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Massachusetts Makes Progress on Climate Change

Posted by Robert Rio on Dec 12, 2019 9:14:21 AM

The climate protesters who took to the streets of Boston last week targeted the wrong people.

bostonatnightIf these people really want to impact the climate debate, they should turn their attention outside of a state that is already well on its way to achieving the goals outlined during demonstrations at the State House.

Massachusetts has had a law on the books for more than a decade that mandates an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions from all sectors (electric generation, transportation and buildings) by 2050. Admittedly that isn’t 100 percent but worrying about whether Massachusetts meets 80 percent or 100 percent misses the larger picture.

There are separate regulations aimed at carbon reduction as well. State policy requires that 80 percent of electricity be generated using carbon free sources by 2050. And new proposed regulations by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection will move that requirement to nearly 100 percent during the same time frame. AIM supports the proposed regulations.

The Baker administration has already finalized contracts for one offshore wind farm and other one is going through the approval process. These developments will leave the region humming with new turbines.

Additionally, a large hydro power project is being routed through Maine to supply about 18 percent of the Massachusetts’ total power. Without hydro power, our transition to carbon-free energy will be delayed for decades because it would take an enormous amount of additional solar or offshore wind to make up for the loss of carbon-free hydro power.

That leaves transportation – which accounts for the largest portion of greenhouse gas emissions - 45 percent and growing.

Governor Baker has been a leader in addressing transportation-based greenhouse gasses and is a visible backer a 12-state (plus the District of Columbia) regional effort to reduce greenhouse gases in the transportation sector known as the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). AIM has joined with the administration and several environmental groups to support this effort and the governor is always looking for more support.

TCI will establish a regional cap on carbon emissions while auctioning emissions allowances. Proceeds from the TCI fee will be sent back to each participating state improve statewide public transportation and to encourage fuel users to purchase alternative vehicles.

A MassINC poll published yesterday found that a majority of registered voters in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia strongly or somewhat support their home state's participation in TCI.

Some states are balking at joining TCI. Perhaps the Boston climate activists could take their message to other state capitals to ensure that this critical multi-state effort gets off the ground.

Declaring victory and moving on is tough, but it is necessary to move on from Massachusetts and concentrate efforts in those areas where the greatest changes should be made. There is lots of commonality. The 3,500 member employers of AIM support national efforts to mitigate climate change.

The best thing for all of us to do is acknowledge our work favorably and let the rest of the nation know it can be done with the right leadership.

Topics: Environment, Energy, Transportation

A Model Policy for the New Distracted-Driving Law

Posted by Tom Jones on Dec 4, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Gov. Charlie Baker signed An Act Requiring the Hands-Free Use of Mobile Telephones While Driving on November 25. The law takes effect 90 days from the date of the governor’s signature.

Cell Phone in CarThe law may have a significant impact on companies with employees who are on the road with a need to communicate with the home office or customers.

The law does not focus solely on telephones but on "electronic devices." While the statute does not define an electronic device, the presumption will be that any iPhone, smart phone, tablet, GPS system or other electronic gadget that someone may use in a vehicle will be subject to this law.

Violators face new penalties that may include fines, remedial education and insurance premium surcharges.

The law defines hands-free mode to mean that a user engages in a voice communication or receives audio without touching or holding the device. The measure permits drivers to execute a single tap or swipe to activate, deactivate or initiate the hands-free mode feature.

What’s prohibited?

  • No operator of a motor vehicle shall hold a mobile electronic device.
  • No operator of a motor vehicle shall use a mobile electronic device unless the device is being used in hands-free mode.
  • No operator of a motor vehicle shall read or view text, images or video displayed on a mobile electronic device.

What’s permitted?

  • An operator may view a map generated by a navigation system or application on a mobile electronic device that is mounted on or affixed to a vehicle’s windshield, dashboard or center console in a manner that does not impede the operation of the motor vehicle.
  • An operator shall not be considered to be operating a motor vehicle if the vehicle is stationary and not located in a part of the public way intended for travel by a motor vehicle or bicycle.

The law provides for limited exceptions such as the use of a mobile electronic device in response to an emergency. The law defines an emergency as when the vehicle’s operator needed to report that:

  • the vehicle was disabled;
  • medical attention or assistance was required;
  • police intervention, fire department or other emergency services were necessary for the personal safety of the operator or a passenger or to otherwise ensure the safety of the public; or
  • a disabled vehicle or an accident was present on a roadway.

Repeat offenders will face some of the biggest phone bills they have ever seen. The law provides for three levels of fines, remedial education and insurance surcharges.

The fines under this statute are progressive in nature:

  • first offense-$100
  • second offense-$250; and
  • third and subsequent offenses-$500.

An operator who commits a second or subsequent offense shall be required to complete a program selected by the registrar of motor vehicles that encourages a change in driver behavior and attitude about distracted driving. It is likely that if there is any fee associated with attending this class, the cost will be borne by the employee.

The law also provides that if a person commits a third or subsequent offense it will be a surchargeable event against the driver’s insurance.

An operator found to be violating the law the first time will receive a warning up until March 31, 2020. After that, the law will be fully effective.

AIM HR Solutions has developed a model policy for member companies to use. It is available to all handbook subscription service members as part of their annual policy program. Other AIM members interested in receiving a copy of the policy should contact Beth Yohai or Kyle Pardo at 617.262.1180 for more information on the cost of the policy.

AIM members with questions about this or any other HR-related issue may call the AIM Employer Hotline at 1-800-470-6277.

Topics: Employment Law, Transportation

What Is TCI and How Will It Help Improve Transportation?

Posted by Bob Rio on Dec 2, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Massachusetts lawmakers continue to debate the best method of paying to repair and upgrade the state’s overburdened transportation system.

trafficsmallAssociated Industries of Massachusetts and its 3,500 member employers oppose widespread calls to raise the gasoline tax. AIM instead favors a gasoline-fee increase through a nascent multi-state regional cap-and-invest program called the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI).

What is TCI and why is it better than a gas tax?

TCI establishes a regional (currently 12 states plus the District of Columbia) cap on carbon emissions while auctioning emissions allowances. Proceeds from the TCI fee would be sent back to each participating state to incent fuel users not to pay the TCI fee. A gas tax, by contrast, often generates revenue for transportation projects that may not reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Think of TCI as an energy efficiency program for transportation.

Massachusetts has maintained a successful energy efficiency initiative during the past decade for the electric generation and building sectors. Many AIM members have been able to utilize generous incentives to install solar panels or perform energy efficiency upgrades. The electric generation sector is on track to be virtually carbon free by 2050.

Energy efficiency has been a key result of the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) signed by Governor Deval Patrick in 2008. GWSA requires an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions from all sectors of the Massachusetts economy – electric generation, buildings (businesses and residential), and transportation.

Transportation is now the largest generator of carbon emissions, producing nearly 45 percent of the total and increasing as other sectors decrease. The only option for reducing greenhouse gases in the transportation sector is either to ban cars or switch to low-carbon transportation alternatives, including electric vehicles and better and more accessible public transit.

TCI will do this by allowing states to develop programs that encourage the purchase of electric and low-carbon emissions vehicles (fleets, buses, and passenger vehicles and rail) and upgrades to the electric-charging infrastructure. It will also stimulate investments in public transportation (including much-ignored areas outside Boston).

How much will TCI add to the price of a gallon of fuel? The best guess is about 10 cents per gallon, but it’s hard to estimate because prices under TCI will be set at a private auction that won’t begin until 2021 or 2022. The TCI region will establish an overall cap on carbon emissions - there is no set amount as a per-gallon fee.

A gas tax is regressive and anti-competitive since it falls most heavily on people outside developed urban areas who have no option other than to drive. Gas-tax increases drive consumers over the border for cheaper fuel. And it raises money that the Baker administration says the commonwealth does not need now.

If your company uses large amounts of gasoline or diesel fuel, a gas tax or TCI fee could harm you. But you are also the perfect customer for rebates using TCI funds because the programs can make it cost effective to purchase a low- or no-carbon vehicle, just like programs that make it cost-effective to install solar energy or install new equipment.

Governor Charlie Baker, Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack and Secretary of Energy and Environment Katie Theoharides plan to lead a briefing for senior business executives on TCI on December 11 in Boston. CEOs interested in attending should contact AIM for more information.

AIM will work throughout the process to make sure that the right incentives and programs are implemented that will save money for drivers and companies that switch to electric vehicles while reducing greenhouse gases in the transportation sector as the law requires. Those are all things a gas tax won’t do.

Topics: Environment, Sustainability, Transportation

MassMutual CEO Provides Formula for Growth

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 22, 2019 11:32:27 AM

The chief executive of a company creating thousands of jobs in Massachusetts believes the commonwealth can continue to prosper by addressing key issues such as housing, transportation and education.

Roger W. Crandall, President and Chief Executive Officer of Springfield-based MassMutual, told the AIM Executive Forum this morning that Massachusetts benefits from a bi-partisan and balanced public-policy approach to business.

“Massachusetts has the best of everything. It has an unbelievable history. We've had an unbelievable run over the last 10, 15, 20 years and I think we've got another unbelievable 10, 20, 25 years in front of us,” Crandall told an audience of 250 business leaders.

MassMutual, which oversees more than $500 billion in assets, has embarked upon a major expansion in Massachusetts that includes a new, 17-story tower now under construction on the South Boston Waterfront that will accommodate approximately 1,000 employees. The company is also adding 1,500 jobs to its Springfield headquarters.

Crandall said Massachusetts has generally done a good job providing support and resources for business development while maintaining a good quality of life for its residents. One key element of that quality of life is housing, he said, that that is a challenge moving forward.

Moderately priced housing is essential to retaining the talented employees who graduate from the commonwealth’s renowned colleges and universities, Crandall said. The price of housing in Boston has increased by 61 percent during the past decade and the average monthly rent in the city now stands at $2,500.

MassMutual has supported Governor Charlie Baker’s Housing Choice Bill, along with proposals to create a $10 million down-payment assistance program for first-time home buyers. The company separately contributes to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s Way Home Fund to provide homeless people with a safe and stable environment in which to rebuild their lives.

“We are supportive of efforts to create more housing,” Crandall said.

On transportation, Crandall said companies cannot afford to lose employees – or fail to attract new ones – because people are unable to get where they need to go. He urged employers to support investment in the MBTA and made an impassioned plea for the development of high-speed east-west rail to connect Boston and Springfield.

The final major issue on MassMutual’s priority list is education. Crandall said Massachusetts must continue to pay attention to maintaining best-in-the-nation educational institutions at all levels that provide young people with the skills that will be needed to drive the innovation economy. He commended the Massachusetts Legislature for passing an education funding bill with strong accountability provisions.

“The future is a future of human capital,” he said.

MassMutual was founded in 1851 when 31 founders pooled together $100,000 to write insurance policies for friends and neighbors. The company now pays out more than $14 million per day in life-insurance, retirement and other benefits to customers.

 

Topics: Massachusetts economy, Education, AIM Executive Forum, Transportation

House Makes Wise Choice to Postpone Transportation Debate

Posted by Robert Rio on Nov 18, 2019 8:00:00 AM

The Massachusetts House of Representatives has postponed until January its debate on how to overhaul the commonwealth’s transportation system.

trafficsmallHouse Speaker Robert DeLeo said Thursday that lawmakers initially planned to take up the transportation debate next week, but wanted more time to digest an enormously complex and contentious issue.

"…We decided that it's better that we try to get this right than to try to comply with, I guess you could say, a somewhat arbitrary deadline," DeLeo told State House News Service.

The Legislature is set to recess on Nov. 20 and resume formal sessions in January. While the House and Senate will continue to meet in informal sessions through December, anything that requires a roll call vote must wait.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts, which supports a reasoned, long-term approach built around Governor Charlie Baker’s $18 billion transportation bond bill, commended the House for its decision to push back the debate.

“We appreciate that the Speaker and his members are being thoughtful about this complex issue of transportation reform. Taking additional time to weigh all options is the best path forward for the Commonwealth,” said Brooke M. Thomson, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

“AIM will be working with House members as they continue to look at this issue.”

AIM and ist 3,500 member employers believe the first step to transportation reform must be to remove the structural impediments that prevent the Department of Transportation and the MBTA from spending the money that the taxpayers have already given them. Analysis of MBTA spending patterns reveals that budgeted capital expenditures have risen from less than $500 million in 2013 to $851 million in 2018, but the T still fell short of the $1.6 billion that was available in 2019.

AIM respectfully disagrees with those who support raising new revenue immediately through a gasoline or other tax for the transportation system. Raining money on a transportation system without updating outmoded procurement regulations and rules governing public-private partnerships is like putting brand-new rail cars on corroded 19th century tracks.

AIM is open to reducing transportation emissions by supporting the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), a regional collaboration of 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia that seeks to improve transportation, develop the clean-energy economy and reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector.

Topics: Massachusetts House of Representatives, Taxes, Transportation

AIM Backs Reasoned, Long-Term Approach to Transportation

Posted by Brooke Thomson on Oct 30, 2019 7:08:11 AM

Virtually everyone in Massachusetts agrees that the commonwealth must repair, update and rethink its transportation system.

trafficsmallJust ask employers in metropolitan Boston where workers navigate daily reliability issues on the MBTA or persistent congestion on the Southeast Expressway. Or manufacturing companies in the Berkshires that struggle to ship products over back roads to the Turnpike. Or restaurants on the Cape that await customers locked in multi-mile backups over the Sagamore or Bourne bridges.

Improving the complex Massachusetts transportation system will require patience, prudence and compromise to reach a solution that lays the foundation for long-term economic growth. The 3,500 members of Associated Industries of Massachusetts know as business people that sorting out the financial, logistical and operational elements of transportation reform will take years of debate and continued analysis.

AIM supports a reasoned, long-term approach built around Governor Charlie Baker’s $18 billion transportation bond bill now pending in the state Legislature. That bond bill acknowledges what Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack told the AIM Executive Forum in September – the first step in any reform must be to remove current structural impediments that prevent the Department of Transportation and the T from spending the money that the taxpayers have already given them.

AIM believes that Massachusetts policymakers must provide procurement and policy reform to the transportation system before investing money into an outdate infrastructure.

AIM believes that any solution to the transportation issue must factor in the need to reduce greenhouse gases in the transportation sector to comply with state laws to reduce global warming. 

AIM supports transportation initiatives that are fair to people of all income levels and all regions of the commonwealth.

AIM acknowledges that the commonwealth may need to develop more revenue for transportation in the next three to four years once structural reforms have been accomplished. More work needs to be done to determine the best method of raising revenue and AIM recommends a deliberate approach to funding issues.

Here is AIM’s position on transportation:

AIM supports policies and responsible new investment to reduce congestion; grow capacity to deliver capital projects; lower carbon emissions in the transportation sector and ensure accountability and transparency in transportation investment spending.

  • AIM supports the governor’s bond bill – specifically those provisions that provide employer tax incentives, address congestion and put in place new Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and MBTA management and procurement tools;
  • AIM emphasizes the importance of procurement and contracting reform to get money flowing to projects at an accelerated rate. We support creating $1.4 billion in additional MBTA capital availability by changing the $127 million in annual appropriations to contract assistance or by increasing the annual Base Revenue Amount and Dedicated Sales Tax Revenue amount to the MBTA by $127 million.
  • AIM is open to reducing transportation emissions by supporting the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), a regional collaboration of 12 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia that seeks to improve transportation, develop the clean-energy economy and reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector.
  • AIM remains concerned about raising the gasoline tax because it is regressive and has a punitive effect on less populated regions of the commonwealth;
  • Because AIM is the statewide business association, we support a transportation plan that meets in a fair manner the diverse needs of all regions of the commonwealth;
  • AIM supports studies exploring congestion pricing as a means of reducing or mitigating congestion. Congestion pricing must apply equally to all industries and all types of vehicles and not target specific industries such as ride-sharing companies;
  • AIM supports policies that add governance structures to ensure accountability and transparency in transportation revenue spending;
  • AIM supports $105 million in transportation funding in the supplemental budget currently in conference committee on Beacon Hill: $50 million for MBTA, $40 million for Chapter 90, $10 million for municipal complete streets program.

The AIM Board of Directors continues to discuss details of a transportation proposal. The ongoing discussion reflects the importance that the Board attaches to the transportation debate.

Please contact Bob Rio, Senior Vice President, rrio@aimnet.org, for updates on the transportation debate.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Transportation, Charlie Baker

Transportation Chief Takes Strategic Approach

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 27, 2019 11:09:51 AM

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack thinks of the increasing frustration among Massachusetts commuters in terms of “good days” and “bad days.”

While average commute times have not increased substantially in recent years, Pollack said drivers are encountering more frequent bad days in which a 40-minute commute can turn into a 60-minute ordeal.

“If one day in five takes 60 minutes, you now have an hour commute every day. You plan your life as if it’s an hour and that’s why everybody feels worse,” Pollack told 300 business leaders at the AIM Executive Forum this morning.

The insight is one of many to come from a strategic effort by state officials to understand the underlying transportation challenges facing the commonwealth before identifying solutions. A comprehensive approach to transportation, according to Pollack, covers a daunting range of issues from improving capital planning at the MBTA to highway management to housing development to telecommuting.

“We have laid the foundation for hitting the accelerator and getting these things done,” Pollack told the audience.

She said the two largest challenges facing the transportation system are climate change and traffic congestion.

Massachusetts is seeking to meld the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with funding for new transportation initiatives through the regional Transportation and Climate Initiative. TCI is a regional collaboration of 13 Northeast/Mid-Atlantic states working to reduce carbon emissions through a “cap-and-invest” program or other mechanism that establishes a price for transportation emissions.

Pollack noted that transportation accounts for almost half of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts.

“TCI was not proposed to be a revenue source. It was proposed because it is proven mechanism that has worked in electric sector. It is our best bet to make a dent in transportation greenhouse gas emission.”

Traffic congestion in Massachusetts has reached a “tipping point,” according to a report issued in August by the Baker Administration, which  has signaled support for solutions ranging from allowing commuters to pay to bypass gridlock to reserving bus lanes on highways. The report offered 10 major conclusions:

  1. Congestion is bad because the economy is good.
  2. The worst congestion in the Commonwealth occurs in Greater Boston.
  3. Congestion can and does occur at various times and locations throughout the Commonwealth.
  4. Many roadways are now congested outside of peak periods.
  5. Congestion worsened between 2013 and 2018.
  6. Simple changes in travel time on an average day do not capture the severity of the problem.
  7. Massachusetts has reached a tipping point with respect to congestion.
  8. Many commuting corridors have become unreliable, with lengthy trips on bad days.
  9. Congestion has worsened to the point where it reduces access to jobs.
  10. We should be worried about congestion on local roads, too.

Modernizing the MBTA will plan a big part in helping to reduce the number of cars on the roads, Pollack said. Total capital spending at the T will increase to $9.3 billion between now and 2024, but capital delivery needs to increase to $1.5 billion annually to fund reliability and modernization.

“When enough people use transit and they have a reliable way to get to work, you can take out some of the peaks and get to reasonable balance of good says and bad days,” Pollack said.

Governor Baker in July filed a transportation bond bill seeking $18 billion in additional capital authorization to invest in building and modernizing a transportation system that meets the needs of residents, businesses and cities and towns statewide. The authorization would be used to fund existing programs as well as several new initiatives designed to lessen impacts from roadway congestion and ensure reliable travel throughout the Commonwealth.

Topics: AIM Executive Forum, Transportation

An Open Letter to Raise Up Massachusetts

Posted by John Regan on Aug 26, 2019 8:30:00 AM

Editor's note - Raise Up Massachusetts, the coalition of community organizations, religious groups and labor unions behind the so-called "millionaires tax," sent an open letter to legislators last week maintaining that "the current transportation and education funding crisis" is the responsibility of the business community. AIM President and CEO John Regan responds.

Dear Raise Up Massachusetts, 

We are in receipt of your open letter to the Massachusetts Legislature regarding “significant and lasting” investments in education and transportation. 

Small BusinessOf interest was the following sentence: “In fact, business groups are actively organizing to avoid paying their fair share.” 

Given that we worked together for months to craft a compromise on paid family and medical leave, I believe that your letter represents a serious statement of position and concern, rather than a political stunt. We spent too many hours sitting across the bargaining table from one another for me to question the fact that you believe that businesses do not pay their fair share.  

But that assertion does not comport with facts: 

  • Massachusetts employers provide 3.2 million private-sector jobs at a mean annual wage of $63,910 to the citizens of Massachusetts (US Bureau of Labor Statistics); half of those 3.2 million jobs are in small to medium-sized businesses (US Small Business Administration) 
  • Massachusetts employers pay more than $3.3 billion annually in corporate excise and other state taxes (Massachusetts Department of Revenue) 
  • Massachusetts employers pay $4.9 billion annually in local property taxes to support schools, public safety and municipal services (Massachusetts Department of Revenue) 
  • Massachusetts employers pay $22.8 billion per year to provide health insurance to their employees (Center for Health Information and Analysis)
  • Massachusetts employers generated more than $567 billion worth of goods and services during 2018 (US Bureau of Economic Analysis)
  • Massachusetts employers pay nearly $2 billion annually for workers compensation insurance premiums to protect the financial security of injured workers.
  • Massachusetts employers pay nearly $2 billion annually into the state unemployment insurance system.
  • Massachusetts employers will on October 1 begin to pay another $1 billion annually for the new paid family and medical leave program. 
  • The top 100 corporate charitable contributors in Massachusetts compiled by The Boston Business Journal gave more than $300 million to Bay State non-profit causes last year, including AIM Vision Award winner Cummings Foundation, which donated $34 million to charity.  This is just a slice of the money and time companies give to support their communities. 
  • State tax collections increased nearly 7 percent during the past fiscal year, surpassing budget benchmarks by $1.1 billion.  

Thousands of hard-working Massachusetts employers, from software startups to corner grocery stores, spend every day paying their fair share to the commonwealth by providing economic opportunity and prosperity from Boston to the Berkshires. 

These employers understand the need to address intractable issues such as transportation and education, but they also understand that the recent examples provided by Connecticut and New Jersey prove that you cannot solve these problems by punitively taxing certain businesses or individuals. 

I am delighted to engage in serious conversations with Raise Up and any other groups seeking to ensure the economic future of Massachusetts. 

Sincerely, 

John R. Regan, President & CEO 
Associated Industries of Massachusetts 

Topics: Education, Transportation, Taxation

Uber Envisions New Transportation Model

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Mar 30, 2017 4:16:43 PM

The ride-sharing app Uber has logged the fastest ascent in Silicon Valley history, growing from a startup eight years ago to a company operating across 450 cities in 73 countries and serving 40 million customers each month.

But the company’s Boston-based regional manager, Meghan Verena Joyce, said the company’s ultimate objective is much larger - to merge traditional transportation infrastructure with new technology to create a new model of moving from one place to another.

“I often wonder whether my daughter will ever have a driver’s license,” Joyce mused as she spoke to 300 people at the AIM Executive Forum in Waltham this morning.

The new transportation model, Joyce said, will make efficient use of private automobiles and public transit to reduce traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and land-intensive parking. It will create a system in which everyone – including people in low-income urban areas often left out of the transit grid – will have access to reliable and affordable transportation.

“We believe there is a better way,” said Joyce, a Harvard MBA who served as an associate at Bain Capital and as a senior policy advisor at the US Treasury before joining Uber in 2013.

The challenge is not the one billion automobiles that exist worldwide, according to Joyce, but the solitary manner in which we use them. A show of hands from the audience indicated that the vast majority of people had driven to the Executive Forum with only one person in the vehicle.

Joyce said that Uber has already taken steps to integrate technology with existing transportation infrastructure to streamline the system. Many Uber customers in Boston combine ride-sharing with the MBTA, while others use a modified car-pooling initiative called UberPOOL to share rides with neighbors who travel to the same locations at similar times.

Almost one-third of Uber trips in Great Boston come from UberPOOL, according to Joyce. In San Francisco, where UberPOOL has existed for a longer time, the program has reduced car traffic in that city and saved an estimated 6.2 million gallons of gasoline while cutting carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 55,000 metric tons.

Joyce said Uber’s vision also includes providing transportation options for people in low-income urban areas. People in Dorchester and Mattappan, who she said formerly waited an average of 25 minutes for taxi pickups, now enjoy 96 percent reliability and pickups within 3-5 minutes with ride sharing.

“Our vision is to create a transportation ecosystem that is better for everyone,” she said.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM Executive Forum, Transportation

Budget Plan Includes T Reforms, Troubling Tax Reversal

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Jul 8, 2015 11:17:00 AM

A proposed $38.1 billion state budget to be debated today on Beacon Hill contains no broad-based tax increases and makes substantive public-transportation reforms sought by the business community.

State_House_and_One_BeaconEmployers are disappointed, however, that the spending blueprint reverses an agreement reached between business and the Legislature as part of the 2008 “combined reporting" tax policy change. Repeal of the so-called FAS 109 deduction, which had been postponed as the state revenues declined during the recession, could harm capital-intensive national and global companies.

“AIM continues to review the final budget for Fiscal Year 2016, but the budget conference committee has generally maintained the kind of spending discipline that employers support,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs.

“The proposal lays the groundwork for real changes at the MBTA, changes intended to prevent the widespread service breakdowns we saw this past winter.”

The committee budget increases spending by 3.5 percent, less than the predicted 4.8 percent consensus on revenue growth. Unrestricted local aid would rise by $34 million and local education aid by $111.2 million.

The MBTA reforms provide Governor Charlie Baker with many of the tools he is seeking to overhaul the transit agency. The budget would suspend for three years the onerous privatization vetting of the Pacheco Law, give the secretary of transportation the authority to hire an MBTA general manager, increase the size of the state Transportation Board and create a temporary fiscal and management control board for the T.

The budget contains other good news for employers as well:

  • Requires state executive offices and agencies to develop measurable, outcome-based performance goals and metrics.
  • Forms a special commission to improve state agency information-sharing capabilities to facilitate new business registration.
  • Authorizes the commissioner or revenue to offer an amnesty program for tax penalties in 2016.
  • Provides $2 million to the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund, which will train new workers in manufacturing, hospitality and other high-need industries.

Beacon Hill observers say the FAS 109 deduction is being repealed to pay for an increase in the earned income tax credit for low-income workers. The reversal sends a troubling signal to employers that previous agreements on major tax policy may be changed on a whim.

“It certainly does not help the commonwealth’s reputation for consistency on tax matters,” Regan said.

AIM and other business groups will recommend today that the governor veto the FAS 109 repeal.

The 2008 Combined Reporting tax law brought income from companies' operations in other states into a unitary or "combined" Massachusetts return. The FAS 109 deduction was adopted to avoid penalizing companies after the fact for making capital investments. FAS 109 is an accounting standard that requires that financial statements reflect the tax consequences of all book/tax differences.

Fiscal Year 2016 began on July 1. If the Legislature approves the blueprint today, it goes to Governor Baker for his review. The Governor has 10 days to review the budget and take action - approve or veto the entire budget, veto or reduce specific line items, veto outside sections or submit changes as an amendment to the budget for further consideration by the Legislature.

The Legislature can override the governor’s vetoes with a two-thirds vote in each branch. The House must vote first to override any vetoes before they may be considered by the Senate.  

 

Topics: Massachusetts state budget, Budget, Taxes, Transportation

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