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Liberty Mutual announces Boston expansion

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Liberty Mutual announces Boston expansion

Liberty Mutual Group has announced a major expansion in Boston that is expected to add up to 600 permanent jobs.

Company, state and city officials said last Thursday that the insurer will spend $300 million to build a 25-story, 580,000-square-foot office building at its Boston headquarters that could create an additional 500 construction jobs.

Liberty Mutual Chairman Edward Kelly said in a statement that the company committed to expanding in Boston because it is “economically attractive.”

The city gave the company a $16 million property tax break. In exchange, the new building will bring $50 million in property taxes to the city over 20 years.

Mayor Tom Menino called the plan “critical” to the city’s economy.

Liberty Mutual has 4,100 employees in Massachusetts, including 2,500 at its Boston campus.

Report: Mass. health premiums continue to rise

Health care premiums are continuing to rise in Massachusetts.

A new study by the state Division of Health Care Finance and Policy found that average monthly premiums increased 12.2 percent from 2006 to 2008, although premiums grew more slowly in 2008 than in 2007.

The growth in the cost of premiums during this period was caused almost entirely by growth in medical expenses. Non-medical expenses like administrative costs grew more slowly.

Massachusetts residents are also spending more to stay well. Between 2006 and 2008, private spending per insured individual for health care in Massachusetts grew by 15.5 percent.

The study also found that premiums for employers with 50 or fewer insured workers grew faster than premiums for mid-size or large employers with 500 or more covered employees.

Boston Foundation raises $2M for Haiti relief

The Boston Foundation has announced that it has raised $2 million for a Haiti relief fund.

The group announced last week that the money was raised just after the relief fund was started two weeks ago.

Paul Grogan, the foundation’s president and CEO, said donors were responding to the urgent need in Haiti from January’s earthquake that left thousands dead and even more homeless.

Wilmer Ruperti, chairman and CEO of Venezuela-based Maroil Trading and Global Ship Management, also announced at a Boston Foundation lunch a $100,000 gift to the fund.

The creators of the fund, Jim and Karen Ansara, have promised to match all contributions up to $1 million.

Boston has the third-largest population of Haitians and Haitian-Americans in the country.

Mass. gov.: Stimulus spending ahead of schedule

Gov. Deval Patrick says the state has parceled out all of its stimulus spending on transportation projects a month ahead of a federal deadline.

The entire $438 million was obligated to projects as of Saturday. The federal deadline is March 2.

Critics, including U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, have faulted Patrick for not spending the money fast enough. Brown later eased off that criticism.

Patrick said the spending will go to 84 projects across the state. While the bulk of spending goes to road repairs, $58 million is being spent on public transportation including repairs to the MBTA’s Red Line and construction of a rail station in Greenfield.

Patrick said the spending has helped add construction jobs in the short and long terms.

Patrick says Massport buyback has ‘got to change’

Gov. Deval Patrick says the Massachusetts Port Authority has “got to change” a program allowing workers to be paid for up to 15 unused vacation days each year.

The Boston Herald reported last week that one retiring worker combined the vacation bonus with a buyback of his unused sick leave to receive a nearly $300,000 lump sum before he began collecting his pension last year.

Nearly one-third of the agency’s employees also took advantage of the buyback program, including Executive Director Thomas Kinton, who got a $17,000 bonus.

Massport says many of its 1,200 workers can’t take all the vacation time they’re allotted.

Patrick says he has been exasperated about the perks at quasi-independent agencies like Massport, which runs Logan International Airport and port facilities in Boston.

Boston forgives tickets given during non-storm

Boston officials say the owners of thousands of vehicles ticketed or towed during a snowstorm that never was won’t have to pay a cent.

With forecasters predicting up to a foot of snow on Wednesday, the city declared a snow emergency, which requires main thoroughfares to be free of vehicles to allow plows to fully clear the streets.

The Boston Transportation Department said the city ticketed 3,353 vehicles at $45 a pop and towed another 229 at $90 each.

Then the snow came — barely a dusting.

Mayor Tom Menino said the unpredictable nature of the storm and the fact that many families are already struggling prompted him to waive the fines.

Transportation Department Tom Tinlin said the decision was “in the best interests of the city.”