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A Wake-Up Call on Health, Energy Costs in Massachusetts

Posted on July 11, 2012

Massachusetts’ plunge from sixth to 28th in CNBC’s annual ranking of Top States for Business yesterday should provide incentive to the Beacon Hill conference committees currently addressing two key business competitiveness issues – the high cost of health care and energy.

Top StatesMassachusetts took the largest drop among the 50 contenders in the cable station’s sixth annual ranking based upon criteria the states use to sell themselves. The commonwealth ranked near the top in access to capital and education, but slid from 41st to 49th on the cost of doing business and from 29th to 45th on infrastructure.

Texas topped the rankings, followed by Utah, Virginia, North Carolina and North Dakota.

It’s dangerous to treat unscientific media rankings as a blueprint for the state economic climate, especially since both Democrats and Republicans are fond of using the CNBC rankings as a political poker chip. But the fact that the cost of doing business in Massachusetts remains among the highest in the nation should motivate lawmakers on the health care and energy cost conference committees to act boldly to address the issues most responsible for strangling job creation from Boston to the Berkshires.

The conference committee on health care costs is ironing out the differences between a House bill that would limit the growth of medical spending to one-half a percentage point below overall economic growth and a less aggressive Senate measure that would keep medical spending even with gross state product beginning in 2016. The CNBC rankings suggest that anything less than the House version would represent a missed opportunity.

Energy conferees must likewise reduce electricity costs that make Massachusetts one of the most expensive places in American to turn on a light switch. The conference committee must craft a bill that encourages open and transparent bidding for power without government intervention that tips the scales in favor of one source of power over another.

Members of the two conference committees have it within their power to ensure that Massachusetts sees its ranking rise on next year’s CNBC study. We urge them to do so.