CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

CLT UPDATE
Saturday, October 15, 2005

Next round of big spending planned
as state coffers overflow, all over again


House and Senate leaders have reached agreement on a plan to provide pay raises of up to 15 percent to state trial judges, their first raise in more than six years, according to legislative sources familiar with the plan.

A lawmaker involved in the talks said Senate President Robert E. Travaglini and House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi agreed this week to raise the salaries to about $130,000 a year, up from the current $112,777 a year paid trial judges. It remained unresolved last night whether the 15 percent raise would be spread over three years, at about 5 percent a year, or delivered in a single year.

Another legislative source said the House plans to include money for a judicial pay raise in a supplemental state budget to be released today....

The judges and the clerks have mounted strong lobbying campaigns this year with House and Senate members. Legislators traditionally have had close relationships with judges and clerks in the district courts, which have been patronage havens for lawmakers....

The Boston Globe
Friday, October 14, 2005
Accord seen for judges' pay hike
Raises of up to 15 in legislative plan


With tax revenues soaring again, state legislators yesterday unveiled a huge spending package that includes 15 percent pay raises for judges and money for pet projects around the state.

The House Ways and Means Committee yesterday approved $318 million bill that will be financed by surplus revenues from the last fiscal year. The full House is scheduled to vote on the bill Tuesday.

Rep. Thomas M. Petrolati, D-Ludlow, said legislators are striking a balance between spending surplus money and tucking some of the surplus into a rainy-day savings fund. The savings account now totals about $1.7 billion.

"If we have surplus, what better way to spend it than to give it back to cities and towns?" Petrolati said yesterday....

For the fiscal year that ended June 30, the state received about $1.2 billion more than the previous year, a bounty fueled by an improving economy and stock market. Legislators agreed to sock away $691 million of the money and spend the rest....

Barbara C. Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, complained legislators are spending the state into another fiscal crisis.

She called on legislators to cut the income tax rate from the current 5.3 percent to 5 percent. Voters in 2000 passed a phased reduction to 5 percent, but legislators froze the rate in 2002....

Anderson questioned whether the 15 percent judicial raises are needed.

"Is there some kind of shortage of people in Massachusetts who want to be judges?" Anderson said. "If there is, I haven't heard about it."

The Springfield Republican
Saturday, October 15, 2005
Huge spending plans unveiled


State lawmakers unveiled a spending bill yesterday that includes $12.5 million to improve streets around Fenway Park, the first public indication that the Legislature is likely to support the Red Sox request for public money to enhance the neighborhood around the historic ballpark.

The spending bill written by the House Ways and Means Committee calls for "critical roadway and streetscape improvements" to Yawkey Way and Ipswich Street alongside the park and the nearby Sears Rotary. It is far short of the $55 million the Red Sox have been seeking from Beacon Hill in recent weeks, city officials and legislative sources said last night....

Taxpayer watchdog groups agreed. Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, said she supported the Legislature's spending plan because "infrastructure is a legitimate role of government." ...

Among the more curious items in the bill were: the creation of the post of state geologist, who would serve for a five-year term; $40,000 for the West End Museum in House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi's district; $250,000 for new seats in Medford's Chevalier Auditorium; $50,000 to study the feasibility of siting a Highway Department salt shed in Sutton; and $50,000 for the destruction of old Army bunkers on state land in Hingham.

Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, which is often critical of state spending, said he generally supported the spending bill, especially the $100 million earmarked for improving college campuses....

The Boston Globe
Saturday, October 15, 2005
House eyes $12.5m for Fenway area
Would upgrade streets near park


Just in time for Christmas! Retroactive tax bills mailed to Massachusetts taxpayers for income they earned back in 2002.

Sounds fair, doesn't it? Maybe not, but that's what investors who realized capital gains in early 2002 may have to look forward to as they plan their holiday spending.

We can think of dozens of good uses for the $1.2 billion in cash left over from fiscal 2005, perhaps none better than to pay for this colossal mistake of the Legislature's own making....

Liberals argue that it's somehow OK to expect the "rich" who are affected by this error to make up for the state's mistake. That's nonsense, especially when there is a simple, affordable solution. Use the surplus to absorb the cost of forgiving these retroactive tax bills. It's the only sensible thing to do.

The Boston Herald
Friday, October 14, 2005
A Boston Herald editorial
This costly 'gift' will keep on giving


When it comes to making it easier for small businesses to flourish, a new report says the Bay State isn't so friendly....

That's according to the Small Business Survival Index released this week by the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council in Washington, D.C....

"There's a few areas where Massachusetts has some real negatives," said Raymond Keating, the council's chief economist. "You're one of the states that pushed the minimum wage up above the federal minimum wage, and that's certainly costly. You also add on a couple of things some other states don't: an added income tax for certain S corporations (and) an additional death or estate tax."

Massachusetts ranks near the bottom for its high electricity costs (48), corporate income tax (46), state and local property taxes (36), and gas tax (35).

The Boston Herald
Saturday, October 15, 2005
No friend to business: Mass. ranked 42nd among states


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

With a $1.2 billion surplus left over from last fiscal year, another $1.7 billion stashed away in the infamous "rainy day fund," and revenue again pouring into state coffers (last month alone $242 million or 14.3 percent over last September), the spending spree has again begun.

But still the Legislature refuses to roll back the 16-year old "temporary" income tax hike to its historical 5 percent -- still, they "can't afford it"!

Let's see what they come up with on Tuesday when the House debates this fat supplemental budget. That is the day the House leadership promised to also debate finally rolling back the state income tax as mandated by the voters in 2000.

If you recall, on Oct. 6 during the House debate on its "economic stimulus package," Minority Leader Rep. Brad Jones tried to introduce an amendment to address the income tax rollback's final installment.  It was ruled "inadmissible" by the chair and that ruling was upheld on a party-line 132-20 vote.

Rep. Angelo M. Scaccia (D-Boston), point man for the Democrat opposition, during that debate decreed:  "Pull back some and let that take place when we have a supplementary budget. That is the true document to take up taxes.... we can debate income or sales tax or any other tax later. That's a clear choice we can make two to three weeks down the road.... The right vehicle will be there in a couple of weeks."

So another legislative promise was made.  That cited debate over a supplemental budget arrives in the House chambers on Tuesday, right on time. The long-avoided debate on rolling back the income tax in these abundant times cannot in good faith be dodged yet again, another promise faithlessly broken.

So on Tuesday let the debate -- and the voting -- begin on finally rolling back the 16-year "'temporary' tax increase"!  Legislators, don't break yet another promise, on top of the one broken now for almost a generation.


Contact your state representative immediately.  Tell him or her that you want a debate and a roll call vote on the income tax rollback during the House debate on its supplemental budget on Tuesday.  Remind them that this was yet another promise made -- and that honorable people keep promises.

FIND YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE HERE


Flush with cash, More Is Never Enough. So "The Best Legislature Money Can Buy" is chasing even more, still pursuing a retroactive capital gains tax to cover its screw-up. Instead of doing the honorable thing, admitting its mistake and dropping this outrageous cover-up of legislative ineptitude, it surges ahead with its scheme to grab more tax dollars from those who had no idea they'd owe them.

But some, whistling past the graveyard, insist the Bay State has shaken its label "Taxachusetts"!

Well that's not what the recent Small Business Survival Index found.  Massachusetts ranks 42 out of 50 states.

Raymond Keating, the council's chief economist, noted: "You also add on a couple of things some other states don't:  an added income tax for certain S corporations (and) an additional death or estate tax."

And a few more than that, Mr. Keating, a few more than that. Is it any wonder why this state's economic recovery is tailing most others, why its unemployment rate trails the nation's uptick?


The Boston Globe reported:  "Taxpayer watchdog groups agreed. Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, said she supported the Legislature's spending plan because 'infrastructure is a legitimate role of government.'"

The reported quote from Barbara was taken out of context.

The reporter asked what she thought of the state repairing the infrastructure around Fenway Park. She sarcastically replied, "Though you'd never know it from what we see around the commonwealth, maintaining the infrastructure is a legitimate role of government."  Barbara stated that she did not support the rest of the supplemental budget and pointed out that this should be the vehicle for the vote to continue the income tax rollback.  She'll be writing a letter to the editor to make this clear.


Tomorrow is CLT's annual brunch; this year's theme is "Celebrating 25 years of Proposition 2." We look forward to seeing many of you who've made reservations and are attending.  A lot of the original crew that created and achieved Prop 2 will be there to reminisce about how it came about twenty-five years ago, what success required back then, the incredible opposition that then-fledgling CLT and the young Massachusetts High Tech Council went up against, and won by 59-41 percent.

Charlie Baker, formerly with the High Tech Council and the Pioneer Institute, Secretary of Administration and Finance in the Weld and Cellucci administrations, current President and CEO of Harvard-Pilgrim Health Care, and a recent (and future?) prospective candidate for governor, will be our keynote speaker and be presented this year's prestigious Warren T. Brookes Award.

We'll be releasing to our guests in attendance an advanced summary of the results of CLT's study citing the positive effects of Proposition 2 on nine actual taxpayers, going back ten years before its adoption until the present.  The final report will be released in time for Prop 2's 25th birthday on November 4th.

Chip Ford


The Boston Globe
Friday, October 14, 2005

Accord seen for judges' pay hike
Raises of up to 15 in legislative plan
By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff


House and Senate leaders have reached agreement on a plan to provide pay raises of up to 15 percent to state trial judges, their first raise in more than six years, according to legislative sources familiar with the plan.

A lawmaker involved in the talks said Senate President Robert E. Travaglini and House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi agreed this week to raise the salaries to about $130,000 a year, up from the current $112,777 a year paid trial judges. It remained unresolved last night whether the 15 percent raise would be spread over three years, at about 5 percent a year, or delivered in a single year.

Another legislative source said the House plans to include money for a judicial pay raise in a supplemental state budget to be released today.

The Massachusetts Judges Conference, which lobbies Beacon Hill for most of the 370 judges in the state, had been seeking a raise of about $34,000 a year, or approximately 30 percent, for the judges, giving them $146,000 a year. The conference argues that the judges are underpaid when compared to those in other states.

A 15 percent pay raise for judges would cost about $7 million in the first year, but the price tag would be higher because the salaries of court clerks and county sheriffs are tied to the judges' pay.

Court clerks make 80 percent of a trial court judge's salary, but a senior legislative source said yesterday that the clerks are trying to persuade the Legislature to increase that percentage to as much as 90 percent. That provision may be a sticking point, particularly with Governor Mitt Romney, who doesn't want to increase costs of the package by handing the clerks an even bigger pay raise, according to one lawmaker who is pushing the judicial pay raise.

Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney's director of communications, said the judicial salaries have not been "an issue that has been discussed inside the administration." He said the governor will look at the proposal when the Legislature sends it to him.

Another complication from the emerging plan is rooted in the Democrats' strategy in dealing with Romney. Some legislators are concerned that an immediate 15 percent hike would prompt a host of judges to retire, handing the Republican governor the opportunity to fill the vacancies. Unlike most public employees whose pensions are based on a worker's three highest salaried years, judges are in an elite category. Their pensions are based on the salaries they get on their last workday.

If the salary increases are spread over three years, judges considering retirement would be inclined to wait. Delaying the retirements until after the 2006 election would give Democrats a shot at controlling the judicial appointments.

The judges and the clerks have mounted strong lobbying campaigns this year with House and Senate members. Legislators traditionally have had close relationships with judges and clerks in the district courts, which have been patronage havens for lawmakers.

In addition, the judges conference created a special committee, headed by former attorney general Francis X. Bellotti, to press the case. The group includes some of the state's leading figures in law and criminal justice.

The judges conference argues that the pay levels of Bay State judges rank 46th in the nation when their salaries are adjusted for cost of living. The group told lawmakers that Connecticut pays trial judges an average of $147,000 a year, Rhode Island, $120,000; New Jersey, $147,000; and New York, $137,000.

In Massachusetts, the chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court is paid $131,512 a year, and associate justices make $126,942. The judges conference had advocated raising those salaries to $170,597 for the chief and $164,670 for the associates. If the lawmakers settle on a 15 percent hike, the chief justice will make about $151,000, and an associate justice's salary will rise to just under $146,000 a year.

The issue arises at a time of tense relations between the Legislature and the judiciary. Some lawmakers complained that the Supreme Judicial Court created a huge political firefight for them in an election year when the justices, by a 4-to-3 vote, declared same-sex marriage legal in Massachusetts, effective in May 2004.

But the issue of patronage and control of the court system has also been contentious in recent years, particularly in the House where DiMasi, a practicing lawyer, has dominated the criminal justice system. A House initiative three years ago stripped local judges of their control of probation officer hirings and gave it to the state probation chief, a close ally of House leaders.

Bad feelings erupted a year ago when DiMasi cut off communications with Robert A. Mulligan, chief justice for administration and administration, after Mulligan ignored the speaker's recommendation that Suzanne DelVecchio be reappointed as chief justice of the superior courts, according to sources in the legislative leadership.

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The Springfield Republican
Saturday, October 15, 2005

Huge spending plans unveiled
By Dan Ring


With tax revenues soaring again, state legislators yesterday unveiled a huge spending package that includes 15 percent pay raises for judges and money for pet projects around the state.

The House Ways and Means Committee yesterday approved $318 million bill that will be financed by surplus revenues from the last fiscal year. The full House is scheduled to vote on the bill Tuesday.

Rep. Thomas M. Petrolati, D-Ludlow, said legislators are striking a balance between spending surplus money and tucking some of the surplus into a rainy-day savings fund. The savings account now totals about $1.7 billion.

"If we have surplus, what better way to spend it than to give it back to cities and towns?" Petrolati said yesterday.

The bill has $800,000 for the Chicopee Riverwalk and Bikeway project, $900,000 for another phase of improvements to East Street in Ludlow, $100,000 for renovating the closed Bing Theater in Springfield, $1 million for preventing pollution at a landfill in Heath, $100,000 apiece for the Partners for Community Corp. and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, both in Springfield, and $125,000 for Bernardston to repair roads damaged by flooding.

For the fiscal year that ended June 30, the state received about $1.2 billion more than the previous year, a bounty fueled by an improving economy and stock market. Legislators agreed to sock away $691 million of the money and spend the rest.

Legislators this week overrode vetoes by Gov. W. Mitt Romney to spend $42.2 million of surplus money for one year of retroactive pay raises for employees at the University of Massachusetts and state and community colleges.

Barbara C. Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, complained legislators are spending the state into another fiscal crisis.

She called on legislators to cut the income tax rate from the current 5.3 percent to 5 percent. Voters in 2000 passed a phased reduction to 5 percent, but legislators froze the rate in 2002.

The bill approved yesterday includes $7 million for providing about 400 judges with a 15 percent pay hike starting Jan. 1.

The bill falls short of a 30 percent increase sought by judges. The bill would raise the annual salary for a regular judge in the Trial Court from $112,777 to $129,694, while the salary for an associate justice on the state Supreme Judicial Court would rise from $126,943 to $145,984.

Anderson questioned whether the 15 percent judicial raises are needed.

"Is there some kind of shortage of people in Massachusetts who want to be judges?" Anderson said. "If there is, I haven't heard about it."

Rep. Robert A. DeLeo, D-Winthrop, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said judges in Massachusetts "are probably somewhat underpaid" compared with other states. "We have to do what is right," DeLeo said. "We feel this is right."

The spending bill also includes $100 million for renovation and maintenance projects at the five campuses of the University of Massachusetts and for state and community colleges.

The governor filed a bill to spend $413 million of the surplus on renovation and other capital projects for university campuses and colleges. DeLeo said legislators are planning to borrow money for work on the campuses not financed by the $100 million in surplus money.

The bill has $55 million for grants for cities and towns to improve roads and bridges. The governor was seeking $100 million in surplus money for such grants.

Also in the legislation is $25 million to help reduce a waiting list of 10,333 for a state health program that provides Medicaid to the long-term unemployed. The $132.2 million program now pays for health care for about 43,000 unemployed.

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The Boston Globe
Saturday, October 15, 2005

House eyes $12.5m for Fenway area
Would upgrade streets near park
By Raphael Lewis and Andrea Estes, Globe Staff


State lawmakers unveiled a spending bill yesterday that includes $12.5 million to improve streets around Fenway Park, the first public indication that the Legislature is likely to support the Red Sox request for public money to enhance the neighborhood around the historic ballpark.

The spending bill written by the House Ways and Means Committee calls for "critical roadway and streetscape improvements" to Yawkey Way and Ipswich Street alongside the park and the nearby Sears Rotary. It is far short of the $55 million the Red Sox have been seeking from Beacon Hill in recent weeks, city officials and legislative sources said last night.

The money for the Fenway area, included in a $300 million spending bill that also calls for Medicaid expansion, judicial pay raises, and park and beach funding, is meant to improve traffic flow and bus and pedestrian access to the Yawkey Way commuter rail station and the Green Line's Fenway station. House Ways and Means chairman Robert A. DeLeo said the improvements would also enhance traffic and pedestrian access in nearby Kenmore Square and a shopping mall in the old Sears building.

"It's much bigger than the Red Sox," DeLeo said. "The traffic patterns really had to be addressed."

Councilor Michael Ross, who represents Fenway and Back Bay, said he expects the total cost of the infrastructure improvements around Fenway Park to be about $55 million. A spokeswoman for the Boston Redevelopment Authority said the Sox have discussed a similar figure.

"The Red Sox went to the Legislature with a dollar figure in the $55 million to $60 million range," said Meredith Baumann, a spokeswoman for the BRA. "The number was not based on anything we worked up for them. We've not been approached to kick in money yet. This is between the Red Sox and the Legislature."

The Red Sox have been lobbying on Beacon Hill for the improvements for several months. Yesterday, Doug Bailey, a Red Sox spokesman, said that the hospitals and businesses in the area also support the upgrades. Bailey downplayed a larger price tag for further improvements, and said the team does not expect the Legislature to approve more money.

"We made a commitment to stay in Fenway Park; this is a renewed look at the development of the area," Bailey said. "We are not aware of additional pieces that are coming out [of the Legislature]. There are a lot of other ideas and things that we believe should be done in the area. How much appetite Beacon Hill has for this remains to be seen."

In March, the team's three major owners met with Mayor Thomas M. Menino, legislative leaders, and Governor Mitt Romney to inform them of the team's long-term plans for Fenway Park and discussed ideas for the area around the ballpark. The wish list included improvements for nearby mass transit stops, the streets cited by the House legislation yesterday, and a large parking garage.

At that time, Menino said the city did not have the cash to participate.

Ross, whose district includes the neighborhood surrounding the ballpark, said he supported the House's plan to help finance the street and infrastructure improvements because they are crucial for the area to function smoothly. But he also opposed spending public money for the park itself.

Taxpayer watchdog groups agreed. Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, said she supported the Legislature's spending plan because "infrastructure is a legitimate role of government."

More than five years ago, the team's former management persuaded the Legislature to provide $100 million for infrastructure construction, and the city agreed to spend $140 million for acquisition and clean-up costs for the land.

The New York Times Co., parent company of the Globe, owns 17 percent of the Red Sox.

The measure would also boost Medicaid rolls by 10,000 people at a cost of $25 million, green-light $73 million in roadway betterments, authorize $100 million in capital spending on the state's college campuses, and earmark $20 million for financial aid to residents struggling to pay home-heating bills.

The bill, which taps into a $1.2 billion budget surplus left over from the fiscal year that ended June 30, also would spend millions on a number of local projects, including more than $3.2 million for the district of DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat, who authored the measure.

DeLeo defended such projects, saying that what might appear to be pork barrel spending was actually a carefully considered list of projects that had been put off for years as the state's revenues sagged.

"I know there's a tendency to say they're pork, but they're necessary for making living in these areas better," DeLeo said.

Among the more curious items in the bill were: the creation of the post of state geologist, who would serve for a five-year term; $40,000 for the West End Museum in House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi's district; $250,000 for new seats in Medford's Chevalier Auditorium; $50,000 to study the feasibility of siting a Highway Department salt shed in Sutton; and $50,000 for the destruction of old Army bunkers on state land in Hingham.

Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, which is often critical of state spending, said he generally supported the spending bill, especially the $100 million earmarked for improving college campuses. According to the bill, half of the money would go to the University of Massachusetts system. The rest would go to state and community colleges.

"I certainly think the focus on higher education is imperative," Widmer said. "The Commonwealth has been underfunding public higher education infrastructure for years, decades really. There's a large backlog as we try to improve the system. This is really a small down payment on what's needed, but it's important nonetheless."

Through a spokesman, Romney declined to comment on the bulk of the bill, saying he had yet to read it in detail. However, he praised the decision by House leaders to allot such a significant slice of the spending bill to projects at UMass, which he has sought to make more competitive with other big state schools.

"The governor is extremely pleased that the Legislature has acted on his request to set aside part of the surplus to pay for capital improvements in higher education," said Romney communications director Eric Fehrnstrom.

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The Boston Herald
Friday, October 14, 2005

A Boston Herald editorial
This costly 'gift' will keep on giving


Just in time for Christmas! Retroactive tax bills mailed to Massachusetts taxpayers for income they earned back in 2002.

Sounds fair, doesn't it? Maybe not, but that's what investors who realized capital gains in early 2002 may have to look forward to as they plan their holiday spending.

We can think of dozens of good uses for the $1.2 billion in cash left over from fiscal 2005, perhaps none better than to pay for this colossal mistake of the Legislature's own making.

Searching for ways to balance the state budget amid the fiscal crisis back in 2002, the Legislature voted to raise the long-term capital gains tax midyear.

Not so fast, said the Supreme Judicial Court. You can't tax people at different rates in the same year. The ruling means thousands of taxpayers who sold homes, businesses and other investments from January through April 2002 would have to come up with thousands they never expected to pay.

But the Legislature has another option. They could fast-forward the effective date to Jan. 1, 2003, which would force the state to refund about $250 million to people who were taxed at the higher rate (the only fair choice, since the lawmakers bungled the thing to begin with).

For a while, it appeared lawmakers understood their role in creating this mess and tried to exempt affected taxpayers for the first four months of 2002. But the SJC nixed that plan, too.

So here we sit, nearly three years after the tax period in question, and lawmakers still haven't decided what to do. Meanwhile, the Senate is floating a plan to grant revenue officials a 60-day extension before they have to mail out the retroactive tax bills - yup, just in time for the holidays.

Liberals argue that it's somehow OK to expect the "rich" who are affected by this error to make up for the state's mistake. That's nonsense, especially when there is a simple, affordable solution. Use the surplus to absorb the cost of forgiving these retroactive tax bills. It's the only sensible thing to do.

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The Boston Herald
Saturday, October 15, 2005

No friend to business: Mass. ranked 42nd among states
By Donna Goodison


When it comes to making it easier for small businesses to flourish, a new report says the Bay State isn't so friendly.

Health-care mandates and high corporate income taxes and electricity costs contribute to Massachusetts ranking 42nd among states in terms of its public policy environment for small businesses and entrepreneurship.

That's according to the Small Business Survival Index released this week by the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council in Washington, D.C.

The index rates states on government-imposed costs and other factors, including taxes, minimum wages, and workers' compensation premiums.

"There's a few areas where Massachusetts has some real negatives," said Raymond Keating, the council's chief economist. "You're one of the states that pushed the minimum wage up above the federal minimum wage, and that's certainly costly. You also add on a couple of things some other states don't: an added income tax for certain S corporations (and) an additional death or estate tax."

Massachusetts ranks near the bottom for its high electricity costs (48), corporate income tax (46), state and local property taxes (36), and gas tax (35).

"There are a number of areas where the governor has offered legislation for reform ... to help small business, and they include health care, unemployment insurance and auto insurance," said Joseph Donovan, spokesman for the state's Executive Office of Economic Development. "Those three costs are barriers to job growth."

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