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Support Voiced For Bill That Would Pay People To Move To Western Mass.


      The Massachusetts legislature is considering a bill that would pay people to move to western Massachusetts.

      Here’s the pitch.  What if you could leave the sky-high rents of Greater Boston, the constant traffic jams, and transit breakdowns behind, and live in an area with a good quality of life and cultural attractions, while still making a Boston-sized salary? 

      Would some cash motivate you to move?

      A bill would allow people to claim up to $10,000 from the state for expenses to move to one of the four counties of western Massachusetts and continue to work remotely for their current employer.

       It was introduced by Democratic State Senator Eric Lesser of Longmeadow.

      "The idea here is really quite simple," said Lesser. "If you want to pay taxes here, own property here, shop in our local stores, eat in our local restaurants, well that is good business for us long term, so we'll make it a little easier to make that happen."

      Fearing western Massachusetts is drowning in the wake being left by the economic tidal wave that is Greater Boston, Lesser has for years championed east-west rail as a way to link the regions.

    "Of course by itself that incentive is not going to do much, but combined with enhanced rail service, better broadband connectivity, and investments in the technology sector and startup culture here you are going to see a  lot of people taking a look at western Massachusetts," said Lesser.  He added that since the bill was introduced in January, his office has been flooded with calls and emails from around the country about it.

     Lesser’s bill would cap the total relocation incentive payout to $1 million over three years.

      The bill had its first hearing this week by the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. Lesser is the co-chair of the committee.

      Testifying in favor of the bill were several people who recently moved to western Massachusetts, but continued to work for their old employer in the Boston area.

      Cassie Eckhof moved last July from the city of Waltham, just west of Boston, to Easthampton. She telecommutes now rather than sitting in bumper-to-bumper highway traffic as she once did.

      "My blood pressure was 190 over 110 in June and its down to 110, so that is a pretty significant change," said Eckhof.

       She estimated her moving expenses were $5,000.

       So far, no major business groups have endorsed Lesser’s bill.

       Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has proposed a $2,000 tax credit for people who telecommute as a means to help reduce traffic congestion.




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