By Bob Katzen



   House 157-0, Senate 38-1, approved a new package allowing the state to borrow money over five years as part of an economic development package aimed at boosting the economy, creating jobs, workforce development and infrastructure investment. The biggest ticket item is $500 million for the MassWorks infrastructure grant program which is promoted as one-stop shopping for cities and towns and other eligible public entities seeking public infrastructure funding to support economic development and job creation.

   Municipalities could use the money for a variety of things including housing construction, city and town center revitalization projects and mill redevelopment opportunities.

   The package also gives “angel investors” a state tax credit equal to 20 percent of the amount of the investment they make in a qualifying business. In order to qualify, the business must have its principal place of business in the Bay State, have at least 50 percent of its employees located here, employ 20 or fewer full-time employees and have gross revenues equal to or less than $500,000. The tax credit rises to 30 percent if the business is in one of the state’s struggling cities, known as gateway cities.

   Another key provision creates a new tax incentive to encourage families to put away money for higher education costs. Under the program, individual filers would get a $1,000 tax deduction for contributions to a prepaid tuition or college savings program, also known as a 529 plan. The deduction would increase to $2,000 for married couples.

   Supporters say the package will stimulate the economy, help cities and towns and private companies, strengthen the manufacturing sector, create new housing, make some repairs to the infrastructure and provide the training and equipment for workforce development.

   The lone opponent said the package gives autocratic powers to individuals in the Executive branch to unilaterally make large tax expenditures and make decisions to transfer public funds to private businesses unreviewable by any court or administrative agency. They said there is no evidence that making payments to private companies actually brings about real economic growth.

   (A “Yes” vote is for the package. A “No” vote is against it.)

 Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Denise Provost Yes Rep. Timothy Toomey Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes 

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