Phil Edmundson, Chair of The Alliance for Business Leadership, 1/27/16
When I sat down to write this blog post I chuckled at the idea of putting pen to paper - or these days, fingers to keys - on a subject that seems clear to me: the subject of how to create growth in Massachusetts. As the Chair of the Alliance for Business Leadership, I represent the voices of progressive business leaders in Massachusetts who believe that growth requires investment. Pretty clear, right? We all know that you have to spend money to make money. And yet, the idea of making public investments to create economic growth is the focus of some debate as the fair share amendment is increasingly in the news.
Following the completion of several procedural steps, the fair share amendment is anticipated to appear on the ballot in Massachusetts in 2018. The amendment would change the state constitution to establish a tax of an additional 4% on income above $1 million, and would direct that the new revenue generated by the increase be dedicated toward investments in education and transportation. And that’s where the growth - and the Alliance’s support for this proposal - come in. We support the fair share amendment because the new revenue it raises must be invested in education and transportation, and these two areas are essential to growing the Massachusetts economy. Growth requires investment, whether what you’re trying to grow is a corner store or the state.
Speaking of growth, just this month General Electric announced that it will be moving its global headquarters to Boston, and there was wide coverage of the fact that our area’s brain power was one of the key draws for this international corporation. That didn’t surprise me. As a business leader here in Boston, I know that no business succeeds without a well-trained workforce, and there are few stronger pools of employee talent than the one in our own backyard. But strength today doesn’t guarantee strength tomorrow, especially if we don’t make much-needed investments. The fair share tax will provide the Commonwealth with the resources we need to sustain our current economic success, and ensure that it grows.
Like education, transportation infrastructure is vital to any region’s economy. Even in our increasingly virtual world, we still must be able to make sure that workers can safely and reliably get to work in the morning and back home at night, and that the goods our businesses produce can get to customers. One needs only think back to the horrific winter of 2015 to remember the impact that infrastructure can have on economic output. The MBTA and Commuter Rail ground to a screeching halt, and so did Massachusetts businesses. Decaying roads and bridges can have the same effect. To be competitive, we need a modern, safe, dependable transportation system, which study after study has shown will require sizable investment here in the Commonwealth. The fair share tax will allow Massachusetts to make significant progress toward making the investments we need to bolster our economic future.
Another word about General Electric: GE coming to Boston shows what can happen when Massachusetts provides the environment that businesses need to create growth. I would hate to see Massachusetts one day show what can happen when the opposite is true. Today we celebrate our nation-leading schools, but what happens if we no longer top those lists? What happens if our transportation system falls into further disrepair? We risk seeing the headlines about our booming economy turn into headlines about companies fleeing to states that have invested in education and transportation.
Anyone who has grown a company knows that once you’ve hit a certain level of success you can’t just rest on your laurels, assuming that your upward trajectory will continue without any additional effort. That doesn’t work in business, and it doesn’t work in government. You have to keep investing both time and treasure to keep the progress going, lest you plateau or backslide. The revenue generated by the fair share amendment will allow the state to make the investments in education and transportation that are necessary to spur the continued economic growth here in Massachusetts.