Former State Rep’s Payment In Lieu Of Taxes Bill Was Subject Of 2016 Amherst Town Meeting Vote
Widely admired retired Massachusetts legislator from Worthington, Steve Kulik, died at his home on December 18. Kulik served as state representative of the First Franklin District from 1993 until his retirement in 2019, representing as many as 27 small communities stretching from the Hampshire Hilltowns to the Quabbin Reservoir.
His successor Natalie Blais described him as “a fierce advocate for not only his own district but all of Western Massachusetts.”
Kulik attended the UMass University Without Walls program and met his wife Suzanne Thaxter Kulik while marching from Cambridge to Boston to protest the Vietnam War as part of the October Moratorium in 1969. The couple settled in Worthington where, after attending the Annual Town Meeting, Kulik described being “totally blown away that people could actually participate in town government openly.”
After a stint on the select board, Kulik was named president of the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) and ran successfully for the First Franklin District seat, a job that would require him to regularly drive 25,000 miles per year. In the House he rose to become Vice Chair of the Ways and Means Committee and started the Legislative Rural Caucus.
Kulik’s legislative work included advocating for rural broadband access, co-creating the Massachusetts Food Policy Council, and supporting landmark state bills for universal health care and legalization of same-sex marriage.
In 2016 Kulik was a sponsor of House Bill 2584, An Act relative to payments in lieu of taxation by organizations exempt from the property tax. The bill would give municipalities the right to assess payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) on 25% of the value of property owned by nonprofits. It would address the challenge faced by several communities in Western Massachusetts where entities such as private schools and hospitals that own valuable real estate require municipal infrastructure and services, but are exempt from paying property taxes.
The proposed legislation attracted attention in Amherst where town meeting member Vince O’Connor sponsored Article 44 on the 2016 annual town meeting warrant seeking passage of a resolution in support of the Kulik bill. In a rare display of town meeting unity, the resolution passed by a vote of 146-7.
Kulik’s bill died in committee, but efforts to enact PILOT legislation in Massachusetts continue. Local State Senator Jo Comerford and 11 others have introduced Senate Bill 1874 similar to Stephen Kulik’s bill, but limited to tax-exempt organizations owning property valued at more than $15 million.