BOSTON—On July 14th, Senator Lesser voted for comprehensive economic development legislation including investments, initiatives and incentives to promote development and workforce training, create jobs and stimulate the Commonwealth’s economy. The legislation strengthens existing programs and authorizes $743.9M in capital spending over a period of three years for a range of economic development initiatives supporting workers, businesses and communities.
“Promoting business in Massachusetts means ensuring workers are well-trained and well-paid,” said Senator Lesser. “This bill will make it easier to do business in Western Massachusetts: bringing more jobs to a more vibrant community. I can’t wait to see the college savings tax deduction, the pregnant workers fairness amendment, and the updated Earned Income Tax Credit go into effect.”
“Public policy and public investment is critical for Massachusetts to keep growing its economy and leading the nation in innovation and technology. This bill makes targeted investments in workforce training, infrastructure, and job creation strategies,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “Among one of the important provisions of this bill is the increase to the Earned Income Tax Credit by 5% for over 415,000 working families in the Commonwealth to continue the Senate’s work on addressing income inequality.”
Senator Lesser supported language that was included to create a tax deduction on college savings and authorized capital bonds for Chicopee Comprehensive High School’s career programs, Belchertown High School’s engineering program and the Springfield Innovation Center. He also supported the successful Pregnant Workers Fairness amendment, which bans employment discrimination against pregnant women.
The college savings tax deduction encourages families to save for higher education. Individual filers would be able to take a $1,000 tax deduction for contributions to a prepaid tuition or college savings program, also known as a 529 plan. Married couples filing taxes jointly would be able to take a $2,000 deduction.
Continuing the Senate’s efforts to address income inequality and support working families, the bill also increases the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by 5%, from 23% to 28% of the federal refund, effective January 1, 2018, and closes a loophole that allows nonresidents to claim this credit in Massachusetts.
The bill authorizes capital investments in initiatives to promote innovation, create jobs and provide skills training and assistance for the Massachusetts workforce, including:
- $71M in matching grants to allow colleges and universities to participate in the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation initiative, a key industry with thousands of open, well-paying positions in Western Massachusetts.
- $45M for building improvements for career technical education and training programs, a priority of Senator Lesser’s throughout his first term.
- $30M for workforce training and education in the advanced manufacturing, technology and hospitality fields, three major employers in Western Massachusetts.
- $15M for a new Innovation Infrastructure Program providing grants and loans for the design, construction and improvement of buildings to spur innovation and entrepreneurship, including co-working spaces, innovation centers, maker spaces, post-incubation start-ups and artist spaces; like the Springfield Innovation Center.
- $15M for matching grants for innovative scientific and technology research and development activities stimulating economic and employment opportunities in the state.
- $4.5M for a cybersecurity and data analytics technology development and training center.
- $2.4M for the Early College High School Program to encourage partnerships between school districts and higher education institutions.
The bill also authorizes spending for infrastructure investments to boost economic growth, housing production and community development across the Commonwealth.
- $330M for the MassWorks Infrastructure Program, which provides funding to cities and towns to support commercial and residential development, housing, downtown revitalization, transportation improvements and other infrastructure necessary for economic development and job creation.
- $30M for transformative development projects in Gateway Cities.
- $7.5M for smart growth housing development for low income residents.
- $6M for the Massachusetts Food Trust Program to increase access to healthy food options and improve economic opportunities for nutritionally underserved communities. Senator Lesser published an op-ed on feeding the hungry in Western Massachusetts last year.
- $5M for public infrastructure grants to cities and towns.
The bill also expands the application of the state’s room occupancy excise to vacation, leisure and short-term rentals.
Finally, the bill eliminates burdensome restrictions on retailers, restaurants and small brewers to increase consumer choice and market access in the sale of alcoholic beverages.
A conference committee will now resolve the differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill.