The Massachusetts legislature has passed a bill designed to spur economic development and create jobs. It should also provide a boost to the national research profile for the University of Massachusetts flagship Amherst campus. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports
The 115 page bill includes millions of dollars to help unemployed workers learn new skills. It establishes a fund for research projects at U-Mass and other institutions. There are tax breaks for start- up companies and other incentives supporters of the bill hope will encourage cutting-edge companies to make Massachusetts home.
The bill, which was a priority of House Speaker Robert DeLeo, establishes a $50 million fund to support research at the University of Massachusetts and other state universities. U-Mass Amherst spokesman Ed Blaguszewski says the fund will be a source for researchers to compete for matching grants.
Research grants can be used to hire people, expand facilities, and in the long term produce new products and technologies .
The legislation promotes new business in Massachusetts by exempting start ups from the corporate excise tax for three years. It provides $2 million for paid internships at technology start ups. It offers grants for technical assistance to small and mid-sized manufacturers.
The bill raises the cap on historic rehabilitation tax credits by $10 million dollars, and extends for two years the tax credits available for brownfields cleanup projects. It directs the state pension fund to deposit $100 million in institutions that make loans available to small businesses.
There’s $5 million for a training program for unemployed, under employed and older workers to address the so-called skills gap. Kevin Lynn of the Future Works Career Center in Springfield said employers frequently struggle to find workers with the skills to match job openings.
The jobs bill, which passed the Massachusetts House with just one no vote, and was approved unanimously by the State Senate also includes a temporary sales tax break. On August 11 and 12th most items purchased will be exempt from the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax. Exceptions include restaurant meals, cars, boats, tobacco and any single item that costs more than $2500.
Sales tax holidays have become regular fixtures of mid August in Massachusetts, but the legislature has resisted calls to make it a permanent annual occurrence. Giving up two days of sales tax receipts costs the state about $20 million in revenue.