Making Massachusetts Business-Friendly

A few years ago, maybe a decade ago, Massachusetts printed blue and white bumper stickers that declared "Make it in Massachusetts."

The problem was, you couldn't make it in Massachusetts, because Massachusetts didn't have a reputation of being very business friendly.

It's this unfriendly atmosphere, or perception, that we have to change.

We can do everything possible to attract companies to Westfield, Western Massachusetts, and the entire Commonweatlh. We can encourage people to start businesses, and expand existing businesses.

But, until we make some changes in the way this state treats employers, until we lower the cost of doing business in Massachusetts, and until we eliminate some of the regulations that govern how we do business, our efforts will fail.

As one of the very few people in the legislature who owns and operates a small business, I've made it my job to work for change. To do everything I can to make it easier to do business here.

There are a lot of ways we can do this, and I've co-sponsored a lot of legislation this year, to implement these ideas. Here are just a few.

We have to reduce the cost of unemployment insurance without delay. We have the second highest rate in the country. We should have reduced it last year, when I took the podium in the house to voice my concerns about the rates our employers pay. Although Speaker Thomas Finneran favors the reduction, as do most of the Republican legislators, it is an issue being fought by other legislators who believe organized labor's concerns that the money the state has in the bank won't be enough in case of another recession.

Another piece of pending legislation would reduce unemployment benefits from 30 to 26 weeks, and require recipients to have earned at least forty times, rather than thirty times, what their weekly benefits would be before being eligible for payments. In addition to the second highest costs in the nation, we have the most generous system in the country. I support this change, just as I support legislation to allow

certain employers to make voluntary contributions to the system at a level consistent with their previous unemployment claims.

We've given tax breaks to defense, manufacturing and financial institutions, to encourage them to continue to do business in Massachusetts and maintain their payrolls. Translate this to "jobs." Now it is time to do the same for stockbrokers and insurance companies, who can easily pick up stakes and move to any other state.

We should make the investment tax credit permanent, and include credits for leased equipment. We should give tax credits for job training, to employers who participate in school-to-work programs, and to employers who provide health insurance for employees.

We should give sales tax exemptions for pollution control and safety expenditures.

We have to change the regulations that govern cleanup of contaminated sites, or "brownfields," so that we can reclaim them and make them usable again. And we have to indemnify innocent buyers and lenders from responsibility for cleanup of previous owners' environmental sins.

We have to ask insurers and HMOs to share the costs that hospitals incur when they treat uninsured patients. Hospitals cannot afford to be the sole providers of money for the uncompensated care pool. Noble Hospital is one of Westfield's three largest employers, and we have to protect it's financial stability.

There are literally hundreds of other ideas being lofted in the State House now. I'll keep my eye on them and, as a member of the Commerce and Labor Committee, I'll continue to be a vocal supporter of legislation that will bring--and maintain--jobs for our citizens and make Massachusetts business-friendly.

Maybe, once again, we can boast--truthfully this time--that we're indeed "Making it in Massachusetts."

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