Path to Recovery Poses Many Challenges
Incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick defied the national Republican tidal wave to win a second term at the helm of a commonwealth still seeking a post-recession economic identity. Massachusetts voters also retained overwhelming Democratic majorities in both House and Senate on Beacon Hill, sent a blue delegation to a newly red Congress, and defeated a proposal to reduce the state sales tax by more than half.
The Massachusetts that Gov. Patrick surveys as he savors his accomplishment is a paradox — stronger economically and with many more growth assets than other states, yet fragile in its ability to deliver on the promise of opportunity to all citizens of the Commonwealth.
The Bay State enjoys a lower unemployment rate at 8.4% than the nation as a whole, and the $2.5 billion state budget deficit pales in comparison with the fiscal disaster in California. But the 292,300 jobless people in Massachusetts and thousands of employers struggling to hold onto their businesses are anything but sanguine about what the future holds.
The challenges facing the governor and other policymakers seeking to promote economic growth are sobering — soaring health-insurance premiums, a looming 40% increase in average unemployment insurance rates, tight commercial credit markets, consumer uncertainty, and a state regulatory system that discourages innovation while creating little public benefit. Underlying many of these challenges is a pervasive sense among employers — many of whom expressed the opinion at the Associated Industries of Massachusetts’ recent regional policy briefings — that neither policymakers nor the general public really appreciate the complexity and risk of running a business in Massachusetts.
Bay State employers have solutions to offer and look forward to participating in the debate on the future of the Massachusetts economy. AIM represents thousands of employers who stand for jobs, economic opportunity, fiscal responsibility, business formation, and a government that acknowledges that the private sector has the unique ability and responsibility to create the common wealth for the people of Massachusetts.
We look forward to working with the governor, the Legislature, and the Congressional delegation to build support for several key principles of economic recovery:
• A uniformly favorable environment for business development across all industries and all regions of the Commonwealth;
• Economic policy that balances key public investments with a competitive cost structure that keeps jobs in Massachusetts;
• Predictable, responsible, and long-term state fiscal policy;
• Well-conceived and collaborative regulation that creates measurable benefits;
• A nimble, world-class education system that provides opportunity for all Massachusetts citizens and the knowledge base for economic growth; and
• Collaboration be-tween business and government to ensure mutual success.
These principles will provide the foundation for a sustainable recovery that touches every sector of the diverse Massachusetts economy, from manufacturing to high technology to retail and hospitality.
Successful economic policy creates uniform benefit throughout the marketplace, balancing the need to invest in the future without simultaneously harming the industries of the present that employ the vast majority of Massachusetts residents.
We look forward to the challenge.
Rick Lord is president of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts.