Federal Affairs: We are currently monitoring the bipartisan Building Chips in America Act of 2023 which aims to enhance the CHIPS Act passed in 2022 and increase efforts to bring microchip manufacturing back to the U.S. The Chamber is also working to engage our Washington D.C. representation on a pair of bills, H.R. 2673 American Innovation and R&D Competitiveness Act of 2023 and its Senate counterpart, S.866 American Innovation and Jobs Act. This pair of bills aims to course correct a provision in the 2017 Tax Cuts and jobs Act that set a sunset date of 2022 for a provision in the Tax Code that allowed firms to recognize all Research and Development (R&D) expenditures in the year that they were incurred. Members of our Washington D.C. fly-in had the opportunity to discuss the impact of this legislation on their business and this continues to be a concern.
We are proud to announce that our Annual Congressional Luncheon is scheduled for November 1, 2023. Congressman Jim McGovern and Congresswoman Lori Trahan are confirmed again to participate in this popular forum for members to connect with our Congressional delegation and get insight into priorities on Capitol Hill. We would like to thank Fitchburg State University for their continued sponsorship of the luncheon program.
State Affairs: The Executive Office of Economic Development continued their series of listening sessions across the state over the Summer as part of their economic development planning process. As reported in our last issue, members of the Chamber team and our various partners in the region attended a listening session held at WPI. Since then, we also had the opportunity to provide input at sessions held at Framingham State University, the Fitchburg Legislative Building and online. We provided input across a number of areas that align with our public policy agenda including small business supports, economic development, workforce development, and transportation.
Governor Healey signed the FY2024 State Budget on August 9. The $56 billion budget sees an increase of approximately 6.2% compared to the fiscal year 2023 budget. The Chamber was pleased to see continued funding in the budget for several regional economic development priorities. On the tourism front, the budget included an additional $1 million for the Tourism Trust Fund and an additional $3 million for the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism (MOTT) for tourism and hospitality recovery. The additional investments in tourism were supported by the Chamber as we believe they are crucial for the continued promotion of the state and the North Central Massachusetts region. We were also pleased to see that funding for early college saw a $9 million increase over last year’s budget and funding for innovation pathways saw a $1 million increase. A new line item also allocates $5 million for equitable scaling of pathway programs. The Student Opportunity Act is once again fully funded and the State will launch its MassReconnect to support getting residents 25 or older into community college programs.
The Chamber participated in a virtual discussion with MassDOT officials and stakeholders from across the Commonwealth as they discussed their plans for potential rail expansion along the Northern Tier corridor. Not only would this investment bring more visitor dollars to the area, but it has potential to greatly help with workforce challenges involving transportation.
Elections: In local affairs, two of the region’s three mayors face contested elections later this fall. A number of City Council seats across the three cities will also see contested races. On the State level, the seat left vacant by former Senator Anne Gobi when she joined Economic Secretary Yvonne Hao’s team is up for grabs with multiple candidates vying for the seat including two current state representatives. Once again, we will be gathering our current elected officials and candidates together for our Legislative and Candidates Reception. This is one of our most exciting events of the year and provides members of the community with the opportunity to engage our elected officials and those looking to hold office. This year’s event is sponsored by Mount Wachusett Community College and will be held at the Chocksett Inn in Sterling on Thursday, September 21 from 5:00 to 7:00 PM.