The first time Robert DeLeo spoke to the Associated Industries of Massachusetts after being elected Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 2009, unemployment was 8.8 percent.
The new speaker drove to the AIM speech past empty buildings along Route 128. Traffic was minimal. Consumer and business confidence was at a nadir in the wake of the financial crisis and Great Recession.
Speaker DeLeo reminisced about that first speech this morning as he returned to address more than 300 business leaders at the AIM Executive Forum. He noted that unemployment now stands at 4.2 percent and that Massachusetts employers added 11,000 jobs in August alone. And Boston is on the short list of cities being considered for major development by Amazon just as General Electric settles into its new corporate headquarters.
The speaker attributed the economic resurgence in part to a unique collaboration forged by legislators and the business community to develop pro-business policies and that also benefit the society at large.
“They are not mutually exclusive. One does not detract from the other,” Speaker DeLeo said in a wide-ranging speech during which he thanked AIM and employers for helping to build consensus on issues such as education, wage equity and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
“We are very mindful of the impact that changes might make on our employers, which we always remember are our economic engine,” he said.
The speaker outlined several key priorities as the Legislature heads in the fall, including moderating the cost of health insurance and monitoring what has become a persistent sluggishness in state tax revenues. That sluggishness is affecting states throughout the country, despite the overall healthy economy.
“We obviously haven’t seen the revenue growth we have seen in past economic recoveries,” Mr. DeLeo said.
The speaker expressed optimism in the wake of a recent report that health-care costs in Massachusetts increased at a moderate 2.8 percent in 2016, well below the growth benchmark established by the 2012 health-cost control law. Such stability is essential at a time when federal health-care policy remains in flux.
“We have been successful in driving down health-care spending growth, even in a difficult and unpredictable environment,” he told the crowd.
“We appreciate willingness of business community to work with us and nd their patience on how to move forward.”