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Boston's Chamber of Commerce CEO says raising taxes for businesses will hurt city

Boston Chamber of Commerce CEO says city needs to practice fiscal discipline
Boston Chamber of Commerce CEO says city needs to practice fiscal discipline 10:16

BOSTON - Boston Mayor Michelle Wu's plan to address potential city revenue shortfalls by raising the commercial property tax rate was panned by Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jim Rooney in an interview with WBZ.

"It's the golden goose," said Rooney of the city's commercial property tax, which provides a large percentage of the city's annual revenue.

But the persistence of the retreat from downtown offices in favor of working from home combined with high-interest rates and rising construction and maintenance costs have driven commercial property values way down, with experts forecasting a coming wave of tax abatement applications and severely reduced revenues for the city. 

"That's not her fault," says Rooney of the mayor. But "we've seen proposals for transfer fees. We've seen a proposal to increase linkage fees. We've seen strict energy efficiency requirements that increase the cost of new construction. ... Building anything new in Boston is becoming almost impossible. So you've got this situation where the mayor is introducing these financial burdens ... and at the same time, increasing spending. ... That's a curious combination," said Rooney.

The city budget is set to increase by more than double what state officials are proposing, but Rooney expressed concern about spending hikes on both fronts. "Whether we're individuals or businesses, we're looking at the way spending is going on ... and looking at the nice-to-haves versus [key priorities like] public safety, education. The business community, of course, supports all of that. But there comes a time that you prepare for it and you execute on practicing fiscal discipline because absent that, the long-term prospects of the city and the region begin to diminish."

Rooney also underscored the Chamber's opposition to a movement headed for the November ballot that would drop passage of the MCAS test as a public high school graduation requirement. "There's about 700 [students each year] that do not pass it," he said. "We can address the needs of those 700 kids without eliminating it. The alternative is not having a statewide standard, having 351 cities and towns deciding what the standard is. I don't have to tell you what that will look like - having everyone in the Commonwealth, every city and town, create their own standards."

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