that no Massachusetts resident should be spending more than 41 percent on those two expenses.

    He spoke in favor of compact, mixed-used development with multimodal access to jobs and neighborhood services. He said such a model reduces spending, relieves congestion, connects people to better jobs, lessens environmental impact and stimulates economic growth.

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  • Our view: The imbalance in local and state politics

    A report last week by MassINC said that, from local government up through the Legislature, the Bay State “is not producing a body of representative leaders equipped to do the work of the entire people.” White male Democrats are “overrepresented” in the Legislature, while the House and Senate count too few members who are women, Asian, African-American or Latino residents of either sex.

    None of this comes as a surprise to anyone who has kept an eye on state government for the past, oh, 300 years or so. To reach a gender balance, women would have to pick up the seats of 47 men in the Legislature, which the report says is nearly 25% of all seats.

    Republicans have long been in the minority in terms of political party representation. The MassINC study said the GOP would have to pick up 16 seats in the Legislature to match the percentage of voters who identify as Republicans or who lean Republican.

    The report said the way the state runs its elections has a lot to do with how women and people of color are underrepresented on Beacon Hill. Massachusetts offers citizens “far more opportunities to vote than other democracies provide,” but this puts more of an onus on people to go to the polls more often, which “reduces turnout and advantages voters with greater means.”

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  • Study: Minorities underrepresented in New Bedford, Fall River politics

    EW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — The two largest cities in Southeastern Massachusetts still have significantly fewer minority residents in elected office than in their broader populations, according to a new study out Wednesday.

    The report by the Massachusetts Institute for the New Commonwealth, a Boston-based think tank, looked across the Bay State and found that “the makeup of elected leaders in Massachusetts does not reflect the full diversity of residents by race, ethnicity, gender, and political affiliation.”

    People of color make up 35% of residents in New Bedford but only 20% of the Whaling City’s elected officials, according to MassINC, while in Fall River, they make up 21% of residents but only 5% of elected officials.

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  • Report: White Men Dominate Massachusetts Politics, Even More Than Expected

    A new report shows that women and people of color are hugely underrepresented in Massachusetts state politics.

    Researchers at MassINC expected to find white men dominating Massachusetts politics, but even they were surprised at the degree.

    Despite a slight increase in female candidates in 2018, women represent fewer than a third of legislative districts. Nationally, the state ranks in the bottom half for gender parity.

    Only four people of color hold leadership positions in the legislature — two in each party.

    Report co-author Ben Forman said fundraising strongly favors incumbents.

    That’s one reason MassINC recommends public financing of legislative campaigns, which has been nixed by Massachusetts legislators in the past, but instituted by a few other states.

    “It definitely leads to more women and more people of color running for office, more engagement in communities of color in campaigns, more people turning out to vote,” Forman said.

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  • Report highlights disconnect between Legislature, population

    BOSTON — The Massachusetts Legislature is not sufficiently representative of the state’s population — in terms of race and ethnicity, gender, and political affiliation — and the elections system may bear some of the blame, a new report from MassINC posits.

    From the local level up through the state Legislature, Massachusetts “is not producing a body of representative leaders equipped to do the work of the entire people,” the report found. White residents and male residents are overrepresented in the Legislature, while women, and Asian, African-American and Latino residents are underrepresented.

    To reach a representative balance by race and ethnicity, voters would have to replace 31 white members of the Legislature with 11 Latino members, 10 Asian members, 8 African-American members and two multiracial members, the report said. And to reach gender balance, women would have to pick up the seats of 47 men in the Legislature, nearly a quarter of all seats.

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  • Elected Bodies In Mass. Do Not Reflect State’s Diversity, Report Finds

    A new report out Wednesday concludes that the state Legislature, as well as local elected bodies, fail to reflect the actual racial, ethnic, gender and political makeup of Massachusetts.

    In its report, the nonpartisan think tank MassINC identified several factors that have led to the disparities, and detailed the consequences for failing to address the divides.

    Among the major findings:

    — White residents in Massachusetts are overrepresented by about 16% in the 200-member Legislature, while African American, Latino and Asian residents are underrepresented. The report finds that to bring the Legislature into balance to reflect the state’s population, another 31 members of color would need to be elected.

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  • Mass. Political Institutions Are Elite, With ‘Striking’ Lack Of Representation, Report Says

    The report also addresses a broader set of “structural weaknesses” in the fabric of civic participation in the commonwealth, ranging from a decline in local journalism to electoral structures that favor incumbents to a rigid hierarchy in the state legislature itself that concentrates the ability to govern largely in the hands of a select and entrenched leadership.

    “We need more people and more diverse people to be involved in the process of governance in Massachusetts,” Peter Levine, the lead author of the report and a professor of citizenship and public affairs at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civil Life, told WGBH News on Tuesday.

    The report was released as part of Wednesday’s MassForward, a forum hosted by MassINC and the Boston Foundation aimed at “advancing democratic innovation and electoral reform in Massachusetts.”

    Massachusetts government, Levine said, is “too narrow, it’s too clubby, the leadership is not diverse. But also, there’s just not enough people exercising their creativity and leadership and bringing their perspectives.”

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  • Report: Massachusetts Legislature’s leadership lacks diversity

    A new report by MassINC, an independent think tank, and Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life says Massachusetts’ government does not represent the diversity of its citizens.

    Ben Forman, MassINC’s research director, said diversity is important in a Legislature that has enormous power, whether through regulating new industries like marijuana or solving larger problems like inequality. “If we’re leaving talent out of it because they don’t feel like there’s a place for them, people of color especially, we don’t have all the leaders we need to solve the problems we face,” Forman said.

    Forman said in Massachusetts, state government has an unusually high level of control over municipal affairs. There is no county government, and cities and towns have limited authority in areas from imposing taxes to approving liquor licenses.

    “Communities of color can’t necessarily dictate their own path, they need state government to be a partner,” Forman said. If leaders of color are not in state government, that hurts those cities, he said.

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  • Re-examining gas tax could provide funding for upgrading commuter-rail system

    The majority of Massachusetts residents apparently are all for dramatically improving the state’s commuter-rail system.

    As long as it’s not on their dime.

    That’s essentially the conclusion of a MassINC survey of 1,430 Bay State residents published last week.

    Respondents overwhelming supported several ambitious projects, including the North-South Rail Link, the South Coast Rail project, and extending commuter —  rail service west to Springfield and Pittsfield.

    In addition to these infrastructure improvements, nearly 85% of those surveyed want a wholesale overhaul of the rail’s delivery system, which would entail replacing the existing diesel fleet with electric-powered trains.

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  • Mass. Residents Want More Commuter Rail Service And Lower Fares, Poll Finds

    Massachusetts residents want a lot more commuter rail service, including more frequent trains and expanded service throughout the state, according to a new MassINC poll (topline resultscrosstabs).

    The poll found 76% of residents support moving the commuter rail toward a “regional rail” system. In this type of system, there would be trains every 15 to 30 minutes, day and night and on weekends, so people could use the commuter rail for more than just riding to and from work.

    More than two-thirds of residents also want the commuter rail extended to western Massachusetts, the South Coast — including Fall River and New Bedford — and to southern New Hampshire. And 81% of poll respondents want the long-discussed North-South rail link, which would connect North and South stations in Boston.

    “Residents think that the rail system in Massachusetts as it’s currently constructed could do more and that there’s space for rail to go to more places than it does now,” said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group.

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  • Poll Tests Mass. Residents’ Appetite For Transpo Projects And Funding

    A majority of residents want to see significant improvements to the commuter rail system, but they also believe the costs should not be passed along to commuters in the form of higher fares or an increased gas tax, according to a new poll.

    Proposals such as a North-South Rail Link, the South Coast Rail project, and extending the commuter rail west to Springfield and Pittsfield all saw support of 75 percent or more in a MassINC poll of 1,430 Massachusetts residents published Thursday.

    The most popular among those was replacing the existing diesel fleet with electric trains: 84 percent of residents polled said they strongly or somewhat support the idea, which is included in a handful of options an MBTA panel is exploring for the future of the commuter rail system.

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  • Lynn appeals for commuter rail service at subway prices

    Lynn, though, is a Zone 2 stop, which costs $7 each way. In a recent report, MassINC specifically highlighted the city as one area where commuter rail prices leave public transportation out of reach as an option for many residents.

    ”We could use that transportation option in Lynn,” Capano told the T’s board. “It would give us economic opportunity. Transportation can definitely help with that and reduce congestion on the way into Boston.”

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  • Report: high commuter rail fares holding back growth in Brockton

    BROCKTON — Transit advocates say a reformed commuter rail system could spread growth from Boston into the region’s smaller cities, but with higher-frequency service still a distant possibility, a new policy brief from MassINC makes the case for a quicker fix: charging less money for a ticket.

    Though the train takes only 35 minutes to reach downtown Boston on a good day, a majority of Brockton’s public transit riders still prefer a bus that can take two or three times as long at rush hour, according to the latest data from regional transit authorities in both cities.

    MassINC argues in its new report, “Prioritizing Equitable Growth Through Fare Policy,” that much of that choice is based on cost.

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  • Our View: Lower fares from gateway cities

    Solving the state’s transportation woes will involve major upgrades to the rail network, which shuttles thousands of commuters in and out of Greater Boston every day. But as state transportation planners evaluate what needs to be done, the think tank MassINC contends the state has to look at making commuter rail fares more affordable to avoid shutting out low- and- moderate-income riders.

    The problem is most serious in Massachusetts’ so-called “gateway cities”, including Lawrence, Haverhill, Salem, Lowell and Lynn on the North Shore. MassINC issued a report in August citing what has long been a “spatial mismatch” between urban neighborhoods and suburban job centers. That mismatch “has reduced wages, lowered labor force participation, and distorted labor markets in other ways that have been especially harmful to communities of color,” according to the report.

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  • Report suggests commuter rail is unaffordable for residents of Gateway Cities

    A new study released by the nonprofit Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth suggests that many potential commuters in Gateway Cities like Fitchburg and Lowell can’t afford the state’s commuter rail.

    “A new commuter rail fare policy is also vital to ensuring that future development in Gateway Cities produces equitable outcomes,” the report states.

    MassInc has published various reports on improving transportation, schools, career opportunities and more in Gateway Cities, most located far from Boston.

    Elizabeth Haney, Dr. Tracy Corley, and Ben Forman, authors of the study, suggest that reducing fares for low-income and moderate-income riders who may not otherwise use the train could increase ridership and help residents of gateway communities find higher-pay work, leading to statewide fiscal gains.

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  • Study: High fares make commuter rail too costly for many residents

    As housing costs force low and moderate income residents to look far outside the Boston area, the cost of using commuter rail trains to get to jobs in Boston remains out of reach for many of those residents, according to a new study.

    The study from the public policy think tank MassINC notes that a trip to Boston from Worcester can total more than $4,600 a year (at $12.25 each way) for a regular commuter during the workday. That’s more than 13 percent of the median household income in Worcester, the state’s second largest city. Meanwhile, many commuters from Boston’s more affluent suburbs pay less than 2 percent of their median household income.

    The high costs, based on distance with fares split into “zones,” hinder ridership among low income residents living near an MBTA commuter rail line, according to the study.

    “This disconnect between proximity and utilization is particularly striking in Lynn, where two-thirds of station area residents are low-income and yet low-income riders account for just 7 percent of those boarding at the Lynn commuter rail station,” the study says.

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  • Study: Mass. Residents In Gateway Cities Are Priced Out Of Public Transit

    A new study from MassINC finds that many residents in the state’s gateway cities can’t afford to use the commuter rail — and in effect lack access to major job centers and economic opportunities elsewhere in the state.

    The study looked at access to commuter rail service in Massachusetts’ gateway cities — defined by state law as midsize municipalities where the median household income and rates of a bachelor’s degree (or above) are below the state average.

    The study finds that commuter rail fares make up a larger percent of median household incomes in gateway cities than in more affluent suburbs closer to Boston. For example, the cost of traveling to Boston from Fall River is $4,656 yearly — about 15% of the city’s median household income — compared to Winchester, where the cost of riding the commuter rail yearly amounts to just 2% of the city’s median household income.

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  • Is the Commuter Rail too expensive in Massachusetts?

    Is the Commuter Rail too expensive in Massachusetts?

    A new report by MassINC finds the cost of fares on MBTA Commuter Rail trains makes it hard for low- and moderate-income residents of Gateway Cities to use public transit to get to work.

    Today, one-way fares between Gateway Cities and Boston range from $7 in Lynn to $12.25 in Worcester. For a Worcester resident working full-time, this translates to $4,656 a year, or 13% of the city’s median household income. The cost of a monthly pass is $388 in Worcester.

  • Commuter rail not affordable for residents of Worcester, other Gateway Cities, study finds

    As the state evaluates major upgrades to its rail network, a new study finds residents of Worcester and other Gateway Cities are “priced out” of commuter rail. It recommends methods such as discounts for off-peak travel and reverse commuting and piloting income-based fares to increase fare equity, grow ridership, and spur equitable economic development in Gateway Cities.

    “Realizing the potential of Gateway City (transit-oriented development) will require complementary changes to both development policy and transit policy,” a new report by MassINC, a nonpartisan think tank in Boston, said. “On the transit side of the equation, a new, more equitable commuter rail fare framework should be priority No. 1.”

    The report, “Prioritizing Equitable Growth Through Fare Policy,” argues for a shift in the way the commuter rail network measures fare equity. Instead of charging the highest fares for those who travel the farthest, the system would use a more data-driven, income-based fare policy.

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  • Commuter rail fares a heavy cost for many in Worcester, Fitchburg

    The MBTA commuter rail may free up some time for relaxing or working on the way in and out, but the price is far out of reach for many, according to a report Thursday by MassINC, a Boston think tank that focuses much of its work on the state’s Gateway Cities, including Worcester and Fitchburg.

    A monthly pass to and from Worcester’s Union Station or Fitchburg’s commuter rail station costs $4,656 a year, the highest of any end-of-line Massachusetts station in the system, according to MassINC. Even those not commuting all the way into Boston have high costs: $2,352 a year to go from Fitchburg to Waltham, and $1,668 from Worcester to Framingham.

    “Most residents are unable to make this significant expenditure in a single payment — if they can afford it at all,” the report says.

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  • Fewer prisoners, lower crime

    Ben Forman is research director at the think tank MassINC, which has done pioneering work in criminal justice issues. He points especially to changes in juvenile sentencing as key to both the state’s smaller prison population and lowered crime overall. That’s partly due to what Forman calls the “criminogenic” effects of incarceration: The prison environment itself hardens criminal behaviors and increases the likelihood of recidivism. “We have moved away dramatically from the incarceration of youth,” he says, and towards alternative services and probation. “You prevent the formation of a career criminal.”

    Given the dizzying annual cost of incarceration — at least $55,000 per inmate — you would think that state Department of Corrections budgets would be falling along with the prison population. But no: MassINC found that combined prison and sheriff department budgets have increased 25 percent since 2011.

    Forman and other advocates want to see not just criminal justice reform, but reinvestment. One example: The current fiscal year budget includes $25 million for community corrections centers operated by the once-tarnished department of probation. With new leadership, these 18 centers are now offering intensive services from education and employment counseling to behavioral therapy, substance abuse treatment, and domestic violence prevention. Given that 500 people come home from prison every year in the city of Lawrence alone, the need for constructive re-entry programs seems obvious. More, please.

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  • Nashoba Tech students advocate for early college

    Staff and students from Nashoba Valley Technical High School recently attended an Investing in Early College advocacy day at the Statehouse in Boston.

    The forum, sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, was held to raise awareness of the success of early-college programs, like the ones offered at Nashoba Tech.

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  • Moulton, housing advocates eye transit-oriented development

    Moulton, a Salem Democrat and advocate for public transportation and rail travel, met Monday with Harborlight Community Partners Executive Director Andrew DeFranza, Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance Executive Director Andre Leroux, and Tracy Corley, transit-oriented development fellow at MassINC, a nonpartisan public policy think tank, to talk about transit-oriented development…

    Corley said there is wider discussion among state transportation officials about the vision of the existing commuter rail, which was designed to shuttle people to and from 9-to-5 jobs in downtown Boston. There is talk of increasing the frequency of trains and having all-day service. To justify the expansion, she said, it would make sense to add both housing and jobs near commuter rail stations.

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  • Lynn Forum Focuses on Transformative Transit-Oriented Development

    McGee spoke at Wednesday afternoon’s North Shore Massachusetts Transformative Transit-Oriented Development Regional Forum, at the Lynn Museum and hosted by the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC), which has released a report on the topic. The discussion was moderated by Essex Media Group (publisher of The Daily Item) Community Relations Director Carolina Trujillo.

    In the report, “The Promise and Potential of Transformative Transit-Oriented Development in Gateway Cities,” the executive summary reads that gateway cities can accommodate thousands of new housing units and thousands of new jobs on the vacant and underutilized land surrounding their commuter rail stations. The walkable, mixed-use urban land offers an ideal setting for a transit-oriented development.

    Dr. Tracy Corley, a transit-oriented development fellow for MassInc., said their research focused on 13 of 26 gateway cities and what could be done within a half mile of commuter rail stations, which could create the potential of 140,000 new jobs.

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  • Krause: Time is Ticking on Transportation Plan

    Wednesday, officials from MassINC — a non-profit dedicated to promoting public policy that creates a pathway to opportunity for Massachusetts residents — were in Lynn to promote the TTOD initiative.

    That would be a marvelous idea, if Lynn was served by a 21st century transit system. It isn’t. In fact, the commuter rail that passes by here once an hour is archaic. And it’s basically useless. If I work on State Street, or somewhere else in the financial district of Boston, getting off a train at North Station, behind the Boston Garden, is not making my commute any easier.

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  • Strengthening K-12 education system through collaboration

    The SouthCoast Development Partnership hosted a panel on Tuesday regarding public education in Massachusetts to look at the pipeline from pre-K to the business world. Featuring public officials and educators, the panel discussed how collaboration can strengthen the Commonwealth’s education system, according to a press release from the organization.

    Educational Attainment is one of the focus areas of the Partnership.

    MassINC’s Research Director, Ben Forman, presented on strengthening local accountability to the group, stating “with much needed education funding coming into communities, now is an opportune time to think about how we strengthen governance at the school and district level so that communities are able to put these funds to work in new and different ways.”

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  • Boom in transit ridership could signal big changes for Brockton

    “Brockton was really slow to see any reinvestment and then all of a sudden the city has built a tremendous pipeline,” said Ben Forman, director of MassINC’s Gateway Cities Institute, which studies the state’s substantial collection of mid-sized, formerly industrial cities. Brockton has since “leapfrogged” many of the cities it once lagged behind in terms of housing production, according to Forman.

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  • Viewpoint: Affordability, congestion can be solved with smart, bold policies

    A flexible tax credit equal to up to 25 percent of development expenses, HDIP is quietly accumulating an impressive track record breathing new life into abandoned buildings and long-vacant lots near Gateway City train stations. MassINC research shows each dollar in state HDIP funding has leveraged approximately 12 additional dollars. Housing Choice and Opportunity Funds could provide even more leverage in the future, but the state must have credits available to deploy. Currently, HDIP is up against an annual cap of just $10 million.

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