The Download: Payback

Maybe it’s the defensiveness engendered by the decades-long moniker of Taxachusetts or the relentless hammering by Republicans and corporations about the inhospitable business atmosphere in the state, old perceptions that officials have worked to overcome. Massachusetts has always had a “thank you sir, may I have another” approach to rejection by those who have received breaks and then taken the money and run.

Fidelity Investments’s announcement that it would move 1,100 jobs from its Marlborough office to Rhode Island and New Hampshire, though, could end that posture of “oh, well, we tried,” and usher in a new era of extracting refunds, if not exacting revenge.

State Treasurer Steven Grossman is vowing to take the billions of state funds Fidelity manages and offer them out for bid to other fund managers. State Sen. Mark Montigny, with the support of an extremely angry Senate President Therese Murray, is planning to hold hearings in his Post Audit Committee with an eye on clawbacks of some of the tax breaks Fidelity has received over the years. He also says he wants Fidelity founder Ned Johnson or his daughter Abigail, the company’s president, to appear before the committee to explain themselves, and he’s not above using his committee’s subpoena powers.

It wasn’t that long ago that state officials watched somewhat helplessly as Evergreen Solar announced it was shuttering operations at its Devens plant and killing 800 jobs and shifting that assembly work to China. And adding injury to Marlborough’s insult from Fidelity, eliminating 20 jobs at the Evergreen headquarters in that city. In a filing this month with the Securities Exchange Commission, Evergreen says it will only pay back $3 million of the $21 million in state aid it received to open the plant, and says it may be years before that debt is settled.

While Evergreen’s financial problems are well-documented, it’s hard for state officials to figure out why Fidelity is shifting jobs out of state, although some 7,600 positions remain in Massachusetts, including the firm’s Boston headquarters. Last week, Fidelity announced its 2010 profits rose 17 percent, to $2.94 billion.

While New Hampshire’s low taxes are legendary, Rhode Island has a higher corporate tax than the Bay State, though officials say there is a push to bring it down. Also, Rhode Island owns the buildings where Fidelity already has a sizeable workforce in Smithfield and the company can write off its rent as a deduction.

Both Marlborough Mayor Nancy Stevens and Gov. Deval Patrick said company officials kept them in the dark about their plans. A company spokeswoman said there was nothing state or local officials could do to change their minds so there was no reason to give anyone a heads up.

Fidelity is a homegrown company and part of the anger surely stems from issues of abandonment. Lawmakers have also been very good to the mutual fund giant over the years, starting with a tax break in 1996 that meant about $20 million a year to the company. Even so, Fidelity has been shedding jobs over the years worldwide, with most of those cuts occurring in Massachusetts.

As the saying goes, someone’s going to pay for this.

                                                                                                                                                                                            — JACK SULLIVAN

FISHING

Outgoing Commerce Secretary Gary Locke made significant concessions to commercial fishermen in the Northeast yesterday in easing some of the restrictions and enforcement of rules. The abrupt change of mind happened after meetings with Sen. John Kerry but both insisted it had nothing to do with Locke’s nomination to be ambassador to China, which must get the approval of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, which Kerry chairs. Meanwhile, Carolyn Kirk and Scott Lang, the mayors of Gloucester and New Bedford, respectively, sent a letter to all 100 US senators in an attempt to stop the spread of regulations to other areas of the country.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s annual assessment of the odds of an earthquake causing catastrophic damage at a nuclear reactor similar to what’s happening in Japan places Plymouth’s Pilgrim Station second of the 104 reactors nationally, according to MSNBC.

The US nuclear power industry has quickly ratcheted up lobbying efforts in Washington to counter new concerns about the industry raised by the Japanese nuclear plant crisis, the Globe reports. Why won’t Washington say no to nukes? Here’s why.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu reaffirms President Obama’s interest in pressing ahead with a new generation of nuclear plants. A Washington Post editorial agrees, saying that new plants have more effective safeguards than aging plants like the crippled facility in Japan. The North Adams Transcript takes a different view.

The executive director of the Cape Cod Commission changes his position and now says that a lawsuit is the only way to get the federal dollars needed to deal with wastewater clean-up on the Cape.

Fitchburg toys with the idea of launching a municipal utility.

Lunenburg approves a solar farm for the former town landfill.

As many as 8 million contaminated discs washed into the Merrimack River.

Gloucester is seeking reimbursement from Hooksett, New Hampshire, for cleanup of the plastic discs, which escaped from a wastewater treatment facility and also washed up on area beaches, the Gloucester Times reports.

The Charlton Planning Board addressed resident concerns over wind turbines proposed for the Overlook Masonic Health Center, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports.

JAPAN

The US government is using charter planes to evacuate Americans from areas of Japan affected by the nuclear crisis.

WBUR looks at the impacts of the crisis in Japan on Bay State businesses.

CRIME

A former gang member spoke to the East Lynn Community Association yesterday about spotting early signs of gang involvement in kids, the Lynn Daily Item reports.

The Norfolk District Attorney’s office will ask a judge to issue a criminal complaint against a former Weymouth teacher accused of hitting a student after an assistant clerk-magistrate decided against charging the teacher.

PAROLE

A Lynn parolee yesterday testified against the nomination of victims’ advocate Lucy Soto-Abbe to the Parole Board, the State House News Service reports (via the Lynn Daily Item. Meanwhile, WBUR reports on an emotionally-charged State House hearing on proposed new parole rules.

TRANSPORTATION

Connecticut is seeking a portion of the high speed rail funds that Florida rejected.

The Berkshire Eagle
supports a proposal by Sen. John Kerry to invest $10 billion shoring up the country’s crumbling infrastructure.

BIG DIG

State officials disclosed that a 110-pound light fixture crashed down from the ceiling of the O’Neill Tunnel last month, prompting them to order an inspection of all 23,000 Big Dig light fixtures.

BUSINESS

The AFL-CIO pushes for a $10-per-hour minimum wage.

A Lowell shopping plaza is trying to entice tenants by offering a free year of rent to businesses who sign a five-year lease.

BEACON HILL

Gov. Deval Patrick is due home from his trade mission today, NECN reports.

WASHINGTON

Democrats and Republicans fight over the cutlery in the House cafeteria, because that’s what they do. Related: Ran Paul hates efficient light bulbs and toilets.

John Boehner basically has two choices – appease the rebels on his party’s right wing, or help run the government.

The House could vote on NPR funding as soon as today.

The starting point in the upcoming tax code overhaul will be a 25-percent cap on personal and corporate rates.

Globe columnist Joan Vennochi likes what she sees in a new, feistier John Kerry.

EDUCATION

Twenty Massachusetts schools, including Mashpee High and Nauset Regional High, were named to the College Board’s Advanced Placement achievement list for increasing the numbers of students taking the demanding courses.

The glow from President Obama’s visit still lingers at TechBoston.

The Danvers school lunch program is already short $7,000, in part because of students who are given free meals when they forget their lunch money, the Salem News reports.

Lesley University cleared the final approval hurdle necessary to move the Kenmore Square-based Art Institute of Boston, with which it merged in 1998, to its Cambridge campus.

MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS

The Pelham library director was indicted on embezzlement charges over his actions as Revere’s library director. Prosecutors allege he stole over $200,000 from Revere’s library fund.

ELECTION 2012

Newton city officials are still questioning whether Mayor Setti Warren can do his current job and run for the US Senate.

Enough is enough: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tells CNN that she has no intention of staying on in any position if President Obama is re-elected. Via Political Wire.

Barack Obama revs up his fundraising operation.

Karl Rove explains the organizational benefits of running for president before filing paperwork to make such a run official.

SNOWMAGEDDON: THE AFTERMATH

With a vote on a new ordinance coming up next week, the Newton Tab says the city should mandate that people shovel their sidewalks after a snowstorm.

SHERIFFS

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson is refusing to sign the deal Gov. Deal Patrick made with corrections officers, saying the administration is not providing the money to pay for the promised raises.

SLÁINTE

National Review asked a panel of pundits to offer their odes to the Irish stout, Guinness, on St. Patrick’s Day. Despite having to go through 14 takes with a Guinness ad on each page, they’re actually quite amusing.

Want to get The Download delivered immediately to your inbox or Reader? Sign up for the RSS feed.