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Sen. Brown climbs mountain to promote tourism in state

Date: 8/16/2011

Aug. 17, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

AMHERST — As part of his tour of Massachusetts to put a spotlight on job development and the economy, Sen. Scott Brown made a stop at the Mount Holyoke Range State Park Notch Visitor Center to focus on the role tourism plays in the economy on Aug. 10.

Or at least that’s what the media was led to believe.

Instead, Brown, clad in hiking gear on the warm day and accompanied by members of his staff and others, dashed through a group of about 30 protesters and left most of them behind. he also walked past most of the media gathered to speak with him as he went up a trail to the summit of one of the peaks in the Mount Holyoke range.

Although some of the protesters, who were there to urge Brown not to support the current Republican stance on budget cuts and taxes, followed him up the steep and rocky trail, the grade and the pace defeated most of them, like this reporter.

The chants of “Jobs and Revenues, Not Tax Cuts,” which were first heard echoing through the woods, died out as the protesters returned to the start of the trail.

When asked earlier that day what she would say to Brown about tourism, Mary Kay Wydra, president of the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she would praise him for his effort to promote the tourism industry, which is vital to the Commonwealth.

According to the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, tourism generates more than $915 million in state and local taxes and $14.4 billion in travel related expenditures and supports 121,500 in-state jobs.

Wydra said that Brown is part of the tourism caucus in the Senate and she wanted to know whether or not he would support the Travel Promotion Act, which was signed into law last year. That act imposes a $10 fee on any international plane ticket for a person whose visit to the Unites States does not require a visa.

That money, in turn, would be allocated to the newly formed Corporation for Travel Promotion, which would use it to promote foreign tourism to the United States.

Wydra was concerned with the various budget cuts looming, if the program would survive and wanted Brown’s viewpoint.

The reporters and some of the protesters waited at the foot of the trail about a half hour for Brown and his party to return to speak with him. Leo Maley, who works with the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said the message they wanted to convey to Brown is by having the upper income brackets pay more taxes, that money could be used to invest in the nation’s infrastructure.

Brown’s office issued a press release stating Brown had filed or co-sponsored job-related legislation, including The Innovate America Act which “would boost science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and promote collaboration between institutions of higher learning and the private sector in areas of federally-funded research.”

He also backed the “The America Opportunity Act, which would encourage investment in Massachusetts’ innovative businesses by providing a 25 percent federal income tax credit for investing in qualified start-up businesses such as those in the manufacturing, aerospace, biotech, clean energy, medical device and transportation sectors.”

Once Brown did descend from the mountain, he met with reporters for about five minutes. In light of the controversy caused by the Standard & Poor’s decreased credit rating for the country, Brown called the announcement “a warning.”

He added what is necessary is a “bipartisan, bicameral bill to move our country forward.”

Brown repeated his oft-stated position that he will work with members of both political parties to seek solutions. He noted that he supported a bill backed by President Barack Obama that would assist veterans in finding jobs.

Brown did not offer any remarks at that time about tourism and when asked if he would support the Travel Promotion Act, he said he had heard something about it and that all programs need to be evaluated.

“If that proposal comes up, I’ll keep it in mind,” he said.

He said that when it comes to the state of the economy and the government’s reaction, “I’m just as frustrated as you.”

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