A new report from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation contains unpleasant truths – and we’re not just talking about the urgent need to tackle thorny problems like tax reform, childcare costs, transit, high rents and home prices.

The MTF report does a skillful job weaving together different strands of evidence to show why nearly 111,000 people left the state between April 2020 and July 2022, and why Massachusetts seems to be losing tech jobs when other states are gaining them.

The picture that emerges is complex. Most of the issues MTF explored are driven by quality-of-life problems experienced by everyday workers. Typical rent is higher than almost anywhere else in the nation. Our traffic congestion and mass transit problems are world-leading. Childcare costs are so high many families would actually save money if one half of a couple gives up their career for a few years – and risk stagnation and lower lifetime earnings – to care for kids. Just imagine the kind of stress that situation puts on single-parent households.

The impact on the state’s business climate is clear. MTF detailed a clear pattern of companies investing more in lower-cost states at the expense of growing jobs here. With housing and childcare this expensive, and with transportation problems creating terrible work-life balance for many, Massachusetts workers simply pay more.

Beyond finding fixes for the state’s childcare subsidy system and keeping a watchful eye on Gov. Maura Healey’s strong first steps at helping right the MBTA’s ship and begin to grow our regional transit agencies, lawmakers must also keep their eye on the housing ball.

It’s clearly tempting some on Beacon Hill to wait to see how the MBTA Communities reform plays out. Indeed, leadership in both the House and Senate appears set to strip state officials of one of their most powerful levers – short of litigation – for ensuring compliance with the law. Alongside the not-well-used Mass Works grant program, the law also restricts non-compliant towns’ access to the Local Capital Projects Fund. Topped off with money from the casino industry, this has been used to prop up local public housing authorities’ budgets in recent years.

The Senate’s initial budget proposal gave all LCPF money to fund operations at the incipient Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities. The House’s budget proposal includes an amendment that would preserve housing authorities’ access to LCPF funds even if their relevant municipality falls out of compliance with the transit-oriented zoning mandate. No one wants to make public housing residents bear the consequences of wealthy-homeowner NIMBYism, but you can’t deny how state officials’ specific threats to cut off access to LCPF money got several town managers to beat feet and get their towns into compliance last fall.

You don’t follow either the House’s or Senate’s approaches if you are content with a take-it-slow approach to housing production that lets suburbs slouch back into their same old, exclusionary habits. But sadly, along with beefing up state funding for housing development in places where the private market can’t produce enough market-rate or affordable housing, new construction is the only way we’re going to get out of this pickle.

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Legislators Face Unpleasant Truths on Competitiveness

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min