SPRINGFIELD, Mass, March 17, 2022 – At its recent Outlook event on March 11, 2022, the Springfield Regional Chamber (SRC) released its 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.
“At the start of the legislative session in 2021, we surveyed 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 determined our legislative priorities based on what matters most to them. This forms our advocacy strategy for each session.”
Creed noted that more than 6,000 pieces of legislation have been filed since 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 development and job creation will continue to be top priorities for the business community this year, as businesses stay focused on rebuilding amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. “COVID recovery will remain at the forefront of our work. When the session kicked off in January, just as we were fighting a new variant, our actions helped reinstate virtual notarizations and remote meetings for nonprofits which were critical to our business community as COVID cases were on the rise,” Creed said.
Supporting this effort, SRC will continue to advocate for policies that keep the region’s communities safe, while also tackling the larger issues within our healthcare system. “As many are all too aware, COVID caused a critical shortage in our healthcare workforce. To help combat that, amongst other key efforts, we’ll be advocating for Massachusetts to join 33 other states in the Nurse Licensing Compact – giving our region, and state overall, greater access to a variety of high-quality nursing candidates who will not be deterred by a single state license,” said Creed.
Additionally, the chamber will support fiscally sound legislation and policy that maintains a level in the state’s Stabilization Fund to support 10% of the state’s total spending. SRC will also continue to identify opportunities for revenue-enhancing measures which catalyzes job creation, such as sports wagering, while also seeking to enhance current revenues and provide fair and equitable local aid. Creed added, “Enacting sports wagering will remain a priority for us as we strongly believe this job creator and revenue generator is critical to the success of our hub city and the people who live, work, and play here. Thanks to the leadership of Representative Wagner, the House has passed this legislation. This session, we will double down on the Senate to make this a reality.”
SRC will advocate for new spending initiatives which support equitable and effective regional recovery, position the region for long-term economic prosperity, invest in a way that is deliberate, sustainable, and evidence-based, while expanding upon existing programs with a track record of success – balancing the state’s immediate needs with those that provide transformational change. “With more than 2 billion dollars in federal funds still unspent, we will work to ensure funding will be used judiciously, fairly, and equitably across the entire Commonwealth and not just the eastern part of the state,” said Creed.
Enacting changes to tax policy that enhances the region’s competitiveness will also be a focus this session. “We think many of the Governor’s proposed changes to tax policy will strengthen our region and catalyze economic development. Massachusetts is only one of 12 states which has an estate tax and one of only two states with a 1-million-dollar threshold,” said Creed. “The states just across our borders have a much higher threshold and a much more advanced system. Especially in this new remote work world, this regressive system encourages an outmigration of our middle-class workers.”
In addition, workforce development remains a top priority for SRC and its members. The Chamber will support legislation and policy that promotes inclusive skills development including career-technical initiatives and the expansion of apprenticeship programs with labor-market aligned educational models and career pathways. Creed elaborated, “These education models include dual enrollment and early college admission along with targeting first-generation college students and communities of color will help us capitalize on the diversity of our workforce so that every resident can acquire the in-demand skills needed to be successful, and we can create a much-needed talent pipeline for today and into the future.”
Additionally, this advocacy work includes supporting laws and regulations that allow flexibility for individuals and employers. “To help stimulate our regional revival, we must advocate for the advancement of entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship to allow flexibility for individuals and employers so that they can create opportunities in the new economy and enhance job competitiveness in our region,” said Creed.
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. “We will work to support various reforms and advocate for regional equity – ensuring everyone has access to both medical and behavioral care regardless of race, color, origin, creed, disability, sex, or gender identity.”
Furthermore, SRC will support healthcare reform by aiding access to care, telehealth, provider reimbursement, pharmaceutical transparency, and health care cost control measures for all. The Chamber will continue to follow legislative, regulatory, and fiscal changes to health care, including the Affordable Care Act, and advocate at the state and/or federal level to avoid negative impacts to the health care system in Massachusetts. Creed said, “With some of the lowest reimbursed hospitals in the state, we believe our hospitals should not only be reimbursed adequately for the services they provide, but fairly, and we will make that a priority this session.”
Rounding out 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, equitable and affordable capacity for continued growth of the region’s business community. This strategy focuses on maintaining a balanced energy portfolio, developing alternative renewal energy sources, ensuring a safe, affordable 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 investments will not only preserve and strengthen the regional economy and its communities but will catalyze economic development, with a focus on the unique challenges of our region’s Gateway Cities,” Creed said.
The environment will be protected with responsible policies that steer clear of unreasonable or inequitable cost burdens on the region’s business community. Creed said, “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 SRC’s advocacy work will be driven by simple principles that are strategic and purposeful. “Ultimately, our goal is to create jobs, catalyze economic development, bolster economic health, capitalize on the diversity of our workforce and our industries, while protecting the competitiveness of our region and the Commonwealth as a whole, and work towards building a more prosperous future for everyone.”