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MWDN: MetroWest Politicians Look to Help Businesses

January 7, 2010

January 7, 2010
By Charlie Breitrose, The MetroWest Daily News

MetroWest lawmakers this year want to ease the burden on businesses, encourage banks to lend by putting pension money into community banks and bring tourism dollars back to the region from Boston.

Nine legislators from the region spoke at the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Forum, held yesterday at Framingham State College.

With a tight budget and a stagnant economy, the legislators said they want to help businesses where they can.

While the federal stimulus funds helped cities and towns save jobs, private firms did not do so well – even those in the construction industry – said state Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick.

Projects which received stimulus funds tended to be road paving projects, rather than building construction, said Linsky, chairman of the Joint Committee on Federal Stimulus Oversight. Those types of projects would have provided work for a wider range of construction trades.

“The projects had to go through the byzantine process, through the whole bureaucracy. It was a nightmare,” Linsky said. “The only thing that made it through were simple road projects.”

A second stimulus bill could be coming down the line, and Linsky said he would like to see the money go toward construction of public facilities.

After yet another House speaker resigned last year following accusations of ethics violations, Shrewsbury state Rep. Karyn Polito, said she would like to see the House focus on business this year. Polito was the only Republican at the event.

The state raised the sales tax, and allowed meals and hotel taxes to go up if communities approved, last year. Polito said she does not think people can pay more taxes.

“What’s left is to trim the fat,” Polito said. “We need to look for it in the bureaucracy and get rid of it, and we need to get as lean and efficient as possible.”

State Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, said she thought the legislature accomplished a lot, despite dealing with ethics issues.

Helping businesses is one of her priorities, and she said the state can become more streamlined and help businesses, too. Massachusetts has 30 agencies focused on business and economic development, some of which have overlap or duplicate services. Spilka would like to see them combined so people have a one-stop shopping option.

“We need a place where, if you need help, you go to this place and they take you through the process,” Spilka said. “Other states do it, and we need to do it.”

Small businesses need loans but banks have not been lending recently. State Rep. Tom Conroy, D-Wayland said he would like to redirect state pension investments to local banks.

“I would like to take the $8 billion the state invests in the state pension fund that is now invested in funds in California, and invest it in local community banks,” Conroy said. “By putting money in the banks, they will be able to lend to businesses.”

Taxes collected by hotels in MetroWest wind up going to the Boston tourism bureau, but state Sen. Pam Richardson, D-Framingham, would like that to change.

“Local cultural groups don’t feel they benefit from that setup,” Richardson said. “I would like to look at the way the map is drawn and redirect funds from the MetroWest region into a MetroWest tourism bureau, which doesn’t exist now.”

(Charlie Breitrose can be reached at 508-626-3964 or cbreitro@cnc.com.)

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