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SPRINGFIELD – The Springfield Regional Chamber (SRC) has released its 2021-2022 legislative agenda, outlining advocacy priorities to strengthen business competitiveness, lower business costs, and build a more prosperous future for the greater Springfield region. The legislative agenda touches upon key issues in budgeting, tax policy, workforce development, healthcare, energy, infrastructure, and the environment.

 

“Each legislative session, we survey more than 500 chamber members to gather feedback about the issues that are impacting their business, their success, and their growth strategies,” said SRC President Nancy F. Creed. “We then determine our legislative priorities based on what matters most to them. This forms our advocacy strategy for the year.”

 

Creed noted that more than 6,000 pieces of legislation have been filed since the legislative session began in January. Through its Legislative Steering Committee, representing industry of all types, sizes, and geographies, SRC conducts research, monitors, and advocates as appropriate on each piece of legislation as it moves through the process.

 

Economic recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic is a top priority for the SRC. “Rebuilding post-pandemic is a critical issue for our businesses, and we will continue to serve as a voice for the region,” Creed said. Supporting this effort, SRC will identify opportunities for revenue-enhancing measures while opposing new broad-based taxes that would hinder the region’s economic recovery. Creed added, “Monitoring pandemic-related legislation and advocating for our business community’s fair and equitable access to resources is going to be imperative in moving our region forward.”

 

The SRC will monitor all projected changes to tax policy and advocate for policies that will enhance our region’s competitiveness, promote job creation, and catalyze economic development. The SRC will continue their efforts to reduce the solvency rate, freeze unemployment insurance rates to avoid the overburden of the employer community and will encourage reforms to modernize the system.

 

Creed added, “One of the most concerning issues to address is the fluctuation of the solvency fund assessment, one of the several factors used to calculate a business owner’s unemployment insurance contribution rate, which jumped from 0.58% to 9.23% for 2021,” Creed continued, “For many business owners, this means an employer contribution rate that’s twice as high and a tax increase of potentially thousands.”

 

Additionally, the SRC will advocate for the inclusion of fair and equitable stimulus funding to assist and supplement the budgetary shortfalls of the region’s cities and towns that arose as a result from the pandemic and will support fiscally sound legislation and policy that rebuilds the state’s Stabilization Fund. “We have a ‘rainy day” fund for a reason and this past year, it certainly rained but we need to look to the future to rebuild the Stabilization Fund and only use it in its most dire circumstances to ensure the state’s fiscal stability.”

 

Moreover, the SRC will oppose the Fair Share Amendment which aims to revise the Massachusetts Constitution to add a surcharge on income over $1 million. “Amending the MA Constitution would significantly hinder the competitiveness of the region and the Commonwealth. It would also irreparably harm small businesses in our region and sets a bad precedent for tax-making policy,” said Creed.

 

In addition, workforce development remains a top priority for SRC and its members. Supporting legislation and policy recommendations that promote comprehensive skills, including career-technical initiatives and the expansion of apprenticeship programs, will promote innovation and labor-market educational models. Creed elaborated, “These education models include dual enrollment and early college admission along with targeting first-generation college students and communities of color to capitalize on the diversity of our workforce so that every resident can acquire the in-demand skills needed to be successful in the workforce and we can create a much-needed talent pipeline for today and into the future.” Additionally, this advocacy work includes supporting legislation and policies which strengthen the regional economy, workforce, communities, and future with affordable, universally accessible, stable, high-quality early childhood education for all families in the Springfield region.

 

SRC’s upcoming advocacy work will also focus on healthcare reform and health equity. Creed said that the Chamber supports legislation and policies that close the racial, ethnic, and socio-economic health disparities in our region. “The pandemic has highlighted the inequities and disparities across our communities. The health of our residents equates to the health of our economy.” Moreover, SRC will support healthcare reform by aiding access to care, telehealth and the nurse licensing compact, pharmaceutical transparency, and health care cost control measures for all. Creed said, “SRC has a responsibility to do due diligence and monitor all legislative proposals that may run counter to these critical concepts.”

 

Rounding out the SRC’s legislative agenda is energy, infrastructure, and the environment, and to that end, SRC will advocate for a comprehensive energy strategy that maintains sufficient and equitable capacity and affordability for continued growth of the region’s business community. “Massachusetts has one of the highest energy costs in the nation,” Creed said. “We need to drive these costs down so that our region and our Commonwealth are attractive to investors and new businesses,” she emphasized. The chamber’s strategy focuses on maintaining a balanced energy portfolio, developing alternative renewal energy sources, ensuring a safe and reliable supply of natural gas, along with continued conservation and energy efficiency measures.

 

The region’s infrastructure will be supported through legislation and policies that provide fair, equitable and responsible investments in the maintenance and development of infrastructure. This includes energy, road and rail, real estate, housing as well as telecommunications and broadband. “These regional investments will only preserve and strengthen the regional economy and its communities and catalyze economic development and keep our focus on the unique challenges of our region’s Gateway Cities,” Creed said.

 

The environment will be backed by responsible policies that protect our environment without adding unreasonable or inequitable cost burdens on the region’s business community. Creed said the Chamber will be keeping a close eye on the roll-out of the recent landmark climate change legislation. Creed elaborated, “Environmental protection and a sound business environment do not need to be mutually exclusive, with both resulting in new technological advances, manufacturing opportunities, job creation and efficiency all while preserving and protecting the environment.”

 

Creed added that the Legislature has just begun its two-year session and the legislative process can move slowly, but it is purposeful. “The process is thorough and deliberate so that all voices can be heard – allowing the best outcome to be determined,” she said. “It’s reassuring that our region’s delegation works within that structure as well.”

 

For information about the SRC and its legislative advocacy, contact Creed at creed@springfieldregionalchamber.com