A MassBenchmarks report from the University of Massachusetts shows the national economy grew by 3.2 percent in the 4th Quarter of last year, while the state’s grew by only 1.8 percent. This comes after a stellar performance in Massachusetts with the local economy and job growth outpacing the nation since the 4th Quarter of 2009.
The take-away from this is something we already knew: Massachusetts is a unique place, but we are not so special that we can coast our way to recovery ahead of the nation. Although this may be an economy “pausing to catch its breath,” as the report suggests, the real risk is that just like the recession of 2000, we end up falling short.
Consider this a wake-up call. We cannot afford to be complacent; we must go on the attack, doing everything in our power to make this region more competitive, more business friendly, and more efficient.
If we are to be truly competitive, we must confront the cost of doing business in Massachusetts. This includes the direct costs of operations (taxes, fees, insurance, utility costs), but also includes indirect costs of time and resources necessary to comply with the complex, multiple layers of regulations, policies, rules and guidance affecting all employers throughout the state.
With fewer resources available, now is the time for government to do more with less. We must be more efficient with resources within our regulatory agencies, and we must allow businesses to focus on job growth rather than wasting time managing redundant and often-outdated or ineffective regulations and rules. For many years, cost-benefit analyses have been required of all agencies for new regulations, but this has never been taken seriously. The attitude seems to be that businesses are “lucky to be here” and can easily afford any regulatory imposition placed on them. Government has the responsibility to protect the public, but to ignore the costs and the impacts they have on the economy is not protective of a public that is dependent on job revenue to fund its operations.
Things are improving, however. In Governor Patrick’s second inaugural speech, he specifically mentioned this issue and the importance of job growth. During the past 18 months, the Governor and his agency heads took a top-down review of new regulations, and we applaud them for that effort. Now we call upon them to go further by reviewing our existing regulations to ensure that they are doing the job that they were intended to do; that they are consistent with the statutes authorizing them; that they are the most cost effective and efficient means to their goals; and that there are not better ways to accomplish what they do (e.g. privatization or self-certification).
We may never be the lowest-cost state, but let’s develop the reputation of being a state that understands the needs of business and works actively to make interactions with government as smooth and cost effective as anywhere else.