AIMBlog_Logo_Resized

Beacon Hill Charts Moderate Course

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Aug 1, 2014 2:28:00 PM

On a day when the Boston Globe reported that Massachusetts is “more liberal than you thought,” the Legislature ended its 2013-2014 session by steering a notably moderate course on business and economic issues.

Senate_ChamberLawmakers preserved the ability of employers to protect their intellectual property through the use of non-compete agreements; rejected a proposed version of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act that would have made defense of IP and trade secrets nearly impossible; and expanded the research and development tax credit in an effort to reverse a troubling 19.3 percent decline in R&D spending among Massachusetts employers between 2007 and 2011.

And though they extended a troubling solar-energy subsidy program, legislators also created a task force to study the long-term feasibility of such subsidies in Massachusetts. Associated Industries of Massachusetts will represent commercial and industrial ratepayers on that task force.

The flurry of last-minute activity capped a session that earlier saw long-term reform of the Unemployment Insurance system and an increase in the state minimum wage from $8 per hour to $11 per hour over three years. Taken together, the record reflects a Legislature seeking a prudent middle path to nurture an economy that remains fragile despite having recovered faster than the rest of the nation.

“Beacon Hill has developed a pretty sophisticated understanding of the need to create a predictable economic climate for the employers who create jobs and prosperity in Massachusetts,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs.

“Employers did not get everything they wanted during this session – most, for example, opposed increasing the minimum wage – but lawmakers by and large shared the belief that only a vibrant, private-sector economy creates opportunity that binds the social, governmental, and economic foundations of our commonwealth.”

Legislators certainly listened on the issue of non-compete agreements.

The Patrick administration and a small group of well-heeled venture capitalists worked for more than a year to ban non-competes altogether, arguing that they inhibit the growth of new companies in the innovation economy. But the initiative created a backlash among the larger business community as hundreds of employers in sectors ranging from technology to manufacturing contacted members of the Legislature to underscore the importance of protecting the innovations that drive the Massachusetts economy.

Unlike last year’s repeal of the technology tax, when a unified coalition of employers persuaded legislators to change course, there was nothing approaching a consensus within the business community on non-competes.

“Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Therese Murray and the Legislature deserve tremendous credit for recognizing that the current law governing non-compete agreements in Massachusetts is working just fine,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

There were other examples of economic prudence as well.

The Legislature declined to pass a workplace bullying bill that would have left employers open to litigation for taking corrective action against employees. Also left in the “no” pile was a bill that would have prevented employers from accessing the social-media logins of job candidates or employees. Legislators did pass a compromise worked out between AIM and domestic violence prevention advocates that would provide up to 15 days of leave to domestic violence victims who work for companies with 50 or more employees.

The future direction of the Legislature remains uncertain with the impending departures of several key lawmakers, including Senate President Murray, Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Stephen Brewer and Assistant House Minority Leader George Peterson Jr. Regan from AIM says all three exemplified the rare ability to reach consensus on thorny issues such as health care reform and gun control.

“AIM and the employer community will miss their determination to make Massachusetts a place where people with different opinions reach common ground on the best way forward. We look forward to their successors continuing that legacy and the moderate course the Legislature has charted,” Regan said.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Non-Compete Agreements, Senate President Therese Murray

Speaker Backs Unemployment Rate Freeze, Reforms

Posted by John Regan on Jan 2, 2013 2:15:00 PM

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo today called for freezing Unemployment Insurance rates for 2013 and examining structural changes to one of the most expensive UI systems in the nation.

Robert DeLeoUnemployment Insurance rates in Massachusetts rose automatically by 25 percent on January 1, boosting the cost paid by employers from $745 per employee to $929 per employee. Legislators may still freeze rates at the current schedule E before first-quarter UI bills go to employers, a step that lawmakers have taken in each of the past three years.

AIM believes that the current trust fund balance of approximately $400 million in the fund used to pay jobless benefits is enough to justify another freeze.

“I continue to hear from the business community about increasing unemployment insurance rates. The schedule can lead to sudden and additional burdens on employers and cost jobs. Sensitive to these concerns, I will ask that the House once again freeze the UI increase,” DeLeo said after winning election to a third term as speaker.

“Because this appears to have become a semi-permanent condition, I will ask the appropriate committees to study ways in which we can reform our UI system to deal with our long-term liabilities while mitigating the burden on employers.”

AIM supports long-term structural reforms that would bring Massachusetts into line with Unemployment Insurance practices in a majority of other states by limiting the duration of benefits to 26 weeks, increasing work and wage requirements for benefit eligibility, and updating rate tables to create equity in employer UI payments. Massachusetts currently has some of the highest Unemployment Insurance rates in the nation.

DeLeo pledged to focus on economic development and job creation. He noted that Massachusetts has already begun to cultivate the type of environment conducive to economic growth and innovation, proving to be an attractive place for new businesses, such as Japanese stem cell company ReproCELL that has just announced a decision to open an office in Boston.

Both DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray used their inaugural speeches to address transportation issues in advance of a long-term transportation financing plan expected from Governor Deval Patrick next week. The two legislative leaders emphasized the need to create efficiency through reform as lawmakers grapple with operational deficits at the MBTA and long-term highway and bridge construction needs.

“In 2009, we completely overhauled the state’s transportation system, dissolving the Turnpike Authority and consolidating multiple agencies into a unified, independent agency.  We recognized that we were dealing with a broken system, and we insisted on reform before revenue,” Murray said in remarks to the Senate.

“In the upcoming session, we will continue to look for opportunities to help the Department (of Transportation) continuously improve its services, redouble its commitment to reform, and come closer to fulfilling its new potential.”

Topics: Speaker Robert DeLeo, Unemployment insurance, Issues, Senate President Therese Murray

Senate Moves to Boost Efficiency of Massachusetts State Government

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jun 10, 2011 1:48:00 PM

The Massachusetts Senate took an important step to improve the efficiency of state government Thursday by approving a bill that would overhaul the commonwealth’s finance laws and establish a performance-management system for state agencies.

Massachusetts state budgetPassage of the AIM-supported measure was unanimous.  The legislation would require Massachusetts governors to file a “zero-based budget” at the start of their administrations and force the state to publish online the full text of business-impact statements for new regulations.

“The legislation requires the commonwealth to use the same management tools that private employers have used for decades to improve efficiency. Senate President Therese Murray and the members of the Senate deserve tremendous credit for seeking to make Massachusetts work efficiently for all of its citizens,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

The bill’s provisions include:

  • Sunset Review Commission - Charged with reviewing the operations of all state agencies and authorities, considering the need for each agency and, if necessary, recommending a sunset date. 
  • Performance Management - Requires executive offices and the State Lottery Commission to implement performance-management strategies to facilitate evaluation and enable better programmatic decision-making.
  • Cash Flow Reports - Improves the commonwealth’s cash-flow reporting. Quarterly cash flow reports would have to compare actual spending and revenue with estimates previously made for that period, and analyze possible reasons for variances.
  • Local Aid - Distributes unrestricted local aid (general government aid, chapter 70 aid and payments in lieu of taxes) monthly rather than quarterly, starting in Fiscal Year 2013.
  • Program versus Maintenance budget - Eliminates statutory requirements that a “maintenance budget” be developed.  Many The starting point for any state budget is to preserve existing programs and agencies.  That starting point is at odds with a more modern notion of budgeting that the commonwealth should continuously evaluate agencies and programs for performance, and invest in the higher-performing programs.”
  • Full impact statements posted to the web –Requires the Secretary of the Commonwealth to post the full text of a business impact statement already produced by an agency rather than simply an overview.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts senate, Senate President Therese Murray

State Senate Accelerates Recovery with Vote to Freeze UI Rates

Posted by John Regan on Feb 10, 2011 4:02:00 PM

The Massachusetts Senate took a major step to accelerate the economic recovery today by approving legislation to freeze Unemployment Insurance rates and head off a 40 percent average UI tax increase.

Unemployment Insurance Rate FreezeThe measure now moves to the House of Representatives, where Speaker Robert DeLeo yesterday expressed the need “to ease the burden on businesses.” Governor Deval Patrick also supports the freeze, setting the stage for resolution of the unemployment insurance crisis well before first-quarter UI bills go out to employers next month.

The Senate approved the freeze by a nearly unanimous vote. Lawmakers said that a large and sudden increase in UI rates would cripple the fragile economic recovery and is not needed to maintain the solvency of the fund used to pay benefits to jobless workers.

A UI rate freeze would still leave Massachusetts employers paying approximately 10 percent more in unemployment taxes in 2011 than they did last year because of weakened experience ratings. But the jump is far less than the $260 per-employee increase that employers would suffer if the automatic move in UI rates to Schedule G that took effect on January 1 were allowed to stand.

Employers will pay an average increase of $65 per worker under the freeze measure.

“Employers commend the members of the Senate who voted to approve this measure, which will help  put Massachusetts residents back to work,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

“We particularly appreciate the leadership of Senate President Therese Murray; Ways and Means Chair Stephen Brewer and Vice Chair Steven Baddour; Labor and Workforce Development Chair  Dan Wolf; and Minority Leader Bruce Tarr – all of whom worked with AIM to resolve this important issue.”

A rate increase is unnecessary and excessive now that the financial position of the UI Trust Fund is improving after two years of heavy demand caused by more than 8 percent unemployment. A significant decrease in the number of claims for unemployment prompted state officials in December to revise their estimate of the Trust Fund balance from a negative $302 million to a positive $12.7 million.

"Many of us ran on programs last year of jobs, jobs, jobs. This is a very important action we can take to set the tone for this commonwealth. Paul Tsongas once said you cannot love the employee and hate the employer," Brewer told his colleagues during the Senate debate.

Governor Patrick, who recently expressed reservations about a freeze, expressed support for the Senate bill in a statement Wednesday night.

“The Patrick-Murray administration supports the rate freeze, and believes that additional reforms are necessary in the future,” said Alex Goldstein, press secretary to the governor.

AIM looks forward to working with the governor and state lawmakers to accomplish those additional reforms. Employers seek structural changes to the UI system that include reducing the maximum duration of benefits to 26 weeks and increasing from 15 to 20 weeks the period that employees must work to qualify for benefits.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Massachusetts senate, Unemployment insurance, Massachusetts Unemployment Insurance, Senate President Therese Murray

Senate Committee Approves Unemployment Insurance Rate Freeze

Posted by John Regan on Feb 9, 2011 4:11:00 PM

The Senate Ways and Means Committee today approved legislation freezing Unemployment Insurance rates, a move that could head off a devastating 40 percent average UI tax increase facing employers next month.

Unemployment InsuranceThe full Senate is expected to debate the measure on Thursday. House Speaker Robert DeLeo indicated that his chamber would move quickly on the bill and a spokesman for Governor Deval Patrick told Statehouse News Service tonight that "The Patrick-Murray administration supports the rate freeze, and believes that additional reforms are necessary in the future."

A UI rate freeze would still leave Massachusetts employers paying approximately 10 percent more in unemployment taxes in 2011 than they did last year because of weakened experience ratings. But the jump is far less than the $258 per-employee increase that employers would suffer if the automatic move in UI rates to Schedule G that took effect on January 1 were allowed to stand.

Many lawmakers believe that a large and sudden increase in UI rates would cripple the fragile economic recovery and is not needed to maintain the solvency of the fund used to pay benefits to jobless workers.

AIM, which has lead efforts by employers to secure a rate freeze, commended Senate leaders and members of the Ways and Means Committee  for a vote that will strengthen the state economy and accelerate job growth. The association looks forward to working with legislative leaders and Governor Patrick to finding long-term solutions to the unemployment insurance situation.

“Senate President Therese Murray, Ways and Means Chair Stephen Brewer and Vice Chair Steven Baddour have sent an unmistakable message that the commonwealth is committed to  putting people back to work,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

Lord said a rate increase is unnecessary and excessive now that the financial position of the UI Trust Fund is improving after two years of heavy demand caused by more than 8 percent unemployment. A significant decrease in the number of claims for unemployment prompted state officials in December to revise their estimate of the Trust Fund balance from a negative $302 million to a positive $12.7 million.

“If Massachusetts continues to see a decline in benefit payments, even on the current schedule, the fund could be solvent at the end of 2011. And even if the fund is insolvent at the end of 2011, President Obama is expected to recommend allowing states to continue to borrow from the federal government – interest free – through the end of 2012,” Lord said.

The freeze would spare employers from a move to Schedule G that would raise average annual Unemployment Insurance rates from $646 to $904 per employee.  Schedule G would have increased overall UI contributions from Massachusetts employers from $1.576 billion to $2.235 billion.

All of those increases would come on top of a 50 percent jump in the assessment on employers for a fund that provides medical insurance to unemployed people. The Unemployment Health Insurance Rate Review Board voted in December to raise the employer contribution rate for the Medical Security Trust Fund from $33.60 to $50.40 per employee in an attempt to close a deficit that is projected to reach $95 million by midyear.

Lord said AIM will continue to push for structural reforms to the UI system, including reducing the maximum duration of benefits to 26 weeks and increasing from 15 to 20 weeks the period that employees must work to qualify for benefits.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Massachusetts senate, Massachusetts Unemployment Insurance, Senate President Therese Murray

Massachusetts Political Leaders See Health Costs as Key Challenge

Posted by John Regan on Jan 6, 2011 3:09:00 PM

The commonwealth’s three top political leaders appear to agree that controlling the cost of health care and helping employers create jobs must be the primary objective of state government during the next two years.

state house Governor Deval Patrick used his second inaugural address today to announce that his administration plans to file legislation to reform and simplify the way businesses and individuals pay for health insurance.  He also promised a medical malpractice measure and said he has instructed MassHealth, the Commonwealth Health Care Connector and the Group Insurance Commission to implement pilot programs to demonstrate new and cost-effective ways to buy health care.

His comments came a day after House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray both identified business growth and health care as priorities for the 2011-2012 legislative session.

The governor called for Massachusetts to face difficult decisions on economic development, spiraling health insurance premiums and other complex issues.

''We must demand more of ourselves than rhetoric that divides us and leadership that kicks every tough decision down the road," Patrick said, echoing a theme he used during his successful re-election campaign.

The prominence of health care and business issues in the opening speeches of the governor, DeLeo and Murray bodes well for Massachusetts employers who continue to face annual premium increases of up to 40 percent as they provide health coverage to workers.  AIM suggested Monday in its Common Wealth 2011 statement that the Massachusetts health-care system will collapse of its own weight if the companies that foot the bill for insurance are no longer able to pay.

Health care, tax, electricity and employment-law issues also dominate AIM’s 2011-2012 Legislative Agenda.

Murray said in a speech Wednesday that lawmakers would push hard to improve a state economy that already maintains an unemployment rate more than a full point below the national jobless level.

“We can and must do more to retain and grow our existing businesses as well as attract new investors, industry and jobs from across the world,” she said, noting that Massachusetts accounted for 9.4 percent of the nation’s job growth over the past year, despite constituting just 2.4 percent of the population.

DeLeo highlighted the health insurance crisis facing cities and towns, some of whom have been forced to borrow money to pay their medical bills. He proposed forcing municipalities to join the Group Insurance Commission, which purchases health coverage for tens of thousands of state employees and retirees.

“The reality is that municipal employee health insurance is a budget-buster which puts untenable strain on municipal services.Unless cities and towns can find health insurance at the same or lower cost than the GIC, we should force them to join - bringing them under the more efficient and cost effective state system,” he said. “This will translate into immediate cost savings for cities and towns while preserving an acceptable standard of quality health care for our public servants at the local level.”

Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM, said health insurance costs discourage employers from hiring people desperate for jobs.

“Massachusetts became a model for the nation in 2006 when it undertook a bipartisan health reform that has since extended coverage to 400,000 people who did not have coverage previously. It’s now time for Massachusetts to establish a model for making world-class health care affordable for employers and consumers alike,” Lord said.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray

AIM Applauds Focus on Private Sector in Senate Budget Debate

Posted by Brad MacDougall on May 26, 2010 3:07:00 PM

"We have come to a point where the private sector is having great trouble affording the public sector" - Read below to find out which Senator made this statement.

With less than 67 days remaining in the legislative calendar ending July 31, today is a busy one for members of the General Court. This afternoon the Senate begins debate over the Fiscal Year 2011 budget while the House considers a bill H.4703 to update an antiquated criminal history records administrative agency. Yesterday, the Governor signed a supplemental appropriation which includes $9.5 million for the state Workforce Training Fund for Fiscal Year 2010.

The $27.88 appropriation bill now before the Senate, which cuts more than $750 million from the level required to maintain state services in fiscal year 2011, adds $53 million to the House version, while proposing no new taxes, no withdrawals from the state Rainy Day Fund and maintains the half-point reduction in the corporate excise tax rate. Important to employers are 83 amendments that AIM's letter to the Senate highlighted out of the total 800 amendments under consideration.

AIM would like to commend Senate President Murray and Chairman Steven Panagiotakos and members of the Ways and Means Committee for advancing a prudent spending plan for the Commonwealth. We cannot improve on the sentiments of Senator Panagiotakos, who wrote in his cover letter accompanying the release of the bill:

"Just as Massachusetts families have had to tighten their belts and do without, so will the branches, agencies, departments, commissions and programs that make up our state government. At all levels of state and municipal government we will be challenged to do more with less.

Unfortunately, this will be the case for the foreseeable future. We have come to a point where the private sector is having great trouble affording the public sector. It will take large increases in private sector economic development and job creation to change this conflicting paradigm.

Although state government cannot create private sector investments and jobs, it can create the fertile field for them to grow. The challenge is, therefore, job creation. Without it, we stay mired in the mud of a recession. With it, we have a clear road to a better future for all."

AIM believes that the sentiments expressed above must guide every decision that touches the state's business climate and we applaud Senator Panagiotakos for expressing this so clearly and eloquently.

AIM is monitoring the amendment process in the Senate as well as the CORI debate in the House and will provide updates on the progress of these bills. Watch the House and Senate debates live by clicking here.


Topics: Public Sector, Massachusetts state budget, Senator Panagiotakos, AIM, CORI, Senate President Therese Murray, Private Sector

Senate Approves Economic Development Bill; Restores Some Training Funds

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Apr 11, 2010 9:46:00 AM

The Massachusetts Senate last week unanimously approved an economic development bill and finalized a supplemental budget to reduce a projected $605 million state budget shortfall.

The economic development legislation seeks to streamline the commonwealth's economic development services to employers.  John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM, testified in support of the initiative, "Re-organization is a good thing - thinking about the service delivery system, its form, function and efficacy means that system is not allowed to become stale and complacent," he told lawmakers.

The legislation includes multiple provisions important to employers, including regulatory reform through a "sunset commission;" the merger of several state economic development agencies; a requirement that agencies seeking to establish new regulations determine their impact on small business; and a study of the cost, reliability and economic impact of electricity.

Senators debated 96 amendments as part of the larger discussion of the economic development bill. AIM sent a letter to Senate President Murray and every member of the Senate to express the association's position on amendments with direct implications for the Massachusetts business climate. AIM has a long history of advocacy regarding these issues.  Here is a scorecard on how the Senate voted on the amendments:

Please Continue Reading

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Economic Development, Senate President Therese Murray

Senate Rejects Flawed Amendment During Economic Development Debate

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Apr 8, 2010 3:04:00 PM

This afternoon the Senate rejected a fundamentally flawed proposal which was mislabeled "Economic Development, Transparency and Fiscal Accountability."

Amendment #69 was one of several amendments under consideration during today's deliberations of the Senate plan for economic development outlined in S.2345.  AIM appreciates the expressed action of the Senate leadership and members who rejected this harmful amendment.

Yesterday, AIM's Eileen McAnneny, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs, sent a letter to Senate President Murray expressing our members' strong opposition and outlined multiple negative impacts of this amendment.  McAnneny argued that "the proposal would ultimately eviscerate the long-held and fundamental policy of Massachusetts to protect the confidentiality of taxpayer information."

AIM argued that the amendment conflicts with the intent of S.2345 to make the government more business friendly and efficient so that it does not impede job creation in any way.

Strangely, a handful of Senators voted in support of Amendment #69 which would add enormous new administrative costs to employers in addition to creating another unfunded mandate for the municipalities in the Commonwealth at a time when both are struggling.  Those legislators, who voted in support of the amendment, simply ignored the fact that no other state in the nation has taxpayer-specific information disclosed on a website for any and all business expenditures.

Prior to the Senate's debate of S.2345 and the 95 amendments, AIM's John Regan, Executive Vice President for Government Affairs, sent a letter to Senate President Murray and every member of the Senate to express the association's overall position relative to specific amendments that would harm the Massachusetts business climate or would provide relief and improve the business climate.

AIM supported amendments that would change the negative impacts of the harmful "treble damages" and "independent contractor" statutes in addition to an amendment to curb the Patrick Administration's "solar carve-out" regulations, which will now retroactively add millions of unnecessary dollars to electricity bills across the commonwealth.   Following the Senate's rejection of the amendment, Regan noted that the proponents pushing this legislation have again advocated for another "Massachusetts only cost of doing business."

Watch the formal Senate debate live  as members continue to debate the economic development legislation and a supplemental budget this afternoon.  AIM will continue to monitor the ongoing Senate debate and will provide more thorough analysis.

Topics: Independent Contractor Law, Massachusetts senate, Employment Law, Economic Development, Senate President Therese Murray, Business Costs

Massachusetts Senate President Outlines Economic Proposals

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Mar 12, 2010 9:01:00 AM

Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray this morning outlined a broad economic growth agenda that includes tax initiatives, streamlining the delivery of economic development services to business, freezing unemployment insurance rates and controlling the cost of health insurance.

Speaking to more than 200 business leaders at the AIM Executive Forum in Waltham, Murray said the commonwealth must find ways to address the job churn that has hindered economic growth since 2000.

"We have to start not just creating jobs, but retaining jobs once we've created them ... From 1990 to 2007, the Commonwealth churned 674,000 jobs a year ... We grow them, and then we lose them," Murray said.

The tax measures set to be debated by the Senate, according to Murray, are "relatively low cost" policies:

  • Extending the net operating loss carry-forward period from five to 20 years, starting with losses incurred in tax year 2010. The change would bring the state into line with 25 other states and aid cyclical industries and start-up companies.
  • Offering a tax credit for new-business formation in the amount of the corporate minimum ($456). The credit could be claimed for the first three years of the corporation's existence - regardless of whether the corporation pays the minimum excise.
  • Applying a special 3 percent capital gains tax rate to investments made by individual investors in Massachusetts-based start-up companies, and held for more than three years. The Boston Chamber also called for this proposal.
  • Exempting business-to-business downloads of software from the sales tax. Murray said such transactions appear to be the only business input in Massachusetts not exempt from the sales tax.
Murray said the Senate will consider "variations" on Gov. Deval Patrick's proposed $2,500 credit against withholding for each new job a business creates between now and April 1, 2011 and retains for one year. The Senate is considering a ceiling on the salaries that would be compensated by the credit "to promote the creation of lower-paid jobs."

Massachusetts has lost a total of nearly 250,000 jobs since 2003 while the national economy added jobs. "This has to change, especially as we continue to push our way out of this recession," Murray said.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Senate President Therese Murray

Subscribe to our blog

Browse by Tag