Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fighting for Economic Development

While the last days of the formal session of the legislature were largely characterized by disappointment and counter-productivity, a highlight was the passage of S.2345, "An Act Relative to Economic Reorganization". I worked hard as a member of the conference committee that produced the final version of this bill to ensure that it reflected some key priorities and contained provisions that would actually be responsive to the needs of those who create and maintain jobs in our state and the people who depend on those jobs. Even though the bill could and should have been far stronger, we were actually able to secure some tax relief in the bill for employers and consumers, including:

• A sales tax holiday on August 14th and 15th

• The expanded ability to carry tax losses forward from 5 to 20 years for employers struggling to stay in business in the current recession

• A special reduced capital gains tax rate of 3% to incent and reward those who invest in new Massachusetts businesses for their first three years

I also was able to collaborate with my colleagues to secure in the bill state support for small-plot farmers, recognizing their importance to agriculture and the quality of life in our state, and solar energy generation projects, increasing their ability to generate power from 2 MW to 6 MW. Other important aspects of the bill are:

• An increase in the limit on small claims court filings from $2,000 to $7,000, avoiding costly court fees and providing an expedited court process for small businesses.

• A two-year permit extension for development projects struggling with tight credit conditions.

• A study of business energy costs and a study to determine the feasibility of a state-owned bank.

• A requirement that all new state regulations afflicting small businesses include a business impact statement prior to their adoption.

• A study to identify the various cost drivers that cause ratepayers of all classes to pay some of the highest costs for electricity in the nation.

• An automatic sunset provision to review state regulations that may have outgrown their usefulness or effectiveness.

• Clarification of state tax policy to encourage manufacturing retention through enhanced capital expansion projects.

• Greater coordination and partnership to promote international trade and investments through a Massachusetts international trade office.

• An extension of the Brownfields tax credits.

• A new housing development incentive program within the ceiling of the current economic development incentive program.

This bright spot in a discouraging time was passed by a unanimous vote in both the House and the Senate, and was signed into law by the Governor today proving that progress on issues as important as tax relief can be achieved through tenacity and diligence. You can read the entire text of the bill here, and a bill summary is viewable under the “Read more” section. Posted above and below are pictures and a video taken from an event at the State House at which my colleagues and I released the conference committee report.

Economic Development Reorganization