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Every Policy Issue is an Economic Development Issue: Senate President Karen Spilka

Posted by Katie Conroy on May 01, 2019

On April 25 we hosted a Government Affairs Forum with Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka. Her debut address to the Chamber focused on recent successes in the Legislature, calls to the business community for collaborative action with government, and the announcement of new budget funding for mental health.

Introduced as a collaborative leader by Ed Shea of our Government Affairs Sponsor, Bank of America, Senate President Spilka’s remarks underscored this epithet, with a call to bring all parties to the table and negotiate in good faith to uphold what she considers to be a partnership with the business community.

In addition to her focus on collaboration, an overall theme of economic vibrancy ran throughout her address, particularly on the public policy issues of transportation and health care. 

I believe it is important to emphasize that EVERY POLICY ISSUE we face this session is also an ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ISSUE.                  – Senate President Karen Spilka

Public Transportation

 President Spilka outlined a set of seven Senate principles for public transportation reform, including:

1. Regional Equity. “Simply put, if tolls are a good idea for (the Middlesex and Norfolk) region, I believe we should explore the possible use of expanded tolling, including at our borders.” 

2. Access and Affordability. “We must ensure access for currently underserved communities, including rural areas. We must also ensure that our options are fully accessible to those with disabilities, and we must make sure that public transportation is affordable.”

3. Sustainability. "We must look at our transportation systems from the perspective of environmental sustainability and climate change impacts.”  

It is TOO LATE to take small steps – the threat to our economic vibrancy from climate change is REAL.  - President Spilka

4. Connectivity. "Our transportation infrastructure should thread our communities together in an interconnected web. We must find a way for public transportation to provide the connectivity that is now being provided by cars.”

5. Innovation.  “We must call on innovative tech and policy ideas to create the transportation system we need.”

6. Responsiveness. "We must learn from the successes of the ride sharing companies and find ways to make public transportation more responsive to people’s needs through increased reliability, areas served, and more competitive pricing."

7. Achievability. “Our best ideas won’t matter if we can’t find a way to make a 21st century transportation infrastructure a reality – and find a way to pay for it."


Revenue Working Group 

President Spilka announced a Revenue Working Group that she charged Chairman of the Joint Committee on Revenue, Adam Hinds to lead, with the purpose of convening leaders from government and business (including Chamber CEO Jim Rooney) to take a close and comprehensive look at Massachusetts tax policies. 

Health Care

President Spilka stressed the importance of both physical and mental health in the workplace and illustrated the steps the Senate planned to take to improve the lives of Massachusetts residents. She called on the state of Massachusetts and the business community to work together to reduce the stigma of mental illness and work together as the state known for innovation in technology and healthcare. Her three themes included:

1. Prescription Drugs. “The Senate plans to address the high cost of health care by slowing the rise of prescription drug prices and increasing transparency for the consumer.”

2. Health Care Affordability. President Spilka informed the Chamber of efforts currently being made under the guidance of Senator Cindy Friedman, the Senate Chair of Health Care Financing, to analyze telemedicine and mobile integrated health to lower costs and increase quality access for all.

3. Transformative Mental Health Care. Highlighting the need for both treatment and awareness in the workplace, schools, universities, prisons, and communities, President Spilka campaigned to reduce the stigma associated with, and increase access to, mental health treatment. This included an important announcement to the Chamber:

I am pleased to announce today that the Senate budget will include $10 million in new funding to support our efforts to reduce the stigma of and increase access to mental health treatment.                - President Spilka

President Spilka concluded her remarks sharing that her door is always open to the business community, and that she hoped the Senate and the Chamber would continue in their productive working relationship in the years to come.

If you did not have the chance to come to the first address of President Spilka, make sure you are subscribed to our news and events alerts and be the first to know when tickets come available to our Government Affairs Forums.

You can view photos of the event here , or watch the full address below thanks to our Partners at Comcast/Xfinity. 


Join us for our next event, Our Annual Meeting on May 15th - the top business event of the year, bringing together more than 1,800 of our region’s leaders for a celebration of the Greater Boston business community and our thriving economy