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The Massachusetts economy remains in the doldrums. Employment numbers remain less than robust. Labor participation rates which reflect long term unemployment, have been estimated by some to be as high as 15%. Opportunities for those under age 25 are dismal and those without college degrees find themselves increasingly excluded from the state’s labor market.
To be sure, the recession of 2007-2008 was a significant economic downturn, but it should not have taken six years to recover the jobs that were lost. This was the longest recovery in US history. Unfortunately, the demand for employment also increased during those years, leaving the state trying to play catch up.
Those who have jobs are fortunate, but their lot is no bed of roses. Many find that they can’t change jobs. Moving up the ladder is often out of the question, and despite productivity gains, wages have remained stagnant. This is hardly a situation, that policy makers on Beacon Hill should take pride in.
And what of our state legislature during these past few years? While the state labor force was suffering, rather than relieve their financial pain, they added to it. They hiked the state sales tax from 5.0% to 6.25%. They hiked the gas tax from 21 to 24 cents and tied it to inflation, so now the tax increases without a vote. They attempted an innovation tax aimed directly at the one sector of the state, whose work could hold the promise of economic revitalization. They backed off, when this sector threatened to move out of the state.
Perhaps the one single issue that has revealed either the legislature’s ignorance or indifference to the plight of Massachusetts worker is the Casino bill. For three years, they and our Governor consumed time and treasure working out their panacea for our economic stagnation, large scale, super commercialized gaming. They should have been working on a comprehensive, long term plan to encourage business development from within the state and to attract it from without. Those critical years were lost.
It is rather obvious, that the leadership of both the Massachusetts House and Senate are clueless about the economy. Their pre-occupation is, has been, and will continue to be, taking care of the narrow constituencies that support this state’s one-party system. Consequently, their solution to every problem is one dimensional. It is generally to raise taxes.
Unless voters are willing to change the game on Beacon Hill this November, by changing the players, nothing will get better and the state’s economic future will continue to look bleak. Voters must elect representatives, who are committed to shrinking the size of our state government. The tax burden, fees and regulations must all come down and an aggressive effort to stimulate economic growth must be made, or the pain will continue.
– Dennis Galvin