Chambers of commerce fear not being heard, band together
TEN OF THE state’s regional chambers of commerce are concerned they are not being heard on Beacon Hill, so they are banding together to speak with one louder voice.
James Rooney, the president and CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, said the surtax on millionaires passed by voters in November has awakened the business community.
“We’re all feeling that Massachusetts is starting to lose its way in terms of competitiveness, not just for business but people,” Rooney said on The Codcast.
The formation of the Chamber Policy Network is an attempt by the various chambers to get on the same page as they take their message to Beacon Hill. In addition to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the other nine represent Worcester, Springfield, Cape Cod, the South Shore, the North Shore, Southcoast, the Berkshires, western Massachusetts, and Needham, Newton, Watertown, and Wellesley.
Rooney said speaking with one voice will give the chambers more clout. “When I go up to Beacon Hill, I’m able to say I represent 1,300 businesses that employ hundreds of thousands of people,” Rooney said. “The collective network that we’re talking about statewide, that we formed, represents 10,000 businesses employing millions of people.”
The Chamber Policy Network is still formulating its strategy, but Rooney said its message is likely to center around competitiveness – the state’s ability to retain and attract workers and businesses.
“We’ve got some strengths but we need to develop that sales message, if you will, to accent those and deal with challenges. Most of the challenges are in cost. For the individual, it’s cost of housing, cost of living. But for the businesses, it’s the cost of doing business,” he said.
“It’s not just this millionaire tax. That’s just one rock in the knapsack that you’re forced to carry,” Rooney said. “It awoke sleeping dogs.”
The chamber executive said the business community is now fully awake and ready to make its voice heard. “Rather than being spoken at, we want to be spoken with,” he said.
“What’s missing from our perspective is either there’s a lack of empathy or a lack of appreciation for the degree to which economic growth allows you to fix all the other things you want to fix,” Rooney said.
Gov. Maura Healey has proposed a tax cut package that includes a reduction in the state’s estate tax and elimination of a higher tax on short-term capital gains. Both moves have been met with applause in the business community, but the Tax Foundation, in a report last week, said the state needs to go further. The report cited three other taxes on businesses that should be eliminated and suggested the estate tax should be canned entirely.
Rooney says Healey has shown a willingness to listen to the business community, but suggested there is a disconnect on Beacon Hill that has been building for some time. He said Healey’s budget proposal calls for $55 billion in spending, up from $42 billion just five years ago.
He acknowledged the state’s rainy day fund has also grown over that time period, but asked what the $13 billion increase in spending over the last five years has accomplished. He said the state is less competitive today when it comes to housing, transportation, and other issues that are hurting the state’s ability to retain workers and businesses. He also said not a single tax has been cut during that period.
“Clearly, if you look at that picture, the voice of business, commerce, and economic growth is not being heard,” he said.
Green Line restriction ends: The MBTA lifts the last of the universal go-slow speed restrictions on the subway system, but many smaller slow zones will remain until lingering track defects are addressed. Read more.
Tracking what went wrong: T officials say they have tapped “an independent party” to track down what went wrong with the followup to tests designed to detect defects in track not visible to the naked eye. Read more.
Use time well: Jim Jordan, the retired director of strategic development at the Boston Police Department, says the effective use of time is a tremendous strategic resource for law enforcement. Read more.
MBTA electrification: Chinmai Deo, Johannes Epke, John MacDougall, and Mela Bush Miles outline some “outside the box” approaches to electrifying the MBTA. Read more.
Democracy unraveling: David Ehrens of Dartmouth pushes back against a commentary from Adam Hinds, saying democracy has much bigger problems than disrespectful disagreement. Read more.
More openness: Geoff Foster of Common Cause Massachusetts says the state needs to expand and strengthen its open meeting and public records laws. Read more.
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Sheffield eyes new bylaw making it easier for homeowners to install “tiny homes” on their property. (Berkshire Eagle)
Residents at Mass. General Brigham may take a vote on unionizing, a move the giant hospital system is pushing back against. (Boston Globe)
The Times goes over the details of how an indictment and arrest of former president Donald Trump could play out.
Tribal leaders address the Maine Legislature for the second time in the state’s history. (Maine Public Radio)
A number of pols safely took aim at former officials not in attendance – Charlie Baker, Marty Walsh, Jim Lyons – at Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day roast, while Attorney General Andrea Campbell and Auditor Diana DiZoglio zinged some fellow politicos seated at the head table. (Boston Globe)
Two Massachusetts companies are caught up in the bankruptcy of Silicon Valley Bank. (WBUR)
Smuggling of menthol and flavored cigarettes and vaping products into Massachusetts remains a problem, but the amount is down from previous years. (Eagle-Tribune)
Slade Gorton, the fresh and frozen seafood company based in Waltham, agrees to being purchased by Cooke Inc. of New Brunswick. (Gloucester Times)
Worcester school officials say they are open to a new agriculture-based vocational high school in the central part of the state, as legislators and local groups consider possible funding options. (Worcester Telegram)
Hampshire College has extended an invitation for students at New College in Florida, who are not happy with Gov. Ron DeSantis’s efforts to remake the school by appointing six new board members, including noted conservative Christopher Rufo, to transfer to the Amherst school. (Boston Globe)
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum abruptly closed for the day on Saturday after learning of a planned protest inside the museum that day by climate activists, timed to coincide with the 33rd anniversary of the famous heist of paintings there. (Boston Herald)
Judy Chang, a former undersecretary of energy in the administration of Charlie Baker, is reportedly a lead candidate for an opening on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. (E&E News)CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS
A dispute between a Christian camp and the town of Monterey is headed to the Supreme Judicial Court, which must decide whether a town zoning bylaw barring RV parks would apply to a religious organization seeking to provide housing for its staff. (Berkshire Eagle)