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Senate passes .8 billion eco-development bill – Boston News, Weather, Sports
Senate passes .8 billion eco-development bill – Boston News, Weather, Sports

The Senate will consider a major economic development package on Thursday after leading Democrats released their own vision Monday morning for how Massachusetts should promote jobs and economic growth opportunities in the future.

The Senate bill (S 2856) authorizes $2.444 billion in borrowings and gives the executive branch flexibility to use a certain amount of that amount at its discretion and discretion. It also provides $350 million in tax breaks, most of which are to be used in the climate technology sector.

It also includes a number of policy provisions, including clearing the way for the construction of a professional soccer stadium on a blighted site in Everett. Both the House and Senate have supported the idea in recent years, but have been unable to reach a common position on it at the same time.

In late June, the House voted 155-2 to pass its own economic development bill (H 4789), which is largely the same version as Governor Maura Healey’s proposed. That bill would provide $3.4 billion in long-term bond authorizations and an additional $700 million in tax credits, including investments to extend the life sciences initiative for another decade and parallel investments in “climate technology.”

When asked why the Senate approved a lower borrowing amount, particularly for the life sciences, the lead architect of the bill replied that senators agreed to the lower authorization.

“We are very optimistic about the life sciences and we will continue to support them,” said Senator Barry Finegold, co-chair of the Economic Development Committee. “We believe the numbers we are proposing will have a tremendous impact. Of course, we have a version, the House has a version and the governor has a version. I think we will find a number that everyone can agree on. We are very happy with the number we have proposed.”

The House of Representatives proposed $500 million for the Mass Life Sciences Center to provide grants and loans to growing Massachusetts companies, while Senate Democrats proposed only $225 million to support the reauthorization of the Life Sciences Initiative.

Although the Senate proposal authorizes fewer loans, it also gives the Center for Life Sciences more flexibility by including health equity, biosecurity, digital health and artificial intelligence in its mission. The bill further expands program eligibility to the so-called alternative protein industry and redefines “life sciences” to include preventive medicine, biosecurity, AI in life sciences and medical technology, according to Finegold’s office.

Bond authorizations in the Senate bill include $400 million for MassWorks public infrastructure grants, $150 million for city library projects, $100 million for a center for applied AI, $100 million for the rural development program, $100 million for the Seaport Economic Council grant program and $99 million for advanced manufacturing initiatives – all mirror images of the House bill.

Senators would provide more for the Massachusetts Tech Hub than representatives, $115 million compared to $75 million in the House bill. But they also reduced the House’s proposed authorization of grants to support alternative protein companies from $10 million to $5 million, according to a summary from Senate President Karen Spilka’s office.

Finegold highlighted investments in climate technology in the Senate version of the bill, which are similar to those passed by the House last month with $400 million in bond authorizations and $300 million in tax credits.

Both bills split that $400 million into two investments of $200 million each – one for a Clean Energy Investment Fund to support the development of climate tech companies and another to support Massachusetts’ fledgling wind industry through workforce development, deployment and research and development.

The tax credits are intended to incentivize the growing field of climate technology, an industry that Beacon Hill officials want to be at the forefront of because they see it as an opportunity to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and open up a lucrative new sector for Massachusetts.

“We’re number one in the country in the number of climate startups per capita and I think we’re really trying to make sure we keep those companies here,” Finegold said. “We also have to be clear that we’re competing with California and New York and we can’t rest on our laurels. That’s why we’ve really made climate technology a high priority.”

The climate technology tax credit is similar to a tax credit that already exists for life sciences companies, for companies engaged in clean energy, decarbonization, emissions reduction or other climate-related innovations, and allows for an annual tax credit of up to $30 million over five years.

The Senate Budget Committee’s bill also provides a $50 million internship tax credit over five years for employers who hire new paid interns who are enrolled in or recently graduated from a Massachusetts institution of higher education.

This eliminates the so-called “angel investor” tax credit that was offered to investors interested in financing early-stage companies engaged in life sciences research and development, commercialization and manufacturing in Massachusetts.

“I think once again we’re making difficult decisions and there are things where unfortunately demand is unlimited but resources are limited,” Finegold said of the repeal of the credit.

The senators also omitted a tax credit for live theater that both the House and Healey had included in their bills.

Healey recommended a five-year, $5 million-per-year pilot program that would support “pre-Broadway, pre-off-Broadway and national touring launches” in the Bay State. That amount was increased in the House by an amendment from Rep. David Biele to a $7 million annual cap on the credit. Biele argued that Massachusetts used to be a destination for shows before other states lured them away with incentive programs.

“The House has certain priorities and at the end of the day we will come together and see where it goes,” Finegold said when asked about the exclusion of this credit from the Senate budget bill.

However, the Senators revived the idea of ​​building a stadium for a professional soccer team in the Boston area.

The Kraft family, owners of the New England Revolution, and others in the area are eyeing a piece of land in Everett that is the site of a defunct power plant as a possible new home for the team. They would need to take legislative action to carve the land out of a designated port area, and lawmakers have so far been unable to reach agreement.

The Kraft Group says it could transform the blighted Mystic River property at 173 Alford Street into a 25,000-seat soccer stadium for the Revolution, which currently plays at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

The House supported a similar change through an amendment to its 2022 Economic Development Act, but the proposal did not survive negotiations with the Senate. Last year, the Senate supported the stadium initiative in a spending bill, but the House did not agree.

A standalone bill to promote soccer stadium-friendly reforms (S 2692) has been in the Senate Budget Committee for two months after receiving approval from the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

“Soccer is one of the fastest growing sports and we believe this could be a real benefit not only for Everett but for the greater Boston area. We think it makes a lot of sense,” Finegold said.

Some civic and environmental groups opposed the proposed development, arguing that removing the designated port area could jeopardize the achievement of clean energy goals.

Senator Sal DiDomenico of Everett, who introduced the bill to develop the land for a stadium, said Monday that it would help his community clean up a power plant site that has posed a health and environmental threat for decades.

“Signing this bill allows us to move the public process forward on a project that will be an economic catalyst and an environmental win for my constituents,” he said. “This opens the possibility for hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment, remediating a hazardous waste landfill, creating good-paying jobs and opening our waterfront to the public.”

Another section of the bill would allow doctors with foreign licenses to apply for a limited license to practice medicine in the state, with a path to full licensure. Often, immigrants who have worked as doctors or nurses in their home country cannot get comparable jobs in the U.S. without first completing advanced training and certifications, even if they have already been practicing for years.

The bill also proposes the establishment of a special youth sports working group to study the health impacts and financial challenges of children’s sports and make regulatory recommendations.

Last fall, lawmakers held a hearing on how the landscape of youth sports has changed dramatically with the emergence of private club teams—leading to early specialization, overtraining, injuries and burnout. They also discussed possible ways the state could implement some sort of oversight structure for children’s sports programs.

“I hear a lot about this from parents,” Finegold said. “We’re seeing minor injuries in kids go up dramatically, especially ACL injuries. So we’re really watching that. I think this is something that’s very serious, not only financially for the parents, but I think about the long-term damage we’re doing to our kids because so many of these kids are now specializing in sports. And not only is that not good for them, it’s becoming incredibly damaging to them.”

(Copyright (c) 2024 State House News Service.

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