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DeLeo wants to make Massachusetts more business-friendly

Date: 6/14/2010

June 14, 2010.

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

WILBRAHAM -- What can the Legislature do to help businesses in Massachusetts? House Speaker Robert DeLeo wants to know.

"The bottom line is I want to hear what we can do as a Commonwealth again to help business here in Massachusetts," DeLeo said after a meeting with executives at Friendly's Ice Cream on June 8.

DeLeo visited the ice cream and restaurant giant on the recommendation of State Rep. Angelo Puppolo.

The speaker has been visiting businesses in the state to assess how they are doing and what the Legislature can do to assist them. He said his conversation with Friendly President and CEO Ned Lidvall was "fruitful."

He said a law concerning independent contractors was of concern to the company's management.

With Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker issuing earlier this week his plan for tax reform -- including suchmeasures such as changing unemployment requirements to help businesses -- DeLeo said the Democratic-controlled Legislature has shown its commitment to business as well with the budget for the new fiscal year.

DeLeo noted there are no new taxes or fees and the workforce-training fund wasn't diminished. He said the workforce-training fund helped save Callaway Golf in Chicopee.

The tax credits film producers can use if they shoot a movie or television series in the Bay State were also maintained, he added.

DeLeo said he sees casino gambling -- now being debated in the Senate -- as a way to raise revenues for other initiatives.

"We can take some of that money and put [it] towards manufacturing, put it towards travel and tourism, put it towards our community colleges, education, local aid and we're going to be better off as a Commonwealth," he said.

DeLeo said the freezing of unemployment insurance rates and other actions have shown the Legislature is pro-business.

DeLeo asserted with just slot machines at the state's race tracks, $100,000 million would be raised that could be allocated as local aid to cities and towns in the first year.

He acknowledged the "devil will be in the details" in merging the Senate's legislation with that of the House. The slot machines at racetracks may be one point of contention and DeLeo said 1,000 jobs could be lost without that provision.

As far as a casino in Western Massachusetts, DeLeo said the House bill would create an independent commission that would determine the locations of the casinos, based on market analysis.

He said that any company looking to build a casino will be making a $500 million investment in the state.