Senate Bill Invests in Economic Development and Job Creation
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The following is an opinion piece from State Senator Katherine Clark:
Last week the State Senate acted to encourage investment, economic development, job creation and small business growth across the Commonwealth. The bill, which includes a sales tax holiday on August 11-12, contains a series of targeted measures to support sustained, stable economic growth.
The unemployment rate in Massachusetts stands at 6 percent according to the most recent data (for June 2012), the lowest level in more than three years and considerably better than the national average. But that same jobs report showed that the Commonwealth actually lost 2,600 jobs in June, and that certain sectors – like manufacturing and construction – are still feeling the crippling effects of the recession.
As our economy continues to recover, it is clear that more work remains. We know that too many families are still facing long-term unemployment or underemployment, and many are struggling to overcome the aftermath of the housing crisis. All the while, our cities and towns face a constrained fiscal environment as they work to provide vital services.
The point is: we must continue to push forward innovative policies and programs that encourage sustainable economic growth and strong job creation throughout the private sector. The economic development bill passed by the Senate does just that. It will encourage investment in energy efficiency, construction, and advanced manufacturing, support our local businesses, and invest in workforce development programs that empower those seeking work with the right skills to succeed.
To support innovation in cutting-edge fields, the bill includes $50 million for the Scientific and Technology Research and Development Matching Grant Fund for Research & Development projects at our world-class universities and research institutions. All eligible projects must secure $3 for every $1 of state money committed.
With the establishment of the Energy Conservation Loan Program, the bill supports energy efficiency projects throughout the state by providing up to $1 billion in triple-A rated bonds for low-cost loans for commercial, industrial, retail and mixed-use property owners to make energy efficiency improvements.
Creating jobs means empowering our small businesses to succeed. In Massachusetts, small businesses account for nearly half of our private sector jobs. This bill contains several important provisions to support our local businesses, most notably the sales tax holiday on August 11-12. In addition, it encourages increased financing for small businesses, supports programs to prevent business closure and employee displacement at manufacturing companies, provides grants for technical assistance for small and mid-sized manufacturers, and requires the Massachusetts Office of Business Development to create a website to provide information on public and private resources available to small businesses.
To get people back to work in high-demand fields, this legislation supports training programs for “middle skills” occupations, jobs that require more than a high school diploma, but not necessarily a four-year degree. It includes $5 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund and allows the Fund to spend some of its money on grants that address the gap between skills held by workers and the skills needed by employers.
The bill also extends the Brownfields Tax Credit and increases the cap on the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. It also contains some common sense corporate tax reforms, such as equalizing quarterly tax payments for corporations and establishing a tax credit equal to the minimum corporate excise tax of $456 for the corporation’s first three tax years. In January, the legislature reduced the corporate excise tax to 8 percent from 8.25 percent.
This comprehensive legislation is one more step in an ongoing effort to encourage job creation, grow the Massachusetts economy and build stronger, more sustainable communities. It now heads to a conference committee with the House of Representatives.