NewsWESTFIELD – The national economy will grow by about 2 percent in 2012, U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, told business leaders Tuesday afternoon.
That’s enough growth, Neal predicted, to create about 170,000 jobs a month across the country. Unfortunately it will take about 200,000 jobs a month to make a dent in the unemployment rate.
“Today, the American economy is back on its feet, but it is not where we’d like to be,” Neal said.
Neal said education and Massachusetts' record of innovation will be the key to spurring that recovery. He also stressed the importance of Medicare, a federal program that provides health care to senior citizens and disabled. Local hospitals depend on Medicare funding.
Neal was first elected to Congress in 1988. He is a member of the tax law-writing Ways and Means Committee and the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures. He said even with federal budget cuts looming, area defense contractors like Kollmorgen in Northampton, Warren Pumps in Warren and General Dynamics in Pittsfield are well positioned to grow.
He defended his vote to bail out Chrysler and General Motors in 2008.
“If they were to go under, all that research and development would go offshore and you are not getting it back,” Neal said. “And research and development is something Massachusetts does very well.”
Neal predicted that the payroll tax cut would be extended again. The current extender runs out at the end of February.
He spoke Tuesday afternoon at a forum at Westfield State University’s Scanlon Hall that was sponsored by the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield, the West of the River Chamber of Commerce in West Springfield and Agawam and chambers in Westfield, Chicopee and Holyoke as well as the Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce.
The purpose was to introduce Neal to communities that are not part of the congressional district he represents now, but will be part of the new 1st Congressional District, said Jeffrey S. Ciuffreda, president of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield. There were more than 60 business leaders at the event.
Once the new districts go into force in 2013, the 1st Congressional District will include Greater Springfield as well as West Springfield, Holyoke, Westfield and Easthampton and all of Berkshire County.
U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, is not standing for re-election. The state divided up Olver’s old district between Neal and U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, a Worcester Democrat, with McGovern taking the northern portion of the Pioneer Valley should McGovern win re-election. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., a Democrat from Pittsfield, has announced plans to run against Neal.