By Michael Norton
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE -- A study released Monday knocking the job-creating impact of tax credits on the life sciences sector has come under fire from Senate President Therese Murray and Massachusetts Life Sciences Center President Susan Windham-Bannister.
The Pioneer Institute study concluded the $1 billion life sciences law approved in 2008 has created just 571 direct life sciences jobs since tax credits kicked in during 2009 and called for a broader tax credit to attract research and development initiatives across sectors.
Windham-Bannister, in an interview from the BIO convention in San Diego, said validated data shows state tax incentives have created more than 4,400 new jobs in Massachusetts since 2009, or more per capita than any other state.
Three other studies, Windham-Bannister said, have concluded higher levels of life sciences job creation associated with the law. "We just don't understand how the Pioneer Institute did its analysis," she said.
Murray, who is also in San Diego, said she was "a little surprised" by the study.
"It seems like they started with the conclusion and created a study to support the conclusion," she said.
Officials at the convention from North Carolina and South Carolina told Sen. Karen Spilka Sunday night that "there are 49 other states and then there's Massachusetts," Murray said.
The Plymouth Democrat said she's aware that the technology sector took a hit in the recession and through federal budget cuts, and is interested in tax credits and other steps government can take to recapitalize funds and make investments.
"We're going to entertain those," she said. "We will be adding some additional things in there for that other side of the economy."
Pioneer reported that when Massachusetts adopted a broad-based R&D tax credit in 1991, overall R&D spending in Massachusetts increased more than 50 percent over the next five years.
MassBio President Robert Coughlin, who represents the industry, said the ten top pharma companies have a presence in Massachusetts, which he said was not the case six years ago.
Whether or not that's related to specific public investments, Coughlin said, "The climate we are creating in Massachusetts is drawing companies here that are creating thousands and thousands of jobs."
Pioneer reported that despite gains in life sciences employment, overall R&D spending in Massachusetts fell by 10.3 percent between 2007 and 2011, a period when rival California significantly increased its R&D market share.
"Massachusetts has a comparative advantage in knowledge sectors of the economy because of its powerful mix of prestigious research institutions, a highly skilled workforce, and venture capital leaders," Jim Stergios, Pioneer's executive director, said in a statement. "We need more powerful tax mechanisms that attract greater investment but do not distort the marketplace by driving them to favored industries."