Business

GE tax breaks will benefit the city, Walsh says

Mayor Marty Walsh delivered his 2016 State of the City address in January.
Dina Rudick/Globe Staff
Mayor Marty Walsh delivered his 2016 State of the City address in January.

In a speech to business leaders Tuesday, Mayor Martin J. Walsh staunchly defended his use of tax incentives to help bring General Electric Co. to Boston, saying he believes the deal will ultimately be a boon to the city’s finances.

One day after Boston public school students staged a walkout to protests budget cuts, Walsh said the decision to offer GE up to $25 million in city property tax breaks will be repaid and more over time.

“These agreements are not expenditures, but net positives that unlock new taxable developments,” Walsh told a meeting of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau. “That’s why I’m confident in our agreement with GE.”

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Walsh pointed to reports from ratings agencies that said GE’s move to the Seaport District, and with it 800 jobs, boosted the city’s creditworthiness. And he noted that commercial real estate generates a big, and growing, share of the city’s tax base. Development, he said, helps fund city services.

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“I’d like to put to rest the notion that our pro-active growth strategy comes at any cost to schools, parks, affordable housing, or other vital investments in our community well-being,” Walsh said. “The very opposite is true.”

In his remarks, Walsh also touted new experiments from the city’s Housing Innovation Lab, which he said could help dent Boston’s deepening housing crunch. And he made a strong call for the City Council to vote to extend the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s powers of urban renewal, saying complex projects such as Tremont Center in Roxbury and the redevelopment of the Bunker Hill housing project in Charlestown “hang in the balance.”

Several members of the 13-member Council have said they’d vote against a 10-year extension of urban renewal, saying the BRA needs more oversight. At a City Council meeting Tuesday afternoon, BRA director Brian Golden suggested a compromise at seven years, while key members of the Council softened their position from a two-year extension to five years. While no agreement was reached, a final vote could come as soon as Wednesday. The program - which still needs state approval - expires at the end of April.

Tim Logan can be reached at tim.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.