Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chamber Tax Reforms Gain Support

Speaker DeLeo endorses key proposals of Chamber tax reform bill

Key proposals from the Chamber’s Business Tax Reform bill have garnered support among top state officials – including a recent endorsement by House Speaker Robert DeLeo and the launching of a tax policy development website by the DOR.

Speaker DeLeo’s Endorsement
During his prepared remarks at the Chamber’s March 15 Government Affairs Forum this month, Speaker DeLeo stressed the need for state tax administration reform in order to improve the Massachusetts economy and strengthen the relationship between business and government. Specifically, he endorsed proposals to:
  1. Require the DOR to regularly publish reports on its prospective tax policies, in order to improve transparency and enhance early taxpayer input on such policies; and
  2. Shorten audit cycles by waiving taxpayer penalties for substantial underpayment of taxes (Ch. 62C, Sec. 35A) if the DOR fails to complete an audit within 18 months.
These provisions were first proposed as part of the Business Tax Reform bill filed by the Chamber in January – a bill that was crafted in collaboration with PwC and is based on the valuable feedback that the Chamber’s policy team received from members last fall. The bill is designed to improve Massachusetts state tax procedures and promote taxpayer fairness via a) interest rate parity; b) statute of limitations parity; c) shortened audit cycle lengths; and d) early notification of tax policies under development.

DOR Tax Policy Development Website
The Speaker’s endorsement follows the March 3 launch of a DOR website featuring public written statements on tax policies that are currently under development. Prior to the launch of the site, there was no requirement that taxpayers receive prior notice of tax policy changes being worked on by the DOR.

The Chamber is pleased to have played a key role in advancing this important issue. However, some differences remain between the Chamber proposal and the DOR site, primarily around the frequency with which the issues on the site are updated and the amount of information on each issue that is required to be posted. As a result, the Chamber plans to continue to pursue its stronger version of the tax policy development site as contained in the Business Tax Reform bill and endorsed by the Speaker.

The Chamber will continue working with the House, Senate, and Patrick Administration in an effort to advance these and other important tax proposals.

Advocating for Competitive Tax Policy

Chamber co-authors Boston Globe op-ed on importance of favorable tax climate

The Chamber continues working to improve Massachusetts’ climate for hiring and investment. This includes lowering business costs, strengthening the state’s talent pipeline, and reforming key tax and regulatory policies. These factors drive key business decisions every day, and improvements in each of these areas will boost the region’s competitiveness and accelerate economic recovery.

One such factor that has been the subject of debate recently among some lawmakers is corporate taxation. Recent news events have led some on Beacon Hill to question the effectiveness of a range of long-standing tax policies and incentives. While such a conversation about state economic policy is important, the Chamber believes it is a mistake to focus the discussion so narrowly. Every month thousands of Massachusetts companies make decisions about adding, locating, or reducing jobs. The question is how to make more of those decisions go in Massachusetts’ favor. One of the best ways to do that is to maintain a favorable tax climate in the face of increasing regional and global competition. This includes streamlining tax administration procedures, preserving targeted tax incentives that promote investment and R&D activities, and maintaining tax policies such as single sales factor apportionment that level the playing field for multistate and multinational companies.

The Chamber and Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation made the case for promoting Massachusetts’ leading industries via competitive tax policy in a March 29th op-ed in the Boston Globe. The op-ed, titled “To keep jobs, don’t kill tax incentives,” outlined the importance of financial services to the Massachusetts economy, and the need to maintain a competitive tax climate – with a particular focus on singles sales factor apportionment for mutual fund companies – in order to sustain and grow this vital industry cluster.

The Chamber will continue working with the House, Senate, and Patrick Administration in an effort to sustain and grow jobs and investment through competitive tax policy.

Municipal Health Insurance Reform

Chamber joins coalition to advocate for health care plan freedom

This month, the Chamber joined a broad-based coalition called Mass Reform First to advocate for “plan design” – legislation that will enable municipalities to change health plan features such as co-pays and deductibles without having to go through the collective bargaining process. Currently, private employers are able to redesign employee benefit packages to help mitigate escalating health care costs, while municipalities are unable to take the same steps due to the collective bargaining process. As a result, those costs are wreaking havoc with municipal budgets – increasing pressure to raise property taxes and cut vital services such as education and public safety. The situation is exacerbated by significant cuts in local aid for the 4th consecutive year. Meaningful municipal health insurance reform is needed.

The Chamber recently submitted testimony in support of H.2457, An Act Relative to Municipal Health Insurance Reform. The bill gives local officials the power to design health insurance plans outside of collective bargaining and requires that all eligible local government retirees enroll in Medicare as their primary source of health insurance coverage. H.2457 provides much needed relief to cities and towns and will help preserve vital local services. The Chamber will continue to advocate for effective municipal health insurance reform.

Preserving “LIFO” Inventory Accounting

Chamber works to preserve important federal accounting policy

The Chamber has joined the effort to preserve the last-in first-out (LIFO) accounting policy at the federal level – a long-standing method of accounting that has been proposed for repeal in the President’s FY 2012 budget. Such a repeal could negatively impact many of our member companies for whom inventories are a central part of business operations.

For purposes of inventory accounting, LIFO assumes that the cost of the most recently purchased units will be the first costs to be matched with the recent sales on the income statement (i.e. the company sells first the inventory most recently acquired). The repeal of LIFO has been proposed in President Obama’s FY 2012 budget and has also been raised in the context of possible fundamental tax reform by the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

LIFO is a well-accepted, widely-used method of accounting and the Chamber believes its repeal could negatively impact economic growth and job creation both regionally and nationally. This month, the Chamber joined the LIFO Coalition, an ad hoc group of more than 120 trade associations representing hundreds of thousands of businesses across a range of industries. The Chamber will continue to work with the Coalition in the coming weeks and months in an effort to preserve the LIFO accounting method.

Massachusetts Jobs Update -- February 2011

Highlights from the Chamber's Massachusetts Jobs & Policy Update:
  • State added 15,400 jobs last month. State posted 1.1% job growth last 12 months under revised benchmarks, slightly higher than U.S. rate of 1.0%.
  • State unemployment rate dipped slightly to 8.2%, the lowest rate since May 2009 and still well below the U.S. rate of 8.9%.
  • Six of 12 regions added jobs last month and 10 of 12 regions added jobs year-over-year with strongest growth in the South Coast and Northern Central regions.
  • Education & Health Services (+6,500), Leisure & Hospitality (+4,300), and Professional & Business Services (+2,800) posted largest monthly job gains among industries at the state level.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

UN Appointee Carol Fulp addresses the Chamber's Women's Network

This morning, Carol Fulp, senior vice president of the Brand Development Group at John Hancock Financial and Presidential Appointee to the United Nations, addressed the Chamber's Women's Network at the Ritz-Carlton Boston Common Hotel. With 250 Chamber members in attendance, Fulp shared experiences and observations from her work as a representative of the United States to the United Nations. Two of the states prominent female leaders -- Senate President Therese Murray and Bentley University president Gloria Larson -- also made special appearances during the program.

Click here to view photos from today's event.

Don't miss the next Women's Network program with Mel Robbins, author of "Stop Saying You're Fine: Get What You Want By Getting Out of Your Own Way" on Tuesday, May 10, at the Liberty Hotel. Click here for more information or to register.

The Chamber would like to thank Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts for sponsoring today's event.

Chamber, Taxpayers op-ed in today's Boston Globe

To keep jobs, don’t kill tax incentives

By Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, and Jim Klocke, executive vice president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce

Globe Staff / March 29, 2011

THE DEBATE about state economic policy has escalated in recent days, fueled by Fidelity’s decision to move jobs to neighboring states. While it’s good to have an honest and open conversation about state economic policy, we shouldn’t focus the discussion so narrowly that we miss the bigger picture.

Every month thousands of Massachusetts companies make decisions about adding, locating, or reducing jobs. The question is how to make more of those decisions go in our favor. The best way to do so is by sustaining the state’s leading industries, including financial services....

Click here to read more.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Economic fallout from Japan earthquake, tsunami on 'This Week in Business'

Yesterday on This Week in Business, Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, joined hosts Paul Guzzi and Mike Nikitas to discuss the economic fallout from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.



In the Briefing Room, Bob Coughlin, president & CEO of MassBio, joined to discuss Governor Patrick's recent economic development trade mission to Israel & the UK and said he believes that the trip has the possibility to generate 1,000 new business opportunities for the Commonwealth.



On the Business Beat, NECN business reporter Peter Howe weighs in on recent census findings, the AT&T and T-Mobile merger, Governor Patrick's meeting with Fidelity executives, and the value of the Red Sox.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Jim Klocke is 'On the Record' discussing MA bond ratings, US census

Last night, Chamber EVP Jim Klocke went 'On the Record' with NECN's Mike Nikitas to discuss Massachusetts' recent bond ratings, highlights from the recent census, and a new public higher education standard that requires students to take four years of high school math.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

State Street CEO addresses the Chamber

This morning, State Street president & CEO Jay Hooley addressed nearly 300 members of the Boston business community at a Greater Boston Chamber Executive Forum. State Street is a leading financial institution with a large presence in Greater Boston and more than 28,000 employees worldwide. Today, Hooley commented on the company's philanthropic role in the community, discussed how State Street has weathered the economic recession, and discussed the interconnectedness of the global economy.

Click here to view photos from this program.

The entire event broadcast can be heard this Sunday, March 27, at 8:00pm on WBUR 90.9FM.

View press highlights below:
Don't miss the next Executive Forum with Bob Reynolds, president & CEO of Putnam Investments, on Tuesday, May 24 at the Taj Boston Hotel. For more information or to register, click here.

The Chamber would like to thank Citibank for sponsoring this event series.

Video of today's Executive Forum with State Street CEO Jay Hooley

Watch State Street CEO Jay Hooley's entire address from this morning's Executive Forum below. Hooley's remarks commence at the 8:10 mark of the video.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Economic impact of the disaster in Japan on 'This Week in Business'

Yesterday on This Week in Business, William Grimes, professor at Boston University and chair of the International Relations Department, joined hosts Paul Guzzi and Mike Nikitas to discuss the disaster that continues to unfold as a result of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last week. He takes a look at the economic impact of Japan's recent events and the debate around nuclear power.



In the Briefing Room, Wes Thompson, president of Sun Life Financial U.S., joined to talk about the international relief fund that his company established in 2005 and the funds they sent over to Japan. He also discusses changes in the financial services industry in recent years, and Sun Life's sponsorship of the Boston Celtics.



On the Business Beat, NECN business reporter Peter Howe joins to look at Massachusetts' job gains in February, Fidelity's decision to move 1,100 jobs out of Massachusetts, the economic impact of the Governor's trade mission, and how March Madness impacts worker productivity.

Friday, March 18, 2011

State added 15,400 jobs last month 'On the Record'

Last night, Chamber CEO Paul Guzzi went On the Record with NECN's Mike Nikitas to discuss the addition of 15,400 jobs in Massachusetts in February, Speaker DeLeo's recent address to the Chamber and proposed tax policy changes, and the decision by Fidelity Investments to close their Marlboro office and move 1,100 jobs out of state.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

MA economy adds 15,400 jobs in February

The Commonwealth's Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced today that the state added 15,400 new jobs last month. The largest job gains were in education and health services sectors. The state's unemployment rate dropped slightly to 8.2% -- still below the national rate of 8.9%.

Click here for more information of MA February job numbers.

Tune in to NECN Business Day tonight at 6:30pm to see Chamber CEO Paul Guzzi "On the Record" discussing the current state of the Massachusetts economy.

Sonesta Hotels CEO addresses the Chamber

Yesterday, Stephanie Sonnabend, president & CEO of Sonesta International Hotels Corporation, was the featured speaker at a Chamber Women's Network Breakfast. As one of the two Women's Network speakers during the month of March -- Women's History Month -- Sonnabend focused her comments on an initiative she founded last year called "2020 Women on Boards." This initiative is aimed at having 20% of corporate boards filled by women by or before the year 2020.

View photos of yesterday's Women's Network forum.

A highlight of the program can be viewed in the Boston Business Journal.

Don't miss our next Women's Network Breakfast on Tuesday, March 29, with Carol Fulp, SVP of the Brand Development Group at John Hancock Financial and Presidential Appointee to the United Nations at the Ritz-Carlton Boston Common. Fulp's address will focus on "Women and the UN." For more information or to register, click here.

The Chamber would like to thank Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA for sponsoring yesterday's event.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Speaker DeLeo addresses the Chamber

Earlier today, Massachusetts Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo addressed nearly 300 members of the business community at a Greater Boston Chamber Government Affairs Forum at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. Speaker DeLeo discussed his ideas for municipal employee health insurance reform, expanded gaming, court reorganization, overhauling the probation hiring system, and key tax policy changes.

To view photos of today's forum, visit the Chamber's Flickr page.

A complete broadcast of Speaker DeLeo's address to the Chamber can be heard this Sunday, March 20 at 8:00pm on WBUR 90.9. Read press highlights below:
Don't miss the next Government Affairs Forum with Senate President Therese Murray on Thursday, April 7 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Click here for more information or to register.

The Chamber would like to thank Bank of America for sponsoring this important series.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Last chance to register for tomorrow's forum with Speaker Robert DeLeo!

Tomorrow morning, Massachusetts Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo will address the Chamber at a Government Affairs Forum at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. Click here to register.

View photos here from last year's forum with Speaker DeLeo.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Press coverage, photos of Larry Summers' address to the Chamber

Yesterday, Larry Summers, former director of President Obama's National Economic Council and current director of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, addressed members of the Chamber at a Government Affairs Forum at the Boston Harbor Hotel. Summers weighed in on his recent time in Washington, the success of the federal stimulus, current national economic policy, and his positive outlook for the nation's economic future. He also discussed the strengths of this region -- health care, education, scientific research -- and encouraged even more investment in those areas.

To view pictures from this forum, visit the Chamber's Flickr page

Summers' entire speech will be broadcast on WBUR 90.9 this Sunday, March 13 at 8:00pm. Read highlights of this event below:
Don't miss the next Government Affairs Forum with Massachusetts Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo on Tuesday, March 15 at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. Click here for more information or to register.

The Chamber would like to thank Bank of America for sponsoring this important series.

"The Social Network" Clip from yesterday's Larry Summers Luncheon

You might have hard that Larry Summers referenced his portrayal in the award-winning movie "The Social Network" at yesterday's luncheon. Here is the video clip:

The Chamber celebrates 'Women's History Month'

Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day -- a highlight of Women's History Month.  Celebrating the tremendous impact that women have in business, government, and community, the Chamber is hosting two Women's Network Breakfast Forums during the month of March.

On Wednesday, March 16, Stephanie Sonnabend -- President & CEO of Sonesta International Hotels Corporation -- will speak to the Chamber at the InterContinental Hotel on "Creating Gender Diversity in the Boardroom." Click here for more information or to register.

On Tuesday, March 29, Carol Fulp -- SVP of the Brand Development Group at John Hancock Financial and Presidential Appointee to the United Nations -- will speak to the Chamber at the Ritz-Carlton Boston Common. Carol will share her United Nations experience. Click here for more information or to register.


For a complete list of upcoming Women's Network Breakfast Forums, click here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Video of Today's Government Affairs Forum with Larry Summers

This afternoon, Larry Summers, director of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, addressed the Chamber's Government Affairs Forum. As the President Obama's former Director of Economic Council, Summers talked at length about the regional and national economy. He even touched on the Hollywood portrayal of him as the president of Harvard University in the award-winning movie "The Social Network."

Watch his complete address in the video below. We'l post pictures and a news roundup from the Government Affairs Forum tomorrow. The lunch event was sponsored by Bank of America.


Government Affairs Forum with Larry Summers from Greater Boston Chamber of Commer on Vimeo.

The economic impact of rising oil & food prices on 'This Week in Business'

Yesterday on This Week in Business, Barry Bluestone, Dean of the School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, joined hosts Paul Guzzi and Mike Nikitas to take a look at the state and national employment situation. Barry also weighs in on a number of economic indicators.



In the Briefing Room, Joe Petrowski, CEO of Gulf Oil & Cumberland Farms, shares his thoughts on escalating oil and food prices around the globe. He also talks about Cumberland Farms' new drive-thru store in Massachusetts.



On the Business Beat, NECN business reporter Peter Howe joins to discuss news at Blue Cross Blue Shield, the state's recent approval of 16 new charter schools, President Obama's visit to TechBoston Academy, and former Senator Chris Dodd's new job.

Announcing the 2011 'Academy of Distingished Bostonians' honorees...

 

Today, the Greater Boston Chamber announced the 2011 inductees into the Academy of Distinguished Bostonians.  Robert & Myra Kraft and the Kraft Family were selected for their outstanding accomplishments as leaders and their significant contributions to the Greater Boston community.  The Kraft Family will be honored at the Chamber’s 102nd Annual Meeting & Dinner on May 3 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. Click here for more information or to register.


And read more in the Boston Globe: Boston chamber will honor Kraft family.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Massachusetts economy adds 5,600 jobs in January

Today, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced that the Massachusetts economy added 5,600 jobs in January. The largest job gains were in Professional, Scientific, and Business Services. Despite the modest growth, the state's unemployment rate remains unchanged at 8.3%.

Click here to read the state's complete January job report.

In other economic news, the Federal Reserve released their Beige Book survey yesterday indicating modest to moderate economic growth across the nation. In this region, economic conditions continue to improve, and many retailers, manufacturers, staffing firms, and software and information technology services companies cited increases in sales or revenue. The survey also indicates that firms in several sectors are currently hiring or planning to hire this year.

Click here to read the Beige Book survey.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Roundup of Yesterday's Economic Outlook Breakfast

There were lots of stories in the press covering yesterday's Economic Outlook Breakfast with Sovereign Bank:
You can also read the live coverage of the event on the Chamber's Twitter feed, or by clicking on the #gbccecon hashtag.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Upcoming Chamber speaker Larry Summers on the economic recovery

Larry Summers, former director of President Obama's National Economic Council, will be speaking at a Chamber Government Affairs Forum this Monday, March 7 at the Boston Harbor Hotel. Click here to register for this event.

Summers was the chief White House advisor to the President on the development and implementation of economic policy.  He also served as an architect of the Recovery Act and the Financial Stability Program, and led the restructuring of the U.S. automobile industry. Check out the video below of Summers talking about the economic recovery on CNN.

Results of Today's Live Economic Outlook Survey

Click here to download pictures from the breakfast
on the Chamber's online photo album.
Nearly 400 Greater Boston business leaders joined us this morning at the Westin Copley Place for the annual Economic Outlook Breakfast with Sovereign Bank.

Sovereign Bank's Steve Andrews, senior vice president, global banking & markets, opened the breakfast with a presentation on key economic indicators, including employment trends, consumer confidence, and home prices. Click here to download the PowerPoint presentation.  
 
New this year was a live, interactive audience survey on the state of the economy, led by Sovereign Bank's Larry Delp, EVP/director, corporate banking middle marketing. Through this survey, we are able to gain perspective on the state of the economy. View the results of this survey below.
Survey Questions – 2011 Economic Outlook Breakfast


1. Which best describes your position in your company?
Principal owner or partner 21%    
President/CEO 10%
Senior management  33%
Middle management 19%
Line/staff   18%

2. Thinking about the U.S. overall, over the next 12 months how do you think the economy will be in comparison to today?
Much better shape  6%
Somewhat better shape    61%
About the same 27%
Somewhat worse shape 6%
Much worse shape  0%

3. Thinking only about Greater Boston, over the next 12 months how do you think the economy will be in comparison to today?
Much better shape  9%
Somewhat better shape    60%
About the same 29%
Somewhat worse shape 2%
Much worse shape  1%

4. Thinking only about your business, over the next 12 months how do you think your business will be in comparison to today?
Much better shape  26%
Somewhat better shape    42%
About the same 29%
Somewhat worse shape 3%
Much worse shape  0%

5. What do you think are the top challenges facing this region? Please select up to three.
Availability of skilled labor 5%
Corporate and personal taxes 6%
Quality of public education 6%
Overall cost of living 20%
Crime/corruption 1%
Transportation/infrastructure 7%
Cost of health care 19%
Cost of fuel & energy 13%
Real estate prices/market 10%
Job creation/employment outlook 14%

6. Thinking about your business, what are the most challenging issues you expect to face in the next two years? Please select up to three.
Obtaining credit 5%
Attracting new customers 30%
Retaining existing customers 18%
New and costly government  regulations 7%
Hiring qualified employees 9%
Pressure from larger competitors 12%
Higher taxes 4%
Cost of health insurance/other employee benefits 15%

7. Which of the following best describes your hiring plan for this region in 2011?
Significant increase   6%
Slight increase   54%
No change  36%
Slight decrease 4%
Significant decrease 0%

8. Which of the following best describes your business’s spending plan in 2011?
Significant increase 6%
Slight increase   52%
No change  31%
Slight decrease 10%
Significant decrease 0%

9. What do you think are the best ways for our region to retain talent?
Strengthen K-12 Education 19%
Strengthen public colleges and universities  12%
Connect area universities to companies 54%
 Promote Boston to area university students 15%

10. Which areas of our transportation infrastructure need the most improvement?
Highways and roads    41%
Public Transportations (MBTA) 37%
Airport   0%
Rail (Commuter Rail)  21%
Cargo 1%