(Above): Deval & Denis; (Below) Deval & Jimmy.
Dear Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick:
May I attend your August 2nd, 2008, political party in the Berkshires, too? You invited legislators to your Richmond mansion for a "legislative picnic". That sounds real fun...for the career politicians and the corrupted Special Interest you serve!
What are you going to discuss with all of these corrupted career politicians? My guess on public policy topics include: (a) Who else to slap baseless "ethics" charges against; (b) How to raise more taxes after Massachusetts just raised $800 million in new taxes last week in the FY2009 state budget; (c) How much the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is going to ratchet up its tolls to pay for the problematic "Big Dig"; (d) How much money the state can receive from the federal government to give to its corporate elite insurance companies under the guise of healthcare "reform"; and on and on.
Boy, Deval, I want to be in on the discussions among you & your leglislative cronies concerning on your & their terrible tenures as Massachusetts Governor & Legislators. I want to listen to you curry favor with all of the career politicians who have a distinctly higher standards of living than the 6-million people they are supposed to be serving on almighty Beacon Hill's State House: The Home of Hundreds of 6-Figure Lobbyists, including "Pittsfield's" Peter Larkin, well-compensated Legislators, and a new Governor that defied all of his populist campaign messages in 2006 in a mere +18-months!
Please visit my Blog pages on you, Deval, and you will read more about my thoughts on CORRUPT Massachusetts Politics:
Cited: ("It’s a clear budget victory — for the ‘Santa Train’", By Jim O’Sullivan/State House News Service, Monday, July 07, 2008, 7:37 AM EDT):
"Out of gratitude or bonhomie, this week he invited legislators to a bash in the Berkshires on Aug. 2, billed as a “legislative picnic.” The earnest public policy debates and bocce are anticipated in equal doses. The Fox-25 helicopter, maybe not so much."
Jonathan A. Melle
"Luciforo" (Andrea Nuciforo) swears in Jimmy Ruberto as Pittsfield's Mayor in early-January, 2008.
"Governor Patrick to host party for Legislature"
07/08/2008, By: Web Staff, www.capitalnews9.com,
MASSACHUSETTS -- Governor Deval Patrick will host a picnic for the Legislature at his vacation home in the Berkshires next month. A spokesman says it's a way for the governor to thank lawmakers for a "very successful" session.
Relations between Patrick and the Legislature went sour after the defeat of his casino proposal but improved in recent months with passage of several initiatives, including a life sciences bill.
The picnic is scheduled for two days after the end of this election year's House and Senate sessions.
"Patrick sidesteps fund-raising law with lavish party: Invitation to picnic includes $5,500 pitch"
By Frank Phillips, (Boston) Globe Staff, July 15, 2008
Governor Deval Patrick has scheduled a picnic fund-raiser this month at his vacation estate in the Berkshires, where he will once again exploit a method he pioneered for skirting state campaign contribution limits, a funding system the Legislature so far has declined to shut down.
Guests at the gathering at the 7,500-square-foot mansion situated on 77 acres in Richmond are being asked to contribute up to $5,500 to the governor's Seventy-First Fund. The fund - as the formal invitation to the soiree explains - divides the contributions between Patrick's campaign and the state Democratic Party.
What the invitation does not say is that the Democratic Party, in turn, uses most of its share of the money to pay off Patrick's campaign expenses. That allows Patrick to get around the state's $500 limit on individual contributions to candidates, by giving him most of the benefit of the additional $5,000, the maximum an individual can give to a political party.
Patrick's campaign aides and the Democratic Party defend the use of the Seventy-First Fund as the basis for the July 24 picnic. They said it is an appropriate strategy since campaigns and political parties are increasingly coordinating their activities.
"We will continue to use this permissible and appropriate finance tool," said Steve Crawford, spokesman for Patrick's campaign committee. As an example of how the system works, Crawford's $3,000-a-month consulting fees billed to Patrick's campaign are paid by the Democratic Party.
Patrick's political finance aides declined to release the list of those planning to attend the picnic. But if it is similar to other Seventy-First Fund events held in the past year, the names will include the Democrats' bevy of wealthy activists along with corporate executives of regulated businesses - bankers, utility operators, and healthcare executives - whose financial interests depend on the administration's actions.
Among those who donated to the Seventy-First Fund in the last several months are: casino executive Irwin M. Chafetz, who gave $1,375 and who advocated on Beacon Hill for Patrick's casino legislation; Cleve Killingsworth, chief executive of Blue Cross/Blue Shield, $5,500, whose health insurance firm is heavily regulated by the state; real estate developer Thomas M. Alperin, who gave $5,500; banker Lawrence Fish, chairman of Citizens Financial Group, who donated $1,000; and Joshua Boger, a $5,000 donor who, as chief executive of one of the best-known biotech firms in the state, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, has been a strong supporter of Patrick's life-science initiative.
Killingsworth, through a spokesman, declined to comment. Chafetz, Alperin, Fish, and Boger did not respond to requests for comment.
The Seventy-First Fund system will remain permissible for the foreseeable future. A legislative committee on Beacon Hill that is drafting changes to campaign finance rules has not included provisions to shut down such systems as the Seventy-First Fund. (The fund derives its name from Patrick's status as the 71st governor of Massachusetts.)
A key lawmaker working on the campaign finance bill said the Seventy-First Fund is a low priority, although he did not rule out a later attempt at a crackdown.
"It is not on the table because other more contentious and pertinent issues have to be cleared up," said Representative Garrett J. Bradley, a Democrat from Hingham and House chairman of the Joint Committee on Election Laws.
Among those issues are moves to raise the individual contribution limit to $750, to create stiffer penalties for legislators who fail to file reports on time, and to require more frequent reporting periods.
Bradley said he has not been pressured by the governor's operatives or party officials to allow the Seventy-First Fund to continue operating. John Walsh, Patrick's hand-picked chairman of the Democratic Party, acknowledged speaking with Bradley about how the fund worked. He said he did not urge him to back off any proposals to close the loopholes.
"I have known him a long time, but I have no interest in advocating for any of the legislative decisions he and his colleagues are making," Walsh said. Walsh and Bradley worked together in South Shore political circles.
Democratic lawmakers have been quick to make changes in the campaign finance law when previous political figures found creative ways to raise funds. For example, when Republican William F. Weld loaned $1.2 million to his campaign in the 1990 election and then paid himself back through aggressive fund-raising after he got elected, the Legislature passed a law in the early 1990s that limited what a campaign committee can repay the candidate to $200,000.
Advocates for reducing the influence of money on politics decried Patrick's system as a circumvention of state campaign finance laws. "It is a questionable practice to pour unlimited amounts, even through a party, into any race or to any individual candidate," said Pamela Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts.
Common Cause initially did not join other advocates in opposition to the practice when a Globe story first described it in January, but the influential group has since changed its position and wants the practice curtailed. It has proposed a $3,000 limit on what a party can receive from any donor, whether directly or through a pass-through fund such as the Seventy-First. Advocates said the practice is also troubling because Patrick based his 2006 campaign on his status as an outsider, running against special-influence politics.
The Globe story in January said that, using proceeds from the Seventy-First Fund, the Democratic Party in 2007 paid $339,000 of the governor's campaign-related expenses, including bills for a media consultant and banquet halls.
The governor has raised $237,710 in the first six months of this year for the Seventy-First Fund. Almost one-third was distributed to his own campaign in $500 increments from donors. The rest went to the Democratic Party. The amount the party is spending on his behalf does not have to be disclosed until the end of the year, according to Walsh.
(A Boston) GLOBE EDITORIAL
July 25, 2008
CAMPAIGN FINANCE rules in Massachusetts keep on losing their bite. Under state law, an individual can contribute no more than $500 per year to a given political candidate. But as the Globe's Frank Phillips recently reported, Governor Patrick's political team is using an arrangement that allows contributors to give significantly more. The Legislature ought to fix this and other loopholes.
But as the legislative session winds down, chances for major campaign-finance improvements look slimmer by the day. And legislation being discussed by the Joint Committee on Election Laws doesn't address the fund-raising arrangements documented in the Globe.
The governor's Seventy-First Fund is an argument for reform, for it violates the spirit of the existing law. Contributors can give up to $5,500, of which $500 goes to Patrick's campaign fund and the remainder to the Democratic Party. But the party used most of the money it received from the fund last year to pay political expenses for Patrick. In effect, contributors can give Patrick's campaign more money than the law intends.
Proponents of such techniques argue that the governor's political activities aren't easily distinguishable from his party's. State Democratic officials maintain that the Seventy-First Fund operates transparently. (The fund is so named because Patrick is the state's 71st governor.) And in an interview, party chair John Walsh argued that the fund pays for training, internships, and other party-building activities.
But even if parties and their leading elected officials are coordinating their campaigns more tightly, that shouldn't be a pretext for letting candidates exploit the higher limits that apply to political parties. Candidates for governor might argue that a $500 limit is too stringent, at least in a statewide race, but the current loophole amounts to a de facto contribution limit of $5,500. The Legislature needs to rein this practice in.
Unfortunately, the election laws committee has made little effort to do so. Legislation in the works there would make some valuable changes: Candidates who failed to file reports, for instance, could be removed from the ballot; fines for late reports would be increased; and electronic reporting rules would get tougher. But the draft legislation also raises the contribution limit from $500 to $750, regardless of office. The need for such an across-the-board increase is hardly evident.
Campaign contributions give special interests a powerful way to collect chits on Beacon Hill, so the state needs a system of reasonable, enforceable limits. The clock is running out this year - but the need for reform remains.
"Pilgrimage to Patrick's"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Governor Deval Patrick is a relative newcomer to the Berkshires who has put down deep roots. His 7,500-square-foot home on 77 rolling acres of Richmond woodlands testifies to his love for the area. The two-year-old home, called Sweet P Farm, is also making the rural Berkshires, of all places, a player on the state's political scene.
Earlier this month, the governor hosted a fundraiser for about 150 Democratic Party high-rollers from across the state who were asked to donate up to $5,500 to the governor's Seventy-First Fund (so-named because he is the 71st governor of the state.) While the proceeds were to be divided between the governor and the party, the party planned to use most of its share to help pay off the governor's lingering campaign expenses, which enables him to skirt the state's $500 limit on individual contributions to candidates. All perfectly legal, but clearly a loophole that violates the intent of the campaign finance law.
Closing the loophole would require action by the Legislature — whose members have been invited to a picnic at the governor's Richmond estate on Thursday. While the lawmakers may head home feeling charitable about campaign finance law niceties, this event will benefit the Berkshires by exposing us to Eastern officials. Former House Speaker Tom Finneran and former Senate President Tom Birmingham, an avid skier, came this way often, but there is little evidence that their successors, Salvatore DiMasi and Therese Murray respectively, get out this way much. We hope they will on Thursday.
A legislator quoted in Sunday's Boston Globe thought Richmond might be a long haul for a picnic, but the islands aside, no place in this tiny state is that far from any other place. Eastern Massachusetts legislators should make the pilgrimage Thursday and get a look at the state beyond Worcester. It will open their eyes and maybe even benefit us out in the wild West, which Deval Patrick calls home.
Pittsfield firefighter Ken Arnold grasps the Jaws of Life. Gov. Deval L. Patrick vetoed $122.5 million from the state budget, including $75,000 for rescue equipment for the Pittsfield Fire Department.
"County dollars slashed"
By Jack Dew, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Gov. Deval L. Patrick's veto pen slashed thousands of dollars from several Berkshire County projects, leaving the legislative delegation scrambling to restore funds before the end of the current session on July 31.
The governor signed the $28.1 billion budget on Sunday, but not before he vetoed $122.5 million in spending. Must of his cuts were to earmarks — money that lawmakers set aside for local projects and institutions.
State dollars for the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, and Hancock Shaker Village in Hancock were all slashed in half. The Pittsfield Fire Department lost $75,000 set aside for rescue equipment, and the Berkshire Economic Development Corporation lost half of its $250,000 in state funds.
A Patrick spokeswoman, Cyndi Roy, said the cuts were a difficult choice, forced by an exceedingly tight budget.
"There are a number of programs that had to be reduced," she said. "That is not to say that these programs don't have merit, but our present situation is such that tough decisions have to be made."
But some are questioning how Patrick decided to trim the budget.
While the Berkshire Museum lost $125,000, Hancock Shaker Village $75,000 and the Mahaiwe $100,000, two other cultural institutions — Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield and Tanglewood in Lenox — were untouched; each will receive $200,000.
'You don't cut 9 out of 10'
"If the argument is going to be that we are in tight fiscal times and we are going to cut funding in half, you don't just cut nine out of 10, you cut them all," said state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, a Lenox Democrat whose district includes Tanglewood.
Meanwhile, Pignatelli said, the cut to the Berkshire Economic Development Corp., or BEDC, comes at a "critical time for the county. ... We are on the cusp of some great things economically, with the potential reuse of the old mills in Lee and in Housatonic. To cut that budget in half is really shortsighted."
Created in 2005, the BEDC is chartered with luring new businesses into the region and helping existing ones grow.
Michael P. Daly, president and CEO of Berkshire Bank and the chairman of the board that oversees the BEDC, said the $125,000 cut comes at a particularly bad time. With the economy slumping, he said, it is important "that we be on the offensive, rather than the defensive."
"The BEDC is integral now to a lot of the economic initiatives, and it is critical for this organization to maintain its funding," Daly said.
The delegation will likely have allies throughout the state as it seeks to override the BEDC veto; all of the economic development corporations in Massachusetts suffered a similar fate.
But some local earmarks may be harder to fight for. State Rep. Christopher N. Speranzo said his priority will be the $75,000 for the Pittsfield Fire Department, which had planned to upgrade the Jaws of Life rescue tools that are used to cut trapped motorist from vehicles. Thanks to a $675,000 federal grant and $75,000 from Pittsfield, the department is buying a new ladder truck that it planned to outfit with the improved equipment.
Overriding a veto requires a yes vote by two-thirds of the Legislature, and all votes are taken by roll call. With the July 31 end of session looming, it could be difficult to rally votes, Speranzo said. Patrick is also seeking the extra power to cut the budget himself during the fiscal year. If he is successful, any money restored now could be cut later.
"The budget is tight, and no one wants to see ... cuts made unilaterally during the year," Speranzo said. "I think fiscal prudence requires us to take a serious look at all the items that go into the budget, but I don't think it makes a lot of sense to cut public safety money even if you have to really tighten the belt."
A 'tenuous balance'
State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing called the budget a "tenuous balance. All things being equal, I don't think (the vetoes) reflect the governor's thoughts on the programs or projects. I think this is more him saying that we need to find somewhere to save money."
Acting Pittsfield Fire Chief James Sullivan said he hopes his $75,000 will be resurrected.
"(Speranzo and I) have been working on this for six months," he said. "It's been in the budget, out of the budget, and then back in. Today, we are back out. I am not counting on anything, but I am hoping."
To reach Jack Dew: firstname.lastname@example.org, (413) 496-6241.
Gloucester Daily Times Online (www.gloucestertimes.com)
"Gov. Patrick: 'The buck stops with me'"
By Edward Mason, Staff writer, July 09, 2008
BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick said he will be sensitive to the political needs of lawmakers when deciding whether to veto their pet projects in the $28.3 billion budget the Legislature sent him.
Lawmakers larded up the fiscal year 2009 budget they sent him last Friday with hundreds of earmarks. While Patrick has railed against this practice in the past, he told the Times yesterday that he will consider the political implications of rejecting those earmarks.
"This is politics," Patrick said in interview with the Times yesterday. "It's an election year as well."
Having to act by Sunday, the governor declined to discuss what specific actions he'll take to lower spending.
"We need a permanent solution and not just what we're doing now, which is plugging a hole," Patrick said.
Concerns about spending come as budget watchdogs said the $28.3 billion budget the Legislature passed is woefully out of balance.
Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, conservatively estimated the budget — which relies heavily on new taxes and reserves — is still $950 million out of whack. If the economy continues to sag and new corporate taxes enacted last week fail to take in the $291 million expected, the shortfall would be worse.
"He's got to make some difficult decisions," Widmer said. "Is he going to sign a budget with a bottom line that puts the commonwealth at risk?"
Patrick said he's keenly aware of the economic storm clouds threatening the state's fiscal well-being.
"I'm taking a very hard look at this budget in light of evolving economic factors and projections," Patrick said.
The budget sent to the governor was greater than earlier versions passed by both the House and Senate. That did not escape the governor's notice. He said sometimes people have trouble saying "no," and that's his job.
"The buck stops with me," Patrick said.
Patrick said he had "candid" conversations with House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray on Monday.
And a team led by Administration and Finance Secretary Leslie Kirwan is going over the 266-page state budget plan for what to veto outright or cut.
"I'm looking at all these options," Patrick said.
For Patrick, who ran against the Beacon Hill establishment, the concession to budget politics comes at the end of a two-year legislative session often seen as shaky.
Nowhere was that more plain than in the lopsided defeat of the governor's casino gambling proposal, said John Berg, a political scientist at Suffolk University.
"He underestimated the power of Speaker DiMasi," Berg said. "People who should have been allies weren't."
Patrick, who in August will host a picnic for lawmakers at his Berkshires estate, said those perceived gaps have been overblown.
The Legislature has passed major investments in life sciences, transportation, and higher education, all originating with his office. Yesterday, it approved his plan to reduce child abuse.
"I think we're in a very nice groove right now," Patrick said.
While blamed for not lowering property taxes, one of his major initiatives, Patrick put that squarely on the Legislature.
He criticized lawmakers for not passing his plan to let cities and towns raise hotel and meals taxes. The proposal was part of his Municipal Partnership Act, one of his earliest pieces of legislation, aimed at giving municipalities new revenues to supplant the property tax.
"We've been putting ideas on the table," Patrick said, "and they're not getting anywhere."
Edward Mason may be contacted at email@example.com
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. circa. - (July 8, 2008).
Gov. Deval L. Patrick speaks to reporters yesterday after signing the state budget at the Statehouse in Boston. (Associated Press)
"Patrick signs $28.1B budget: The governor vetoes $122.5 million and asks for authority to cut more if the economy worsens."
By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press, Monday, July 14, 2008
BOSTON — Gov. Deval L. Patrick signed a $28.1 billion budget for the new fiscal year yesterday, vetoing $122.5 million from the Legislature's spending plan and asking lawmakers for expanded authority to make additional cuts if the economy worsens.
The cuts come at a time when the state is looking at soaring energy prices and higher than expected costs associated with the state's landmark 2006 health care law.
Patrick is asking businesses, insurers and hospitals for another $130 million to help pay for the law.
Patrick said the vetoes — and the authority that would allow him to make midyear cuts across state government instead of just in the executive branch — will help insulate the state if the economy takes a dramatic slide.
"I believe we've got to prepare now for economic trouble ahead," Patrick told reporters.
Many of the cuts were aimed at so-called "earmarks" or individual pet projects inserted into the budget by lawmakers — from $100,000 for an invasive weed control project on the Charles River in Waltham to $1,150,000 for the Boston, Cambridge and Everett Fire Department Hazardous Material Response Teams.
He also cut $5 million of the money the Legislature set aside for water and sewer rate relief, bringing the line item down to $15 million.
Patrick said his cuts were driven by a need to ensure the state is living within its means.
"While there is merit to many of the budget items that I have eliminated or reduced, our present fiscal challenges simply demand increased restraint," Patrick said.
House Ways and Means chairman Rep. Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, said he was pleased that Patrick lent his support to "99 percent of the appropriations the Legislature approved." DeLeo gave no indication which vetoes may be overturned by lawmakers.
"As is the case each year, we will evaluate any vetoes in the context of the priorities the Legislature set forth and the fiscal realities we face," DeLeo said in a written statement.
The budget relies in part on an estimated $174 million from a new $1 per pack cigarette tax increase and $285 million in new revenues from closing so-called corporate tax "loopholes."
Patrick said he wants $100 million of an estimated $145 million surplus from the fiscal year that ended on June 30 to go back into the state's rainy day savings fund to help replenish some of the $401 million drawn out of the account to balance the 2009 budget.
Patrick wants another $20 million of the surplus to go into a program to help the state's poorest citizens cover energy costs this winter.
Paying for the 2006 health care law is also proving difficult given higher than anticipated enrollment in state subsidized plans.
Patrick is asking lawmakers for changes to require employers, insurers and health care providers to kick in an additional $130 million to help shore up funding for the health care law.
Under the proposal, employers would shoulder an additional $33 million while insurance companies would agree to a one-time $33 million assessment and health care providers would be tapped for another one-time $20 million assessment.
The state would make up the rest by transferring up to $35 million from a fund designed to cover health insurance payments for those receiving unemployment benefits.
Those changes — and the expanded emergency veto powers — would require the approval of lawmakers.
Patrick's cuts fall short of those recommended by the business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, which said the budget plan is at least $1 billion out of balance.
"It's a good first step, but it's highly likely that the governor is going to need to use these emergency powers to make cuts later this year to avoid draining all of the state's cash reserve funds," said foundation president Michael Widmer.
The group had warned of a potentially sharp drop in capital gains tax collections that accounted for almost $2 billion in the last fiscal year.
The state's revenues are also threatened by an extended period of economic turbulence, a housing slump, volatile financial markets, a widespread credit crunch, soaring energy costs, and declining consumer confidence, the group said.
Lawmakers can decide to override any of the vetoes by a two-thirds vote in both chambers, but Leslie Kirwan, Patrick's secretary of administration and finance, said she hopes they look at the state's fiscal reality and think twice.
"They have shown some restraint in the use of rainy day funds," Kirwan said.
Also key to the budget is whether the state can be successful in pressing federal officials to quickly renew a Medicaid waiver program that is vital to keeping the health insurance program on track.
Patrick said he met with US Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt over the weekend to press the state's case.
"He continues to be encouraging," Patrick said. "We have his attention."
Patrick also amended an outside section to the budget that would increase pensions for retired teachers and state employees that will provide an average $10-per-month increase in their retirement benefits.
Patrick's amendment would limit the increased benefit to retirees with annual pensions of $40,000 or less.
The budget also provides $935 million in local aid promised to cities and towns, making up a $124 million shortfall caused by lagging lottery revenues of $811 million — and allots $3.95 billion in education funding, a $223 million increase over last year.
Governor Deval Patrick, shown at the signing with Administration and Finance Secretary Leslie Kirwan, cut far more than he did last year. (Travis Dove for The Boston Globe)
"Patrick vetoes $122.5m in budget: Cuts 260 legislative pet projects, ensures his key initiatives"
By John C. Drake, (Boston) Globe Staff, July 14, 2008
Governor Deval Patrick took his veto pen to the state budget yesterday, striking $122.5 million in spending on lawmakers' pet projects, while asking the Legislature for expanded power to make midyear cuts to state services if needed.
Faced with the prospect of diminished tax collections as a result of the sour economy, Patrick cut three times more from the 2009 fiscal budget than he did the previous year.
"We've got to prepare now for economic troubles ahead," Patrick said at a late-afternoon budget signing ceremony yesterday. "While there is merit to many of the budget items I have eliminated or reduced, our present circumstances demand increased restraint."
The cuts hit 260 pet projects, known as earmarks, that were inserted by legislators, including tens of millions intended to help hospitals with uncovered costs for Medicaid patients in the state's health insurance system. Numerous parks, community centers, and social service programs were denied hoped-for state grants their legislators had secured.
"Not all of the earmarks had merit, and those were vetoed," Patrick said.
Patrick maintained funding for a number of his most-touted initiatives, including $25 million for life-sciences research, an additional $360 million in education funding, a 5 percent increase in local aid, and an $80 million increase for public safety.
"I am pleased the governor has lent his approval to 99 percent of the appropriations the Legislature approved as part of its Fiscal 2009 budget plan," House Ways and Means Chairman Robert DeLeo said in a statement. "As is the case each year, we will evaluate any vetoes in the context of the priorities the Legislature set forth and the fiscal realities we face."
In addition to his vetoes, Patrick is asking lawmakers to give him unilateral authority to make midyear cuts across state government. The governor already has authority to cut spending in Cabinet agencies at any point, but he is seeking broader authority to cut elsewhere, should tax collections indeed come in below projections.
"Granting that authority now, before the end of the legislative session, enables us to respond quckly and responsibly in the event of a serious downtown," he said.
Despite the governor's cuts, one budget watchdog agency said Patrick virtually guaranteed that he would need to invoke that increased authority by not making deeper slashes. The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation estimated the $28.2 billion state budget approved by House and Senate negotiators and sent to Patrick on July 3 was at least $1 billion out of balance. Patrick's vetoes put only a small dent in that projected shortfall.
Negotiations with the federal government over how much the state will be reimbursed for its healthcare reform law have extended beyond a July 1 deadline and the results of those talks could cost the state hundreds of millions in projected revenues. Michael Widmer, president of the business-funded watchdog agency, also said capital gains tax revenue to the state could be severely hampered by declines in the stock market.
"It's a good first step, but I think it's highly likely that he will use the emergency powers this fall to make additional cuts to deal with the state's fiscal realities," Widmer said.
The Legislature previously granted the same expanded authority Patrick is requesting to his predecessor, Republican Mitt Romney, in 2003. That precedent would make it difficult for the Democratic-controlled Legislature to deny that authority to a Democratic governor, Widmer said.
Most significantly, expanding the governor's midyear budget authority would allow him to reduce local aid to cities and towns, Widmer said.
"Cities and towns are already under great fiscal stress, and this would relinquish the legislative power to the governor to make unilateral cuts in aid to cities and towns, and that's the critical nature of the debate," Widmer said. "Now if he has to make emergency cuts, it's only fair that he have the authority to do it across all of the budget."
A spokesman for House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi did not immediately respond to a request for comment yesterday.
To control state healthcare costs, Patrick separately filed an amendment to the health reform law, seeking an additional $130 million in contributions from providers and insurers to cover low-income residents. He also transferred $100 million in surplus revenues from the 2008 budget to a state reserve fund, which a Patrick budget aid said could cover shortfalls in the 2009 budget.
The vetoes touched all areas of state government, from a $150,000 toddler park in Woburn, to a $2 million earmark for acute care at Holyoke Medical Center.
Patrick, who has pledged to support youth violence prevention in the state's urban communities, also cut $2.2 million in funding for youth-at-risk grants to community centers, YMCAs, and YWCAs across the state. Patrick spokesman Kyle Sullivan said there was concern those grants were not going where they were needed.
The budget relies on a $1-a-pack increase in the cigarette tax, projected to bring in an additional $174 million, and a $500 million transfer from the state's rainy-day fund, which contains more than $2 billion set aside to cover unanticipated budget deficiencies.
State government has been operating on a $1 billion temporary budget signed by Patrick since the deadline to approve the 2009 budget passed on June 30.
John C. Drake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, Columnist, JOAN VENNOCHI
"Patrick's fuzzy math on taxes"
By Joan Vennochi, July 24, 2008
WHAT IS Governor Deval Patrick thinking?
When it comes to state budget matters, he's sending taxpayers a mixed message that simply doesn't add up.
He's backing a sales tax holiday, which will cost the state at least $15 million in revenue. At the same time, he's telling taxpayers dark fiscal days loom ahead. He recently acknowledged the possibility of a $1 billion gap between revenue and expenses in the upcoming fiscal year.
To deal with a possible deficit, Patrick wants even more power to make budget cuts than his predecessor, Mitt Romney, sought when he was governor. He expects taxpayers to bail out the badly mismanaged Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. He wants health providers and insurers to kick in $130 million more to subsidize the state's healthcare reform law, which they are so far declining to do.
Meanwhile, the governor also rolled out a new education reform proposal that could cost at least $1 billion to fund.
A sales tax holiday is one of those feel-good, short-sighted gimmicks beloved by large retailers, average citizens, and the politicians who want to please them. This year, it passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives by a vote of 139-15 and in the Senate by 31-6.
The rationale for granting it is that state tax revenue for the fiscal year that ended on June 30 exceeded projections by $500 million. But that money has already been spent, and then some, according to Michael J. Widmer, who heads the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. Even so, Patrick, House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, and Senate President Therese Murray opted to support the sales tax holiday. DiMasi initially opposed it, but changed his mind.
State Representative Ruth Balser of Newton, one of a handful of legislators who voted against it, said she did so because, "The state desperately needs revenue. Our cities and towns need revenue. I would rather have some of that money in my own city. We are closing branch libraries and laying off employees. It could be used for any number of worthy projects for the state."
As for the sweeping support it garnered, Balser commented: "What can I say? Giving tax breaks is an easier sell than doing what it takes to get the revenue."
Widmer, of the Taxpayers Foundation, calls the sales tax holiday "a bad idea" and "an illusion of action" with significant fiscal consequences. "We sacrifice $15 million in lost sales tax revenue . . . it is pure lost revenue for no economic gain," he said.
Getting behind a sales tax holiday makes it harder to convince people later on that a serious fiscal crisis exists. It feeds into the already cynical attitude about government spending. If the state can afford to forgo that much revenue now, how can it say it doesn't have enough money later?
In his July 13 budget message to legislators, Patrick said, "We should prepare now for trouble ahead." Projected revenue drops could cause state revenues to drop below budget estimates, he wrote, threatening state programs, particularly "safety net services which play a fundamental role in protecting the well-being of the people in difficult economic times."
In the face of Patrick's own warnings, legislators this week are expected to take up a variety of spending bills, including a $3 billion capital facility bond bill and a $1.6 billion environmental bond bill. A $3 billion bridge repair bill is also pending, along with the $2.3 billion turnpike bailout, which Widmer called "the most fiscally risky proposal being given consideration by the Legislature during my 16 years as head of the Taxpayers Foundation."
All this is happening under a governor who won election on the pledge that he would provide substantive property tax relief. So far, promised tax relief comes in the form of a cheap gimmick, the sales tax holiday.
Said Widmer: "I don't know what the thinking is. The governor is sending confusing and inconsistent messages."
What's Patrick really thinking?
Maybe that his friend Barack Obama is going to be president, that he will be going with him to Washington, and that the Massachusetts budget mess will be someone else's problem.
Joan Vennochi can be reached at email@example.com.
"Governor launches energy task force: Seeks ways to help residents cope"
By Stephanie Ebbert, (Boston) Globe Staff, July 24, 2008
Governor Patrick and the leaders of the House and Senate are forming a task force to develop a plan to help citizens manage sky-high energy costs this winter - in part by getting them to embrace inexpensive energy-saving measures the state is already promoting.
The nine-member panel will spend two months considering ways to get people to carpool or take the T or to weatherize their homes. The panel also intends to coordinate with community organizations to create safety nets for people who cannot afford to heat their homes.
"People are feeling anxious about skyrocketing energy prices, and I share their concern," Patrick said in a statement. "The pinch will become tighter when the temperature drops and furnaces turn on. To avoid a crisis this winter, we need to do everything we can do now to help our citizens protect themselves against rising costs."
The average Massachusetts household is expected to spend more than $3,750 on heating oil this winter, compared with $1,800 just two winters ago. Since the winter of 2005-'06, the price of home heating oil has jumped 87 percent to $4.71 a gallon, according to the governor's office.
"It's going to be a hard winter for Massachusetts consumers with the cost of home heating oil having gone up so dramatically," said Ian A. Bowles, the state's secretary of energy and environmental affairs. "We in state government need to get mobilized now. I also think it's an opportunity to mobilize the outside parties - church groups, foundations, community organizations - recognizing that state government can only address a certain piece of the puzzle."
But one community activist said the state's heating assistance has been unreliable and will remain so if the state establishes a trust fund, as is being discussed, rather than budgeting funds annually to help people heat their homes. New England winters should not come as a surprise, said Robert M. Coard, president and chief executive officer of Action for Boston Community Development.
"I don't want to discourage politicians when they try to do good things," Coard said, "but we can't keep on this trust business. We've been delivering assistance for fuel in this climate for about 30 years."
The governor recently proposed $20 million for heat assistance in a supplemental budget, rather than the base annual spending plan. The Legislature has not yet taken action on that measure.
Massachusetts is still hoping for an increase from the federal government, which runs the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program but has reduced its spending in recent years. The federal aid would now help a homeowner with $503 of the cost of heat this winter, compared with $1,165 in federal and state aid last winter, Coard said.
The six New England governors recently asked the federal government to provide the region with $1 billion - up from $267 million - for heating assistance. And a delegation of New England lawmakers recently asked Congress for $9 billion in aid and to expand eligibility.
House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, Senate President Therese Murray, and the Republican leaders of each chamber will each appoint one legislator to the task force. The Patrick administration appointed Bowles; Leslie Kirwan, the state's secretary of administration and finance; Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, secretary of health and human services; Daniel O'Connell, secretary of housing and economic development; and Bernard Cohen, secretary of transportation and public works.
MICHAEL FORBES WILCOX
Richmond, Massachusetts: Deval Patrick hosts a picnic at Sweet P Farm
Start: Thursday, July 24, 2008 - 6:00pm
Location: Sweet P Farm, Richmond, Mass.
Governor Deval Patrick and Diane Patrick invite you to their home in Richmond for an evening of old friends and new ideas.
A picnic will take place from 6 PM to 8 PM for contributors of $250 or $500.
There will also be a pre-picnic reception at 5:30 PM for contributors of $1,000 or $5,500.
(July 24, 2008, 3 p.m.)
"Picnic with the Governor and First Lady July 24 at Sweet P Farm"
By Michael Forbes Wilcox
23 Supporters, $7,075 Raised
$__________, [CONTRIBUTE], Distributed among the recipients below
Berkshire County is a wonderful place to live, and Deval & Diane Patrick know that. They enjoy visiting their “farm” in Richmond whenever they can, and have longstanding personal connections to the area and a deep love for its beauty and culture.
Beyond that, Deval is proving to be a Governor that most Berkshirites can support. He believes in sound environmental stewardship, expansion of high-paying jobs, favors universal healthcare, and wants to see our educational system be second to none.
This is the second of what I hope will be an annual event that the Patricks have sponsored in their “Sweet P Farm” and it provides a great opportunity to visit their Berkshire home and wish them well. Tickets are $250 and $500 for a reception from 6 PM to 8 PM, and a pre-picnic reception at 5:30 PM is available for contributors of $1,000 or $5,500. Note that “tickets” are virtual—if you contribute on this page, your name will be added to the guest list; no paper documents will be issued.
More details will be posted as available on this web page
For more information about political activities in the Berkshires, visit my website: http://www.mfw.us, Michael Wilcox, Berkshire County Coordinator & Western Mass Co-Coordinator, Deval Patrick Committee; send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stockbridge, Massachusetts: Governor Dean to Headline Fundraiser for Senator Obama
Start: Saturday, August 2, 2008 - 5:00pm
Location: 24 Prospect Hill Road, Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
"Deval Patrick Expertly Plays the Game"
Governor Deval Patrick had a pretty good half-year, despite the death of his casino bill. The budget he signed on Sunday was largely his creation. He played ping-pong without much controversy. And, he finally showed some ability to use the press to his advantage when his daughter announced she’s gay.
The governor still has the golden touch, apparently. Today’s Globe reports that Patrick is paying off some of his campaign expenses by circumventing the state’s limit on how much an individual can donate to a candidate, and that very few people have gotten worked up over the move.
A picnic that will be held at Patrick’s estate in the Berkshires later this month has a $5,500 price tag. Five hundred dollars of the admission goes directly to the governor’s coffers, while the rest goes to the Massachusetts Democratic Party. Once the party cashes the check, they use the money to help the governor pay his bills.
Sure, it’s kind of sketchy. But the practice is legal, and looks to remain so for the foreseeable future, largely because no one can be bothered to pass legislation to prohibit the practice.
It’s almost as if he’s learned how to play politics.
“It is not on the table because other more contentious and pertinent issues have to be cleared up,” said Representative Garrett J. Bradley, a Democrat from Hingham and House chairman of the Joint Committee on Election Laws.
North Adams will use its share of state grant money for street repairs as well as improvements at the former armory, above, and at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink. (Scott Stafford / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
"North Adams, Great Barrington get grants"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Friday, July 25, 2008
NORTH ADAMS — Gov. Deval L. Patrick yesterday announced $26.7 million in grants to 55 cities and towns, including North Adams and Great Barrington, for infrastructure and housing rehabilitation.
North Adams will get $800,000 for public facility infrastructure improvements, and Great Barrington will receive $647,478 for design and infrastructure improvements, according to the announcement.
North Adams Mayor John Barrett III said his city's funds would be used to reconstruct three streets in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods, finish the parking lot and landscaping work at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink, and interior upgrades to the former armory.
"The largest portion is to finish off the skating rink, and we'll do several streets with that, and for improvement to the interior of the armory," Barrett said. "This is a continual process of trying to upgrade that."
Walter "Buddy" Atwood, chairman of the Great Barrington Board of Selectmen, said he wasn't sure which of three ongoing projects would use the funds announced yesterday.
During a morning conference call, Patrick said 256 low- and moderate-income homeowners will also benefit from the Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG, funds.
"I think it's significant that the largest concentration of investment will be in local infrastructure improvements and in housing rehabilitation," Patrick said. "We have a particular challenge here in Massachusetts in having to deal with the age of our housing stock. So we welcome these resources through CDBG grants and we're trying to bring some other resources to bear as well."
Patrick thanked the Massachusetts congressional delegation for helping to push the legislation through.
Sen. John M. Kerry, who also participated in the conference call, said that these funds were authorized by Congress despite efforts of the White House to derail the effort.
"For far too long the Bush Administration has been short-changing our cities and towns, making it harder for mayors across Massachusetts to help people and save neighborhoods," Kerry said. "By investing in economic development, housing and job creation, these CDBG awards are exactly the kind of thing we should be doing when the economy takes a downturn."
Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Lowell, said that during hearings in the House Budget Committee, "we made sure we enhanced the (CDBG) program even though the president had tried to reduce it seriously."
"It's been tiring the last few years with the Bush administration — having to fight them every single year on CDBG," agreed Rep. Michael E. Capuano, D-Boston. "So it's nice every time we win and it's particularly rewarding when the communities get the money."
He noted that these grants give rare opportunities to communities to improve their communities.
"As a former mayor, I can tell you the CDBG money is really the only money these poorer communities have to really improve the quality of life, to move forward," Capuano said. "All the rest of the money they get in state aid goes to the everyday things — police, fire, education, snowplowing."
Kerry said another raft of grants was on its way through Congress which, if passed, could net another $70 million for commonwealth communities.
This is the broad bill that provides $3.9 billion to get relief to distressed borrowers and gives the federal government authority to bail out troubled mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The bill passed the House Wednesday and is expected to be addressed by the Senate today or early next week.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson has expressed a need for urgency in distributing the funds authorized in the bill. Once the bill is signed, the money is expected to be sent to state coffers during the next few months for distribution by state agencies.
Other towns receiving a portion of these latest CDBG grants include Amherst, Greenfield, Milford and West Springfield.
New York governor David Paterson and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are sounding the alarm about budget deficits in their states; dozens of other states also face shortfalls due to reduced tax revenue. (ABC News Photo Illustration)
"Gloom and Doom: States Face Looming Budget Deficits: New York Governor David Paterson and California's Arnold Schwarzenegger Face Tough Times"
By MARCUS BARAM, July 30, 2008 —
Delaware legislators are considering allowing racetracks to operate 24 hours a day. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is threatening to cut the pay of thousands of state workers to minimum wage. And Nevada officials are encouraging their state police to drive less to save money on gas.
These are just some of the extraordinary measures being considered by states that face gaping budget deficits that total at least $40.3 billion, almost triple the shortfall the previous year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Squeezed by reduced tax revenue and suffering the impact of the housing crisis, the credit crunch and higher unemployment, states across the country are struggling with budget problems that mirror the weak condition of the economy, budget experts say.
"Reduced tax revenue is number one," says Brian Sigritz, staff associate at the National Association of State Budget Officers. "Sales taxes came in a lot lower than expected, were actually slightly lower than last year comparing the first quarters of the calendar year."
Sigritz notes the ripple effect of the housing crisis which impacts sales tax and real-estate transfer tax revenue. "Homes aren't being sold and if people are not doing home improvements, that hurts contractors and other workers and it all reduces the taxes brought in by states."
Across the country, 31 states are projecting budget gaps, and that number doesn't even include large states such as California, Illinois, Michigan and North Carolina, which have not yet completed their budgets.
And on Tuesday, New York Gov. David Paterson delivered a somber speech about the dire state of the state's economy, which he has compared to the fiscal crisis of the 1970s.
Paterson said that the state's $5 billion budget deficit will grow unless drastic spending cuts and layoffs are enacted.
Earlier this week, Schwarzenegger postponed his plan to reduce the salaries of California's 200,000 state workers to the minimum wage of $6.55 an hour to plug a $17 billion budget deficit.
As a whole, the budget crisis is most comparable to the downturn after the dot-com collapse which prompted budget gaps of $58 billion in 2002, $79 billion in 2003 and $83.78 billion in 2004, says Corina Eckl, director of Fiscal Affairs program at NCSL.
And was the case in those years, the crisis is expected to deepen in the next few years.
"Based on what legislative fiscal directors say, the state fiscal situation is expected to get worse before it gets better and most of them are bracing for tougher times," Eckl tells ABCNews.com.
The crisis has spared some energy and agricultural states, such as Texas, North Dakota, Montana and Alaska.
Record high prices for crops have helped give North Dakota a $740 million surplus this year, and its unemployment rate is nearly half the national 5.5 percent average. The state led the country in personal income growth in the first three months of this year, according to Stateline.org.
High oil prices have helped raise tax revenues and fueled job growth in Alaska and Texas, which could each see budget surpluses of $10 billion at the end of the year.
To plug their budget gaps, most states have avoided raising taxes and resorted to other measures such as spending cuts, trimming state payrolls, tapping reserve funds, using tobacco tax funds and expanding gambling.
Ten states cut Medicaid, Nevada drained its $267-million rainy-day fund and Rhode Island is allowing casinos to stay open 24 hours a day for three days a week.
Some spending cuts have hurt the most vulnerable elements of the population.
Florida cut $332 million from the K-12 classroom budget. And in Illinois, governor Rod Blagojevich slashed $1.4 billion in social services.
As a result, Safe Haven, a facility for homeless and drug-addicted mothers and their children, lost the majority of funding for their "Women with Children Program." The $1.3 million program lost $900,000 of their funding, says Brian Dawson, the founder and manager of Safe Haven.
About 51 of the 120 women and children in the program are being redirected to a local church and at least 13 staffers will be laid off, says Dawson.
"It's devastating," he explains. "These are people who have nowhere to go. You can't just put women and children in the street."
"Patrick ponders big cuts as state revenue tumbles"
By Casey Ross, Boston Globe Staff, September 20, 2008
Governor Deval Patrick's administration is considering widespread emergency cuts in the state budget after tax collections plummeted by $200 million in the first two weeks of September, fueling fears of a deeper financial crisis as the nation's economic outlook worsens.
The precipitous drop puts the state's revenue far below what state officials had budgeted for this point in the fiscal year that began July 1, according to a Department of Revenue report. Moreover, officials expect the budget situation to worsen as the turmoil in the nation's financial markets weakens the economy, resulting in lower tax revenues for the state.
"The current economy and its impact on the state are going to complicate what's already been a challenging budget problem," said Leslie Kirwan, Patrick's secretary of administration and finance, who has grappled with consecutive $1 billion budget deficits. "We will be watching this very closely for the rest of the month."
The state anticipated it would collect about $1.1 billion in the first two weeks of September. Instead, it generated only $889 million, an 18.4 percent drop from the same period last year. Overall, budget officials hoped to end the month $80 million ahead of September 2007 collections, a threshold that now seems unreachable given the shaky economy.
The Revenue Department report attributed the drop to weak collections from payroll taxes, which were down $73 million, and anemic revenues from corporate business taxes. Those collections dropped $84 million from a year ago. The state also generates revenues from sales taxes, income taxes, capital gains taxes from investments, and other sources.
Kirwan said the numbers in the Department of Revenue report caused the administration this week to ask managers to comb their books to ensure that salary accounts are being kept level and that merit raises have been suspended.
The report indicated that collections could rebound in the latter weeks of September because the majority of revenue is processed at the end of the month.
But Kirwan said she expects that emergency budget cuts will be necessary and that Patrick would implement them throughout the executive branch in October. She added that it is impossible to know the size and focus of the cuts until the budget picture becomes clearer.
"We're going to take a hard look at everything," she said.
If revenues continue to decline, she said, the governor would seek expanded powers to spread the cuts across state government, to accounts that pay for everything from the judiciary to services in cities and towns.
Under state law, Patrick must get approval from the state Legislature to make cuts to accounts outside the executive branch. That power has not been granted since 2003, when former governor Mitt Romney implemented sweeping mid-year reductions in the face of a spiraling deficit.
Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said the state must make immediate spending reductions. "The September numbers are very sobering," he said.
He noted the numbers in the revenue report do not reflect capital gains taxes, which are expected to decline given the turbulence in the stock market. "The big hit is yet to strike," he said.
Top lawmakers declined comment on the budget outlook last night. However, Senate President Therese Murray, a Plymouth Democrat, has called for an unusual meeting on Monday to examine the state's finances. Expected to attend are Kirwan, state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, and budget leaders in the House and Senate.
Unlike the federal government, the state cannot run a deficit and must finish the fiscal year with a balanced budget.
Seeing signs of an economic slowdown, Patrick has been planning for the possibility of budget cuts for several months and has asked managers in all executive agencies to identify services that could be trimmed. He has also implemented restrictions on hiring and has cut spending on salaries and benefits for employees.
Compounding this year's problem is how much the federal government will reimburse the state for healthcare programs. The state had planned to receive $3.5 billion for this fiscal year, but negotiations have dragged on past the June 30 deadline. If federal aid falls short, that could force more budget cuts.
The state also faces rising costs associated with its universal healthcare law, which has led to higher-than-expected enrollment in state-funded insurance programs. Patrick proposed a plan to raise an additional $130 million from employers and insurers to help fund the new law.
State officials are also grappling with the impact of the stock market turmoil on the state's pension fund, which is down nearly 8 percent so far this year. That's far better than US stocks, which are down about 14 percent so far, but the fund typically has higher returns because of its diversified investment strategy.
Cahill noted the pension fund is not overly reliant on stocks.
"We're long-term investors, and I have confidence that we are well positioned to rebound," he said. "But it won't be a pretty year."
Casey Ross can be reached at email@example.com. Kay Lazar of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
"Patrick prepares to cut budget as financial crisis unfolds"
By Matt Viser, Boston Globe Staff, October 1, 2008
Governor Deval Patrick, facing the biggest fiscal challenge of his term, is confronting difficult decisions about which priorities he can pursue and which he may have to abandon as state leaders assess how severely the national financial crisis will slam Massachusetts.
While seeking publicly to steady a volatile financial situation, Patrick and his team have been scrambling behind the scenes to assess the damage to state tax revenues and credit availability and preparing various cutback scenarios in case the meltdown gets worse.
Other state officials, meanwhile, are hunkering down for major work at a time normally set aside for re-election campaigns. Travel plans among top leaders are being canceled, one notable casualty being a trade mission to Ireland that was to include Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray.
Among the items up for discussion are whether to draw from the $1.8 billion remaining in the state's reserve account, and, if so, when to do it and how much. Emergency powers for the governor to cut further into the budget also are on the table, but so far the Legislature has balked.
"It's hard to say we're going to do A, B, C, or D until we figure out if we've hit bottom yet," Senate President Therese Murray said yesterday. "And I don't know if anyone knows the answer to that."
How the governor deals with the current fiscal challenge - and whether he can fulfill expensive campaign promises to lower property taxes, put more police on the streets, and reform education - is likely to define the middle phase of his four-year term.
"There are a number of challenges," Patrick said yesterday at a State House press conference announcing a Medicaid waiver deal with the federal government that will help pay for insurance coverage for Massachusetts residents. "This is one, and a big one that we can set aside. . . . But there remain some challenges."
The first major challenge is a large shortfall in tax revenues. Tax collections for September were estimated to be about $200 million less than originally forecast, according to three sources briefed on figures that will be finalized as early as today. While those figures indicate that revenue stabilized in the second half of the month after a rocky first two weeks, being in the hole so early in the year is worrisome.
"So far September is a disaster," Representative John Binienda, the House chairman of the Joint Committee on Revenue, said in an interview. "It's very scary what's going on out there."
Sales taxes and corporate excise taxes have been steadily declining, largely as a result of the slumping economy. Withholding taxes have also declined.
Patrick is meeting this week with members of a panel of economic advisers that he announced in January. The panel includes Cathy Minehan, the former president and chief executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston; Gloria Larson, the president of Bentley College; and James Stock, chairman of the Department of Economics at Harvard University.
Patrick already instituted a number of spending controls starting in August - including preventing any increases in payroll costs and postponing any planned merit pay increases - and is expected to take further steps. In July, he asked agencies to develop cost-cutting plans, which the administration is currently reviewing.
"Nothing is more difficult for a governor," said former governor Michael Dukakis, who faced two economic crises. "Believe me, nobody's going to give you a medal for this kind of thing. It's gonna be painful. It's difficult."
There has been a shift in recent weeks from talk of expanding initiatives to merely limiting the pain. It means that the governor's hopes of putting more police officers on the streets, creating more jobs, and lowering property taxes may have to be tabled, or other areas of the budget will have to be drastically cut.
"He has no choice," said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. "He's been dealt his hand, and it's exactly opposite of what he wanted. It's a 180-degree difference. He's been talking about expanding programs. Now the question is how deep will the cuts be?"
Widmer, whose business-funded budget watchdog group has been warning of a $1.5 billion "structural deficit" in the budget and now thinks it will get worse, said the governor should consider $250 million in cuts within the next week or so - and also telegraph that it may be only the first of several rounds.
One area that may prove difficult for Patrick to fund is the Readiness Project, an ambitious initiative that includes increasing access to early childhood education, lengthening school days in some districts, and making community college free for all students."
"In better economic times there's an ability to expand programs and initiatives that are great investments for us in Massachusetts, like the readiness program," House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi said yesterday. "When the revenues are not coming in because of a crisis like this, we have to start looking at changing our views on many of these things. Sometimes you just have to provide the services you're providing today."
The state has a nice cushion with the $1.8 billion in a reserve account - one of the largest of any state in the country - but fiscal watchdogs warned against tapping that fund too early.
"It's clearly a precarious situation," said Noah Berger, executive director of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. "What's going on in the national economy means everybody has to step back and recognize that plans for the future are likely to look very different a month from now than they do today. But we don't know what those changes will be."
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Governor announces budget cuts; staff, services to be affected"
The Boston Globe Online, October 2, 2008, 1:40 PM
By Matt Viser and Martin Finucane, Globe Staff
Citing lagging revenues and warning that the “road ahead will be rough,” Governor Deval Patrick this morning outlined a slate of spending cuts and long-term reforms, including dismantling the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.
With state revenues falling $188 million behind expectations in September, Patrick said his administration would identify "hundreds of millions of dollars" in cuts before Oct. 15. He said the cuts would have an impact on both state services and the state workforce.
“I know that what I have outlined will not be easy,” he told reporters and television cameras in a room next to his corner office. “Behind every one of the cuts we make or reforms we propose is a family, a small business, a nonprofit, or a worthy idea. However, as disruptive as these cuts may be, the circumstances demand action.”
Patrick acknowledged that some of his other long-term initiatives may have to be curtailed, but he also did not rule out reviving his casino gambling legislation as a new source of revenue.
“We’ll have to see,” Patrick said, when asked whether he’ll refile the proposal to license three resort casinos. “It’s a new legislative session coming up in January, and we’re developing that agenda now.”
The Department of Revenue reported today that revenue for the first quarter had come in $223 million below expectations without counting nonrecurring payments. Counting those one-time payments, revenues were lagging $143 million behind what was expected. September was the worst of the three months, with revenues dropping $188 million.
Patrick said he believed the numbers signaled "worse news ahead" during a time when the nation is in an economic downturn, credit is tight, and Wall Street is volatile.
Patrick said he asked State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill to help develop legislation to overhaul the pension systems of the state and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The governor would not provide any cost-saving estimates. He is also putting Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray in charge of an administration-wide effort to merge offices and consolidate departments.
The governor, following meetings yesterday with all of the state’s top officials, also said he had asked legislative leaders, the chief justice of the state's courts, and the other constitutional officers to trim their budgets.
Patrick, who has been rebuffed by House and Senate lawmakers in his efforts to get expanded budget-cutting authority, said this morning that he may not need the additional powers if there are enough voluntary cuts.
In a show of solidarity, Patrick said he would cut his own department by 7 percent, which amounts to about $600,000.
But in an effort to one-up the governor in spending cuts, House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray put out a joint statement this afternoon saying they would go beyond the governor’s request for 7 percent cuts. They will give him 10 percent, which amounts to $9.1 million.
“The Legislature agrees with the Governor on the need to make cuts now across state agencies,” read the statement. “…We will cooperate in that effort and in our continuing efforts to find greater savings and efficiencies in state government.”
Meanwhile, Republicans today have started criticizing the governor – as well as the Democrats in the state Legislature -- for not trimming the budget passed in July in anticipation of financial problems ahead.
"Governor Patrick signed a budget increasing spending by $1.4 billion, authorized $16 billion in new borrowing, and has hiked taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars this year,” Barney Keller, spokesman for the state Republican Party, said in a statement.
“The immediate pickle we’re in is because we didn’t tighten our belts earlier in the year with the budget,” Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei said in an interview.
As the Globe reported this morning, the proposal to abolish the Turnpike Authority is now only a broad concept. The governor announced that he is asking the secretary of transportation, Bernard Cohen, to draft legislation with details as soon as January when the Legislature reconvenes. Cohen was notably absent from the press conference this morning.
There are numerous questions left unanswered, including how much money would be saved by shutting down the agency. While financial benefits might be realized in the future if the Legislature passes the overhaul next year, it does not appear it would ease what officials have said is an urgent need for large toll increases on the turnpike and Big Dig tunnels now.
Cohen has said the administration does not believe toll hikes are necessary, but Patrick and his aides have not outlined how they think increases can be avoided without defaulting on the authority's debt. When asked about raising the gas tax to help alleviate the debt, Patrick said, “That’s not my first choice” and “it’s a crummy time” for such a proposal.
Patrick also this morning did not rule out abolishing tolls on the turnpike, saying “the jury’s still out and we’ll have to see” whether the tolls will stay up as part of his restructuring plan. Such a move could be politically popular, but could also further strap state finances. The state is expected to collect $285 million in tolls this year.
Tolls are the source for paying off bonds that were used to help build the Big Dig. When former Governor Mitt Romney sought to abolish the authority, he was thwarted by a host of legal, financial, and political barriers.
It is unclear how Patrick plans to surmount those hurdles. But he appears to have several advantages over Romney, including a much better working relationship with a Democratic Legislature; a fiscal crisis that lends a sense of urgency to passing a plan that promises long-term cost savings; and a chairman of the Turnpike Authority who is a Patrick appointee. Romney faced resistance from the former chairman, Matthew J. Amorello.
"Beacon Hill Roll Call", By Bob Katzen/ Correspondent, (week ending) Friday, September 19, 2008 - Boston, Massachusetts -
THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives and senators' votes on three roll calls from prior legislative sessions. There were no roll call votes in the House or Senate last week.
$1 MILLION FOR CHILDREN WITH AUTISM (H 4900)
House 154-3, Senate 38-0, overrode Gov. Deval Patrick's $1 million veto reduction (from 6,264,413 to $5,264,413) in funding for services to children with autism. Supporters of keeping the $1 million said that this would double from 80 to 160 the number of children with autism that would be given the vital social, behavioral and communication services that they desperately need. In his veto message, Patrick said that he reduced the funding to the amount projected to be necessary. (A "Yes" vote is for overriding Patrick's reduction and for keeping the $1 million. A "No" vote is against overriding Patrick's reduction and against keeping the $1 million).
$5 MILLION FOR SEWER RATE RELIEF (H 4900)
House 139-15, Senate 35-1, overrode Gov. Patrick's $5 million veto reduction (from $20 million to $15 million) in funding for sewer rate relief for customers in the communities in the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) district, the South Essex Sewerage District and some other communities across the state. Supporters of keeping the $5 million said that these funds would help more than 100 communities reduce skyrocketing sewer rates for their overburdened citizens. They argued that there are also programs in the budget that help ratepayers in communities that do not receive these funds. In his veto message, Patrick said that he reduced the funding to an amount consistent with his original budget recommendation. Some opponents of keeping the $5 million said that it is unfair for taxpayer money to be used to help only residents of a few communities and argued that there are other residents across the state that could use direct rate relief. They noted that the rate relief programs in the budget for non-MWRA ratepayers are not outright grants or loans. (A "Yes" vote is for overriding Patrick's reduction and for keeping the $5 million. A "No" vote is against overriding Patrick's reduction and against keeping the $5 million).
$40 MILLION FOR BROADBAND ACCESS (H 4864 and S 2796)
House 147-0 and 154-0, Senate 37-0 and 38-0, approved and Gov. Patrick signed into law legislation providing $40 million to fund an initiative to bring high speed internet to underserved parts of the state by 2010. Supporters said that the high price tag has discouraged the private sector from paying the entire bill for expansion into many areas, mostly in the Western part of the state. They argued that it is time for the state to intervene and assist and noted that there are 63 communities with no broadband access and 32 with limited access. They said that the expansion would enhance businesses, increases jobs and property values and improve education, public safety and health care access. Although no legislators voted against the expansion, some critics argue that private companies, not the state, should fund the expansion. The first roll call in each branch is on earlier versions of the proposal. The second roll call is on approval of the final version of the measure. (A "Yes" vote is for the $40 million expansion).
Gov. Deval L. Patrick told supporters yesterday at Town Hall in Great Barrington: 'I'm interested in policy and how it touches all of you.'
"They asked; Patrick answered: The governor pays a visit to Great Barrington to take questions and trade jokes."
By Derek Gentile, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
GREAT BARRINGTON — He cracked jokes. He waded into the crowd and got up close and personal with the people who asked him questions. And if it seemed, at times, more than a little informal, yesterday's town meeting between Gov. Deval L. Patrick and a crowd of 200 was certainly a different approach from that of many previous chief executives of the commonwealth.
"I think it's awesome," said Jules Jensen of the Railroad Street Youth Project. "It's certainly different from what I've seen before."
"I'm not interested in policy for abstract reasons," Patrick said before he strode out into the crowd at the gazebo behind Town Hall. "I'm interested in policy and how it touches all of you.
This event was the ninth in a series of 11 Massachusetts town hall meetings held by the governor designed to put him in better touch with the public.
"What we are working on (in Boston)," he said, "is a purposeful agenda: How can we create economic opportunity across the Commonwealth? And to do that, we need to talk to you."
"So," he said, "ask me anything you like. I may not be able to answer, but we have folks here with clipboards to take contact information and we'll get back to you."
As people filed onto the grounds, what might be called "light" rock music from the Bee Gees, Beatles, Monkees and Bobby Darin filtered out of the public address system.
Patrick arrived about 6:10 p.m. and spent about 15 minutes shaking hands and having his picture taken with several supporters. Then, after Selectman Margaret Beckwith introduced him, he took the microphone.
"It's good to be back in the Berkshires," he said.
There was no shortage of questions.
Lee Barnes, an elementary librarian in the Pittsfield School District, suggested the state might want to look at mandated levels of funding for school libraries and staff.
Patrick said he supported more school library funding, but told Barnes that his administration was trying to stay away from more state mandates.
"I'm not really interested in any more mandates without funding," he said. "We have a lot of mandates without funding already."
In a similar vein, he agreed with Ellen Holmes of Ashburnham that the commonwealth should try to work with school districts to shift at least some of the funding for special needs students to insurance companies and away from school districts.
"I don't like what I'm hearing about special-education funding," he said. "It seems layered with issues. I think if we can shift some of the cost of SPED students to insurance companies, it would help our school districts a lot."
In response to a comment by Jensen, Patrick lauded the recently formed Massachusetts Youth Council, a youth-run state agency that will advocate for youth issues.
"The point of this government is to get as broad a range of perspectives as possible, then make decisions," he told Jensen.
Fathers rights advocate Rinaldo del Gallo of Pittsfield expressed some frustration that a bill advocating joint parenting was not moving through the Legislature.
"I'm sympathetic to the issue," Patrick said. "But I want you to know that some of the bills I file don't move, either. There is no magic formula here."
Patrick told Ronald Patenaude, head of the local chapter of the United Auto Workers, that he agreed that there should be a "reasonable" ratio of nurses to patients in hospitals, just as there is a mandated ratio of teachers to students in schools.
"We need to find a way to (do that)," he said.
There were many light moments. Patrick called Jensen "Eric" at one point, and when Jensen joked about his unusual first name, the governor said, "Well, you know my (first) name, and I've been called everything, too."
Will Ryan, of Alford, asked, "Are you having fun? Are you enjoying this?"
"I am," said Patrick. "It's not always easy, but I'm having a ball. I went eagle-banding the other day. I'm not going to tell you I went up the mountain and got the eagles. They came down the mountain."
Patrick said he misses his wife, whom he doesn't see often enough.
"That's a drawback," he said. "But my favorite thing is, I like to get out of the corner office. I like being here. The fulfillment in the substance of the work, is when policy touches people."
The Boston Globe, Column, KEVIN CULLEN
"Snake eyes in Berkshires"
By Kevin Cullen, (Boston) Globe Columnist, August 14, 2008
RICHMOND, Mass. - Many moons ago, our esteemed governor suggested that the way we should rebuild our bridges, our schools, our communities, our confidence is to build some casinos where people could spend their money like drunken sailors and rebuild the state coffers.
I was dismissive, suggesting it is positively immoral to raise revenue on the backs of people who, every study shows, have the lowest incomes. The idea of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts supplanting the mob, plying the populace with vice, and doing a better job at marketing it than the wise guys is kind of, um, skeezy.
But having read the report touting the economic gains casinos would bring our impoverished Commonwealth, and having spent a few days driving around the Berkshires - "America's Premier Cultural Resort," the signs say - I have seen the light, and it bounces off Jiminy Peak and extends all the way to this bucolic hamlet hard by the New York border.
Now, I know that report says the governor's job-creation estimates were a bit off. But what's 27,000 jobs between friends? Besides, I have found, in this beautiful hill town, the perfect spot for one of the casinos. Richmond shares a name with what was the capital of the Confederacy. This is all karma, begging us to create a new form of slavery: slaves to craps, blackjack, and slots.
The locals speak of the recent toga party the governor threw for legislators at his remote estate here in hushed tones, the way people in Roswell recall that UFO landing back in 1947, with a mix of fear and awe.
Never have the good people of Richmond met more guys wearing Sansabelt pants and reeking of halitosis that could melt the glaciers. Folks at roadside farm stands report of men roughly the size of manatees emerging from cars with low-number license plates to ask in barely discernible accents the same question: "Where's the closest packie?"
After getting directions, our honorable representatives, without exception, asked a follow-up: "How late they open?"
You may find this shocking, but the locals report that none of our solons took the road in the middle of town that leads to Tanglewood. This, I'm afraid, is what our glorious governor has to work with. And for that we should bless him and pray for him.
Now, one of my heroes in Richmond is the great Fran Malnati. Fran is a farmer, but more important he is an EMT and a firefighter who has volunteered his service for half a century.
Fran Malnati is The Man.
Fran loves the governor, and he loves Diane Patrick even more, because the first lady of Massachusetts is a lady, first. Fran has been up to the governor's spread. Unlike me. I never get invited to any of these swell places.
But Fran Malnati isn't big on casinos.
Fran Malnati has seen all sorts of terrible things, fatal accidents on the Pike, bad fires, suicides, you name it. But he could never, in his worst nightmares, imagine the sight of my aunts from Southie, armed with fanny packs and plastic cups full of quarters, jumping off the train at Richmond, looking for the slots.
Jumping off the train like hobos is what they would have to do, because there is no station in Richmond. Neither is there a store. There's just a post office and the volunteer fire department. Most of the trains that pass through are industrial in nature.
"They take the garbage through," Fran Malnati was saying. "Don't know where it goes. It just goes."
It just goes. Sounds like the casino plan.
Fran, you're still The Man.
Aunt May, I wasn't referring to you when I mentioned the fanny packs. Swear to God.
And Governor Patrick, just one question: Would you put a casino here?
If the answer is no, don't ask anybody else to put it in their backyard.
Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.
"Governor can talk the talk"
By Alan Chartock, Weekly Columnist, The Berkshire Eagle
Saturday, August 09, 2008
GREAT BARRINGTON, Massachusetts
Put simply, Deval Patrick is a political communicator of the first order. I taught this stuff at the college and graduate level for a long time, so I hope I know the real thing when I see it. There are some things you can teach people about how to communicate, but I think, that like Yo-Yo playing the cello or Mark Volpe running the Boston Symphony, geniuses are born. That certain "extra something" amounts to a genius gene.
Let's face it — no matter how many hours you practiced, you could never play like Yo-Yo, nor could you communicate like our next door Berkshire neighbor, Deval Patrick.
I watched as our governor conducted his Great Barrington town meeting. The choice of setting was perfect. Even the best Pittsfield mayor ever, Jimmy Ruberto, came down from his Metropolis (junior grade) to a scene that could have been drawn by Norman Rockwell. It was a perfect day, a perfect evening. The plan was to move across the street to the Mahaiwe in case of rain but the crowd wouldn't have filled the place and the air of informality would have been destroyed. That kind of planning takes genius, too.
It was, however, the way Deval Patrick conducted the hour- long session that was particularly outstanding. First of all, when someone asked a question he remembered that person's name and kept going back to it again and again. I don't know how he does it but I really have to learn that secret. He actually remembers the person's name. So if the first guy's name was Jules and he was talking to Barbara three people later, he would go back to his conversation with Jules and refer to Jules' earlier comment. I am quite sure that neither Barbara nor Jules will ever forget the day that they mattered to a sitting governor.
The man really demonstrates integrity. Anyone can try to make someone happy by giving them what they want. If someone asks a governor about why marijuana use can't be liberalized, the governor might be expected to go along, particularly if he agreed with the thrust of the question. Deval Patrick didn't do that. He gave factual, considered answers but he didn't get himself into trouble by making the questioners believe that he agreed with them if he wasn't ready to move. I can't tell you how many politicians I have seen tripped up by not looking for the potential potholes before they hit them. Plus, Patrick's questioners seemed to end up quite happy.
Deval Patrick has the ability to use a question to make a point, not necessarily the point the questioner was aiming for. Barbara Dean, one of Great Barrington's great liberal voices, wanted to get Patrick going on the war in Iraq. Her good point was that we are squandering precious resources that could be used to reduce suffering here at home. She chose to preface her question by referring to New York Gov. David Paterson's proclamation of pending fiscal calamity in New York and suggested that it was the war that was causing so much fiscal havoc in this country.
Patrick went on to give some very interesting comparative news when he suggested that Massachusetts was in good shape as compared to New York. He also talked about the war "being the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time."
His use of humor was terrific. I have heard him tell it before, but his story about how the policeman followed him from Richmond to Great Barrington's Division Street never fails to amuse me. The story is that when he was first governor, he went out for a bike ride and the state trooper assigned to his detail insisted on being included because it was his job.
"But we only have one bike," said the governor." "That's all right," said the trooper, "I'll follow you in the car." Deval Patrick took an hour to get from Richmond to Division Street but when he turned around to go back he saw lots of blue lights and a bunch of cars backed up to who knows where. He made it clear that wasn't going to happen again. From now on, troopers would ride their own bikes. People who can tell those kinds of self-deprecating stories really understand comedy and communication.
I loved it when Patrick said that the only thing he wished about these town meetings was that "they (pointing to the photographers and TV cameras) weren't here to record my mistakes." As readers of this column will remember, I put my money early on Deval Patrick. I have never been sorry.
Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.
August 18, 2008
Dear ALAN CHARTOCK, et al:
You are full of b.s.! Deval Patrick is a TERRIBLE Governor! Massachusetts has never been worse off financially since the insolvent provincial government of our founders who protested higher taxes in the face of their own bankruptcy. Please read my email, below.
And how you can say Jimmy Ruberto is the best governor ever, I will never know. Pittsfield's schools are in the bottom 10 in the commonwealth, social problems like teen pregnancies and welfare caseloads are skyrocketing, job loss continues, PCBs toxic waste sites are still a problem, taxes have increased year after year after year, and the like.
It is people like you, Alan, that drive me to mental illness! You must have pictures of George Orwell and George W. Bush hanging in your office.
Jonathan A. Melle
--- On Wed, 8/13/08, Jonathan A. Melle
Dear Berkshire Eagle, et al:
Your editorial today defending Governor Patrick's veto of a pension boost for state retirees was MYOPIC. Governor Patrick has gone against EVERY campaign promise since his FALSE populist promises in 2006. Moreover, Massachusetts has never been in worst financial shape since our "Founders" declared a revolution against King George III. This terrible fiscal reality for Massachusetts has occurred during Governor Patrick's ineffective tenure!
Please read my Blog pages on the "Deval-uator"!
On TIM MURRAY:
On BILL WELD & BIG DIG:
On "Healthcare Reform":
Photo by Stuart Cahill.
"State payroll swells as economy tanks"
By Joe Dwinell, August 25, 2008, www.bostonherald.com, Local Coverage
Gov. Deval Patrick has added almost 2,000 new workers to the state payroll in the past year even as he warns of dire budget cuts in the face of a $1 billion deficit, a Herald review shows.
And his administration continues to dole out millions in overtime, with nearly 80 prison guards raking in more than $100,000.
A mid-year Herald payroll analysis reveals that since July 2007, the number of state jobs has jumped by about 1,900, many of them new hires in the Department of Correction and MassHighway.
The soaring payroll comes at a time when the state is stepping in to bail out a debt-ridden Mass Pike and being asked to do the same for the MBTA, and the governor is requesting special powers to cut the budget this fall if the local economy continues tanking.
“It’s very worrisome,” Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute, said of the hiring frenzy. “It’s a problem, given that we’re probably heading into a recession, and we’ve been borrowing extensively.”
Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said the state’s report to the bond market last week also shows a disturbing work-force hike.
“This trend is very troubling given the huge economic uncertainties,” Widmer said. “This is the time we should at least hold the payroll constant.”
Stergios noted the state’s “budget-funded” work force has risen steadily over the past five years by more than 5,500 employees.
And, he pointed out, once you hire a new state worker, “it’s forever.” Hefty pensions and health benefits come with the package.
In early July, Patrick asked lawmakers to grant him extraordinary budget-slashing power to make emergency cuts if the economy takes another turn for the worse.
“We’ve got to prepare for the economic trouble ahead,” the governor said at the time.
For his part, Comptroller Martin J. Benison said the state payroll fluctuates, with the average number of paychecks cut by his office this year hovering around 104,500.
Paul Dietl, head of the state’s Human Resources Department, said the current $5.3 billion payroll “is consistent with previous years.”
Meanwhile, spokesmen for various state departments argue bridges must be repaired, prisoners guarded and universities staffed.
Department of Correction officials defend the scores of $100,000-plus prison guards as a necessary evil.
“The DOC is a 24/7 public safety operation with staffing requirements,” said DOC spokeswoman Diane Wiffin.
Wiffin declined to comment on new hires for prisons, saying staffing details are confidential.
Jobs are also being added at Mass Highway, said department spokesman Klark Jessen, mostly because bridge repairs are now on the fast track under the state’s Accelerated Bridge Program.
As for the University of Massachusetts system - home to some of the state’s top-paid employees - it’s the price you have to pay for “leaders in their fields,” said UMass spokesman Robert P. Connolly.
The UMass system, he said, boasts almost 18,000 employees, up by less than 100 since January.
As for the lofty pay, Connolly said UMass “benchmarks” salaries with “peer institutions” to attract top talent to the state.
But Barbara Anderson, founder of Citizens for Limited Taxation, said it’s time for state officials to get off “the gravy train.”
“They just don’t get it. It’s over. Even in Massachusetts, there’s a limit,” she said. “We’ve reached that time.”
Article URL: www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/general/view.bg?articleid=1114920
"Patrick plan in peril?"
Matt Murphy, Berkshire Eagle Boston Bureau
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
BOSTON — Free community college. Universal pre-kindergarten. Longer school days.
These are just a few of Gov. Deval L. Patrick's ambitious goals for education reform over the next decade that will undoubtedly carry a hefty price tag once the governor's task force finishes pricing out the wish-list.
As the Patrick administration prepares for what could be deep budget cuts next month forced by the struggling economy and turmoil on Wall Street, his administration is pushing forward with the governor's Readiness Project and all of its reforms.
"We're not backing off anything because of the fiscal problems we face right now," one top adviser to Patrick told The Eagle.
The Readiness Project also includes a number of potential cost savers such as regionalization of small, suburban districts to avoid duplication in administrative costs.
Education Secretary Paul Reville said regionalization is at the top of his priority list and decisions will have to made fast to save money for cities and towns to be used in other areas of need.
Schools making sacrifices
"Some school districts are going to have to sacrifice autonomy in order to save jobs and help their students," Reville said following a public hearing on the 2010 budget in Roxbury.
The administration's unwavering stand in the face of potentially dire economic times, of course, comes with a caveat.
The Readiness Project, unveiled by the Patrick administration this summer, laid out a 10-year blueprint for education reform giving the governor the flexibility to delay some of the more expensive proposals until years from now when surpluses could again be the norm.
A task force charged with costing out each of the 55 proposals in the Readiness Project and coming up with short- and long-term strategies for paying for those programs is due to make its final report sometime this November.
"It feels like a tsunami. Our backs are against the wall," Reville said.
Until the final report, Reville said the focus will be on finding efficiencies and cost savings within the current system. However, he has not ruled out in past comments of "going to the taxpayers" to fund programs that are necessary.
'The middle class has been decimated'
State Rep. Kevin Murphy, chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education, said he has not been told of any new direction by the administration. He warned, however, that now is not the time to be pushing a big-ticket agenda.
"Do you know how much money people have lost in their mutual funds and 401k in the past two weeks?" said Murphy, D-Lowell. "The middle class has been decimated. What are we going to do, say we're going to fund free community college and then up everyone's taxes?"
Reville kicked off a series of regional budget meetings last night, during which he and the state's top education officials discussed how the 2010 budget will be crafted and how each agency within the Executive Office of Education will work together.
He said next year would prove to be a "challenging budget process." The panel included Reville, Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, acting Early Education Commissioner Amy Kershaw, acting Higher Education Commissioner Aundrea Kelley, and UMass finance chief Steve Lenhardt.
Kershaw said she hoped to see a continued expansion of money for pre-kindergarten programs, and Kelley said free community college tuition was at the top of her priorities.
'We're trying to work with districts'
New revenues along with cost savings both will be part of the overall strategy in implementing Readiness reforms, but officials said any discussion of asking the public for new taxes is a long way off.
"We're not asking anyone to do anything that we won't do ourselves.
We're trying to work with school districts to find out how we can do business better; how can we better spend our money," Palumbo said.
"Until we get our house in order, I don't think it's fair to even broach that topic."
Eagle Boston Bureau reporter Lyle Moran contributed to this report.
"Patrick to cut 1,000 jobs from state payroll: Will slash budget $1b; local aid is left intact"
By Matt Viser, Boston Globe Staff, October 16, 2008
Governor Deval Patrick said yesterday that he will eliminate 1,000 jobs from state government and slash the budget by more than $1 billion, reacting to the national economic crisis with sweeping cuts that his administration called the worst single round of midyear budget rollbacks in state history.
The reductions will be spread across almost all sectors of state government, biting deeply into state university campuses and community colleges, the state's health insurance programs, and dozens of social service programs - from assistance for at-risk teens to services for the mentally ill and the elderly.
The cuts range from a hit of nearly $300 million on healthcare spending to the elimination of letters to residents simply reminding them to get their driver's licenses renewed.
Thus far, the governor is sparing local aid to cities and towns and funding for urgently needed bridge repairs. The list of cuts, even targeting populations like disabled adults and the blind, is notable because the reductions come from a Democratic governor who has made protecting disadvantaged populations a core theme of his administration.
"I know you are anxious. There is real cause for concern. But not for panic," Patrick told state residents during a State House briefing televised live late yesterday afternoon. "Just like families all across the Commonwealth, the state government is feeling the pinch."
The governor struck a tone of sympathy for the pain people will feel because of the budget cuts, but he also sought to portray the crisis as manageable and under control.
"People will feel these cuts in certain services," Patrick said. "Expect longer waits at the Registry of Motor Vehicles; expect less community policing patrols; expect slower permitting approvals; expect less frequent maintenance of our parks and open spaces."
Massachusetts and states from New York to California have been forced to revise budgets approved just months earlier in response to the national meltdown in credit markets, plummeting stock and real estate values, and an economy that appears to be tumbling toward a recession. Patrick said the state's job reductions will be accomplished by making a combination of layoffs, not filling open positions, and encouraging current employees to retire.
In revised revenue estimates yesterday, the administration predicted the slumping economy will take such a toll that the state will bring in $1.1 billion less revenue than expected this year.
The biggest drop-off is in income taxes, with the state predicting it will get $515 million less than projected. Combined with about $300 million in unbudgeted costs such as increases in social service caseloads, the state faces a $1.4 billion budget gap.
In addition to making $755 million in immediate cuts, the governor said another $146 million in expected spending requests will not be funded. Offices not under the governor's control - including the attorney general, the Legislature, and the state treasurer - agreed to cut $52 million.
Some of the heaviest cuts, $293 million, are in the state's Medicaid program, known as MassHealth, but there will be no reduction in benefits or eligibility for covered residents said Cyndi Roy, spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Administration and Finance. Instead, hospitals and doctors who provide care for MassHealth patients will receive lower reimbursements for the services they provide.
Just two years ago, the state boosted reimbursement rates to these providers as a key part of its landmark healthcare law.
Last night, the Massachusetts Hospital Association issued a statement that said the cuts will create "extreme hardship for many hospitals and the communities they serve."
Officials at the University of Massachusetts, which saw its $492 million budget reduced by $24.6 million, or 5 percent, said they would trim staff and consolidate facilities to avoid charging students more or scaling back financial aid.
"With much effort, the university can manage through this reduction in revenue without a fee increase at this time," Jack Wilson, UMass president, said in a statement, adding that he would reduce his office's budget by relocating staff currently housed in downtown Boston to university space in Shrewsbury.
Officials at the state's flagship campus, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, facing a $12 million budget reduction, announced they would halt most hiring and implement one-time, across-the-board spending cuts, and said they would begin planning for the prospect of an extended economic slump.
Mayors and town managers across the state were relieved that cuts to local aid were not part of the governor's proposal, but they will be affected by a large number of the governor's cuts, including the elimination of $4 million in municipal police grants and $5 million from local law enforcement-assistance programs; a cut of $1.6 million in matching grants for school-to-work programs; and the reduction of special education funding by $13.5 million.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston huddled with top aides last night to comb through Patrick's cuts and figure out what the impact will be on the city. He said he is concerned by cuts to educational, child care, and public safety programs. "The governor has made necessary cuts in state government in very difficult times," Menino said, calling a hiring freeze a real possibility.
The governor also announced that the state will use an additional $200 million from the state's $1.8 billion reserve account. The current state budget already relies on about $400 million from that rainy-day fund.
In his plan, about $341 million will require action from the Legislature, and top lawmakers are weighing whether to return for a special session or wait until their next formal session, in January. Patrick indicated he wanted legislative approvals "as soon as possible," but did not call lawmakers back to Beacon Hill.
Democratic leaders in the House and Senate were noncommittal late yesterday and are scheduled to hold separate caucuses this afternoon to discuss the budget situation.
"Behind every cut the governor made are important services for the Commonwealth, jobs that support families and worthy programs," House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi said last night in a statement. "Make no mistake, these cuts will certainly inflict pain, but, in these unchartered and choppy waters, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, we must act."
Senate President Therese Murray also said the governor's proposal was "indicative of the serious nature of our budget situation," but she did not indicate how the Legislature would respond.
The governor is trying to revive several initiatives that have failed in the Legislature. He wants to add tiers to healthcare plans for state employees by adjusting them according to income levels, raising the premiums for the highest-earning employees, and bringing in $28.5 million in additional revenue. He also wants to raise $13 million by tightening the tax code to allow municipalities to levy taxes on telecommunications companies for the telephone poles they put up in communities.
Republicans yesterday used the opportunity to score political points, accusing Patrick of being a free-spending Democrat.
"Every Republican member of the Legislature voted against the budget that was passed last July," said Senate minority leader Richard R. Tisei. "At the time, we pointed out that we were spending beyond our means. Clearly, the situation we find ourselves in today has been made much more severe by the Patrick administration's refusal to heed the warnings of fiscal watchdogs."
Administration officials and longtime budget observers said these were the deepest cuts in memory, although other budgets had been trimmed earlier in anticipation of such problems.
Spending decreased in 1992 by 1.7 percent, for example, and it went down in 2003 by 1.3 percent, according to Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.
"There were all sorts of warnings in the spring that we were headed into difficult waters," Widmer said. "We should have had a budget that was at least $500 million less."
Noah Bierman, Kay Lazar, Peter Schworm, and Donovan Slack of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Patrick: Citizens 'should lean on each other'"
By Benning W. De La Mater, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Friday, October 24, 2008
PITTSFIELD — Gov. Deval L. Patrick doesn't want citizens to hunker down, he wants them to huddle together.
Patrick, the keynote speaker at the 121st annual meeting of Berkshire Children and Families, told the crowd at the Country Club of Pittsfield last night that residents "should lean on each other" during economically tough times.
His message comes in the wake of last week's announcement detailing the specifics of his $1 billion in budget cuts that address a shortfall in the state budget.
He said the state needs to tighten its belt on spending — just like families across the Commonwealth are doing — while the nation's economy teeters.
"These are very uncertain times were in," Patrick said. "But there have been uncertain times before. Go out and be a member of your community."
BCF will be one of several local agencies that will suffer cuts in their operating budgets this fiscal year.
At least 82 percent of its $7.2 million annual budget comes from government contracts.
BCF, which serves Berkshire County and parts of the Pioneer Valley, helps low-income families get on higher ground, providing early childhood development services, parental mentoring, life skills classes, and aid for childcare, among others.
Executive Director Carolyn Mower Burns said it's unknown exactly how much funding will be lost, but it looks as though the funds will be slashed from Department of Children and Families and Department of Early Education and Care accounts.
She expects to lose some portion of her agency's vouchers that are given to low-income families to help pay for childcare.
"We don't have the entire picture yet," she said.
"But I would like to say these cuts were made in a thoughtful manner, which really causes the least amount of pain to the neediest people."
Burns said the effect of the cuts, whether loss of staff or a decrease in services, will be determined by the DCF and DEEC.
"Most of our state funding is dedicated to very specific programs," she said. "We're certainly not looking at a time of increased services."
Burns said the cuts may force the agency to make an appeal to private donors and citizens and may tax local resources like the United Way, which also contributes a major source of funding to BCF.
"We've weathered tough times before," she said. "And we pride ourselves on our flexibility to get help to the families and children that need it most."
Patrick said BCF will need to partner together with other agencies and municipalities as more funding could be cut in the future. He cited examples like in 2007, when the Family Literacy Program, formerly known as Even Start, lost its funding.
A number of agencies stepped up and kept it afloat, groups like BCF, the Pediatric Development Center, Berkshire County Head Start and Pittsfield Public Schools.
Patrick said in the corporate world, a shortfall in a budget would be fixed by taking a percentage off the top in each department. But he felt it was necessary to analyze every line item and make cuts based on need.
"I know some of these decisions affect some of you," he told the crowd. "I know there's a human being behind these programs, a person's second chance, or only chance. There are no easy solutions."
To reach Benning W. De La Mater: email@example.com, (413) 496-6243.
"Massachusetts working class to bear the brunt of Gov. Patrick's budget cuts"
Friday, November 7, 2008, www.pslweb.org, By: Jennifer Zaldana
In the midst of what is now officially an economic recession, Gov. Deval Patrick announced that he would be cutting Massachusetts’ budget by a sizable $1 billion. These budget cuts would eliminate at least 1,000 government jobs and result in ample funding cuts for several programs and services.
The broad budget cuts are dispersed amongst many areas of social spending, including education, health care and human services.
Patrick plans on cutting a total of $101.5 million in education funding. Early-education and early-care programs will lose funds for payments to low-income childcare providers. Elementary and secondary education will see a significant decrease in funding used for interventions necessary for under-performing schools. All nine state and 15 community colleges will see a decrease of 5 percent in state support. Several elementary and secondary schools are on the verge of being shut down, potentially leaving hundreds of workers and teachers without jobs.
While health insurance has become mandatory in Massachusetts, Patrick plans on reducing funding for health care programs by $340.2 million—with Medicaid taking the biggest hit. Patrick plans on cutting a total of $9.6 million from AIDS/HIV prevention services and substance abuse programs, including the Division of Substance Abuse Services. Funding will also be reduced for adult mental health, which includes the elimination of a social service organization that provides vocational programs for people with mental illnesses and disabilities.
That, however, will not happen without a fight. Vic DiGravio, CEO of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Corps. of Massachusetts, has spoken out against Gov. Patrick’s assault on the budget. "We’re not assuming the cuts are going to stand," said DiGravio. "We’re not standing still, saying, ‘OK, it’s a terrible time, so we’ve got to accept these cuts.’ These cuts ... are devastating." (MetroWest Daily News, Oct. 23)
The cuts will have devastating consequences for organizations such as DiGravio’s, which provide important medical services to those who need them most. Without these programs, many patients would end up hospitalized.
Much of Patrick’s budget were rammed through using the governor’s emergency budget-cutting power. Since then, the legislature has passed additional measures that include transferring up to $200 million from the state’s rainy day fund and delaying $100 million in payments to the state pension fund. The measure also cuts another $73.6 million in spending.
Working-class people are bearing the brunt of the state budget cuts. "I know you are anxious," Gov. Patrick stated as he announced the cuts. "There is real cause for concern. But not for panic."
Easy for Patrick to say. When he ran for governor in 2006, he disclosed an income of $3.8 million for the previous year. Gov. Patrick may downplay his assault on the budget if he so chooses, but that will hardly alleviate the impact of the cuts on the working class. That relief will only come as the product of struggle, not out of the kindness of rich politicians out of touch with the realities facing workers.
(Budget cuts across the country) - (PARTY for SOCIALISM and LIBERATION): PSLweb/Liberation takes a look at the anti- worker offensive taking place across the country in the form of budget cuts.
"Gathering of U.S. Reps to Talk on Race, Congress"
iBerkshires Staff reports, November 11, 2008
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williams College has hosted numerous statesmen, philosophers, artists and speakers in its time, but never this many U.S. House leaders at one time.
More than a dozen members of Congress will gather at Williams College next week for a discussion of "Race and the New Congress."
The roundtable of members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Gov. Deval Patrick was spearheaded by Bernard Moore, a visiting lecturer in political science and policy adviser of caucus member Danny K. Davis, D-Ill., chairman of the House Subcommittee on the District of Columbia.
"I thought it would be very interesting [to have] after the election," said Moore on Tuesday, adding that with Congress on recess during this period, it was a good time to get the caucus members together for a public discussion.
The forum was planned prior to the election of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama as the nation's first black president, and Moore said, "regardless of whoever won it was going to be an interesting topic."
The forum will take place Monday, Nov. 17, at 8 p.m. in Chapin Hall. It will be moderated by "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl and is free and open to the public. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.
Some 15 members of the caucus are scheduled to appear, as well as the newly re-elected Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, and Sen. John Kerry, whose name is being batted about as a potential Cabinet pick in the Obama administration.
Moore said he had broached the subject with Stahl, who thought it was good idea and wanted to participate.
"I'm excited to take part in such an important discussion at a particularly auspicious time for Congress and the country to advance issues of race," Stahl said in a statement. "It's especially newsworthy to assemble so many of the CBC members who hold leadership positions."
The gathering will be the first of CBC members since Congress recessed for the November election.
In January 1969, newly elected African-American representatives of the 77th Congress joined six incumbents to form the Democratic Select Committee to address legislative concerns of black and minority citizens. The committee was renamed the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971.
The vision of the founding members of the CBC, to "promote the public welfare through legislation designed to meet the needs of millions of neglected citizens," continues today. Its members have been at the forefront of legislative campaigns for human and civil rights for all citizens.
"What an enormous honor it is for Williams to host the largest number of Congress members ever to gather on our campus," college President Morton Owen Schapiro said in a press statement, "and what a great privilege for students, faculty, staff, and local residents to hear firsthand from caucus members so soon after the historic presidential election."
In addition to Davis, caucus members expecting to take part include:
. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, Democratic Leadership Majority Whip
. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary
. Robert. C. Scott of Virginia, chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security
. Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security
. Shelia Jackson Lee of Texas, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure Protection
. John Lewis of Georgia, member of the House Committee on Ways and Means
. Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania, member of the House Committee on Appropriations
. Diane E. Watson of California, member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs
. Hank Johnson of Georgia, member of the House Committee on Armed Services
. Donna M. Christensen of the Virgin Islands, member of the House Homeland Security
. Yvette Clarke of New York, member of the House Committee on Education and Labor
Moore has extensive connections in Washington and was a Congressional Fellow with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. He also is executive director of nonprofit think tank Second Chance for Social Justice.
Still, corralling 15 or so representatives, a senator and a governor, even during a recess, wasn't a piece of cake.
"It wasn't easy but we made it happen," said Moore. "I would like to give special tribute to Congressman Danny Davis and Congresswoman Diane Watson for being so instrumental in putting this together, as well as to Morty [Schapiro] — a special thinks for hosting it."
The roundtable members will discuss questions presented to them and questions from the public. Students will attend breakout sessions with the congressmen that afternoon, with each member hosting eight to 10 students. A reception in the Paresky Student Center will follow the evening discussion.
"I was hoping that, first and foremeost, the students and local community get a better sense of the operation of the legislative branch of the government," Moore said. "And to address issues and concerns of the constituency overall."
The event is sponsored by the W. Ford Schumann '50 Program in Democratic Studies, the office of the president, Africana Studies Program, the Multicultural Center and the Claiming Williams initiative.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick - (below)
The Congressional Black Caucus
U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, D-Ill - (below)
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus gather at Williams College for a discussion of 'Race and the New Congress' last night in Chapin Hall.
Congressional Black Caucus
"A race for change: Obama a 'tidal' shift in America, panel says"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Tuesday, November 18, 2008
WILLIAMSTOWN — The historic nature of this month's presidential election was not lost last night when a crowd packed Williams College's Chapin Hall to hear 11 members of the Congressional Black Caucus discuss the issue of race in the new Congress.
At the first mention of president-elect Barack Obama, the entire crowd stood and cheered.
Once the cheering subsided and discussion began, U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., the House Majority Whip, recalled telling his children about their potential.
"When I told them they could be anything they wanted to be, I could tell they didn't really believe it. And I didn't really believe it, either," he said. "But on election night, we were all shedding tears of vindication for all those who kept faith in the American system. Nov. 4, 2008, was a day of vindication."
The impact the new president will have on the challenges faced by the black community and the legislative efforts of the Black Congressional Congress dominated the discussion moderated by Leslie Stahl, the "60 Minutes" correspondent.
Caucus members agreed the election of the nation's first African-American president is a tidal shift in the history of the nation and race relations. Still, they acknowledged, the issues facing people of color remain dramatic, troubling, and resistant to any quick fix.
U.S. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said that when Obama won, "I saw hundreds of people in my hometown celebrating. It wasn't quite Harlem, but we had just as much fun."
"On that night, we were simply trembling," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. "We were light-footed, like a burden was lifted off of our shoulders. I thought of all the babies that are going to be named Obama."
The discussion turned to more practical matters, such as how would the caucus approach a former member of the group that has taken up residence in the White House.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., joked that Obama might be referred to as "Brother President," then noted that he would be treated with all honor and respect due his position.
"He is our president of America, and we will give him all due respect," Lewis said. "He is not just our president, he is the leader of all Americans, the president of black Americans, Latino Americans — all Americans."
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., explained that it is inaccurate to think that all black people think alike, noting that the caucus frequently engages in "spirited discussion" and "vigorous discourse." Johnson said the president-elect is not likely to agree with all the legislation that comes from the caucus, but that he is more likely to discuss the issues at length than the current administration has been.
"I think we'll keep doing what we've been doing, but we'll have more help from the White House," said Rep. Diane E. Watson. D-Calif.
Stahl wondered if the caucus would have a hard time steering their left-leaning agenda toward the philosophical center, given Obama's pledge to be a centrist leader.
Members said there are still vast issues of disparity in education, health care, imprisonment, income and joblessness in the black community that must be addressed.
"I don't see anything left about putting people to work," said Rep. Danny K. Davis, D-Ill. "I don't see anything left about feeding people who are hungry, about providing energy to people who are cold. Our agenda isn't one-sided, it is an American agenda."
Thompson said the Congressional Black Caucus has always considered itself the "conscience of America."
"That's why we formed this caucus, to be the conscience of our Congress," he said.
To reach Scott Stafford: firstname.lastname@example.org, or (413) 664-4995.
"Governor Patrick in town"
capitalnews9.com, 11/11/2008, 4:43 PM, By: Ryan Burgess
PITTSFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS - "We haven't had the conversation, but I've been very clear. The I have right now is the one I worked very hard to get and we have a lot of our own ambitious plans and I want to stay here to see those through," said Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.
The conversation the governor is alluding to is with President-elect Barack Obama. For months there's been speculation Patrick may be asked to join an Obama cabinet. Titles like Secretary of Education or even Attorney General have made the gossip circles. But for now, Patrick says it's just rumor.
"This is a time where, after a presidential election when there's an awful lot of speculation about who's going to do what and all that, and that's all it is, is speculation," said Patrick.
Governor Patrick, who came to Pittsfield Tuesday for a Veterans Day parade, was with the president-elect just last week in Chicago on election night.
"I did get a chance to talk to the president-elect right after he finished his speech. He came into the tent where some of us were and it was just amazing, as you could expect. Just moving on so many levels," said Patrick.
The governor isn't the only high ranking Massachusetts politician addressing rumors he could he heading to Obama's cabinet. Senator John Kerry has been mentioned as possible Secretary of State. But like the governor, Senator Kerry's spokesperson says that's just more media speculation.
The statement reads: "This is the political silly season when media speculation is rampant about the new administration. John Kerry just won an overwhelming victory for his 5th term in the United States Senate and he's not looking for any job other than the one he already has. Any assertion otherwise is simply ridiculous and flat out untrue."
That's certainly a strong statement from the senator's office. As for the governor, he has not deviated from his position that he's only focused on being governor of Massachusetts. It is interesting to note, however, that although Kerry's statement says he's not looking for a job, it doesn't say he wouldn't accept one.
"WATCH THE VIDEO"
Governor Patrick in town
Now that election season is over, there's been a lot of talking about who might be joining President-Elect Obama's administration. As you may know, two of the biggest names in Massachusetts politics have been mentioned as possibilities, at least according to some reports. Our Ryan Burgess caught up with Governor Deval Patrick.
"The losing game"
The North Adams Transcript Online, TheTranscript.com, Editorial, Friday, January 9, 2009
Gov. Deval Patrick's campaign against obesity is on the right track in requiring fast-food restaurants to post calorie counts for all their offerings in prominent places, such as at the front counter or on menus.
Another good step in what thus far appears to be a losing battle to improve the health and reduce the waistlines of children and adults throughout the commonwealth, is a mandate that public schools measure the height and weight of children in first, fourth, seventh and 10th grades and send the results home to parents -- along with recommendations for better diets and more exercise.
As reported in The Boston Globe on Thursday, those and other measures are part of the governor's anti-obesity campaign, including the offering of more healthful foods at state-run hospitals and other institutions and state grants to promote healthful eating and exercise programs.
This is all well and good but not nearly enough.
An estimated 29 percent of children and 59 percent of adults in Massachusetts are obese, according to state health officials, who note that obesity can lead to serious illness and disease, including type 2 diabetes, as well as learning disorders. Some have described the trend toward obesity as an epidemic.
Although there has been increased awareness about healthful foods over the past several years -- Stop & Shop Supermarkets, for example, has just launched a "Healthy Ideas" promotion nationwide -- America, alas, still "runs on Dunkin'" -- home of fatty doughnuts and overpriced coffee -- and on McDonald's and its myriad clone cholesterol factories.
For the campaign against obesity to work, these fast-food restaurants must not only agree to prominently post the calorie content of their offerings (in hopes that the public will care and take heed) but also to make a real, concerted effort to lower the calorie content and increase the healthfulness of their food.
We, the American consumers, are much to blame for this situation. We have not only let these emporiums of the cheap and easy get away with serving us junk food for decades, we have reveled in it. Instead, we should be demanding better food -- and taking our business where that better food is offered. Wendy's has had some success in this sort of strategy, and we'd like to see more vendors try it -- they just might find it profitable.
As the Patrick administration moves ahead with its health initiatives over the coming weeks and months, we, as parents, as taxpayers and as consumers, need to pay attention. Let's rid our schools and public places of the vending machines that peddle crap. Let's demand better food at all public institutions, and let's wean ourselves off the fast-foods that are poisoning us and our children.
Let's also make the less educated parents across this state more aware of the nutrition their children need and the exercise that is vital for their well-being. Sending reports home about their weight and height will be a start, but numerous follow-ups will be necessary.
Meanwhile, kudos to Gov. Patrick and to state health officials for making Massachusetts a leader, along with California and New York, in the fight against obesity. Our public officials at least recognize the problems and are trying to come up with ways to combat it. Let's help them all we can. Ditch those sodas and chips and start eating your vegetables.
"Broke but hopeful"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, Saturday, January 17, 2009
This was not a speech he ever wanted to deliver. Elected on an ambitious platform with new programs and bold ideas as the foundation, Governor Deval L. Patrick Thursday night delivered a State of the State speech that instead reflected the brutal economic times facing Massachusetts and the nation, and the harsh budget reality he confronts. Still, he managed to temper that reality with humor and hope for the future.
The annual speech before the assembled members of the House and Senate came as Mr. Patrick prepares to make a second round of budget cuts totaling $1 billion to address a shortfall in tax revenue, and he made it clear that local aid will be hit this time. This could mean layoffs of teachers, firefighters and police officers, so these cuts will be sorely felt in the communities of Berkshire County.
The governor realizes those cuts have genuine consequences, telling his audience that foes of government see budget cuts only in the abstract and do not consider the people behind the line items. That compassion will help guide the governor as he makes tough decisions in the weeks and months ahead.
Not all the news is bad, and even the bad news can provide an impetus for programs that would never have been initiated otherwise, such as a building program that could provide jobs while improving the state's neglected infrastructure. The governor touted that program Thursday while promising to lobby aggressively for anticipated federal stimulus funds. In turn, the Berkshire legislative delegation will be expected to lobby for the county's share of funds from both programs.
We had hoped the governor would at least float the possibility of an increase in the state's long-static gas tax, an idea he has appeared to be warming to in recent days. This would provide additional funds for highway and bridge projects that create jobs and we hope the House will take the initiative on a gas tax hike.
Mr. Patrick is correct in his insistence that overdue ethics reform cannot be back-burnered just because the economy is a high priority. His ethics task force has produced a number of recommendations to toughen current laws and help their enforcement, and passage will boost the confidence of residents that Beacon Hill is up for the challenges it faces.
The governor recalled that his grandmother insisted that her young grandchildren think of themselves as broke, not poor, because broke is temporary. Wise advice. Massachusetts may be broke, but as long as it isn't poor in spirit, it can work its way back into the chips.
A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL: Short Fuse, January 22, 2009
"Beacon hill: The reform Patrick didn't mention"
In his State of the State speech last week, Governor Patrick called for untying the hands of cities and towns as they grapple with budget problems. But one crucial reform went unmentioned: making it easier for them to join the state's Group Insurance Commission. If all cities and towns got health insurance through the commission, the savings could reach $2.5 billion over 10 years. Problem: Local unions, which effectively have a veto, are often resistant. Because not enough communities have enrolled with the GIC, House Speaker Sal DiMasi supports giving local elected leaders sole authority over the decision. Patrick, who himself is said to be considering ways to promote more municipal participation, should follow DiMasi's lead.
"Governor courting Western companies: Goal for 3-day trip: retain and add jobs"
By Casey Ross, Boston Globe Staff, January 28, 2009
Governor Deval Patrick will travel to the West Coast next week to network with executives at computer and energy companies that have large facilities here, aiming to shore up and even expand their employment and investments in Massachusetts.
Patrick's economic aides said the governor will swing through Washington, Oregon, and California to meet with business executives whose companies employ a combined 15,000-plus people in Massachusetts. He and top economic aides plan to talk with executives from more 50 companies, including Microsoft Corp., Google Inc., and Hewlett-Packard Co.
With Massachusetts shedding jobs at a rapid rate, a top aide said they are using the trip to keep the economic situation from getting worse.
"The number one focus right now is job retention," said Greg Bialecki, Patrick's undersecretary for business development. "There is a lot we can do when employment decisions are made to emphasize that Massachusetts business units and employees are very important to these companies."
The governor is also moving to create an industry collaborative for information technology companies, made up of executives and specialists from the industry, to advise Massachusetts on state policies to encourage growth in the sector. The state has a similar collaborative for the life sciences sector.
Patrick yesterday met with 40 information technology and academic leaders to discuss ways to expand business opportunities here and lure more employees from California and other states. He also launched a new study to profile IT companies in Massachusetts.
"We made a decision that, given the importance of this industry, we really want to ramp up our efforts to work with them," Bialecki said.
Patrick will be accompanied by two staffers from his office, four members of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, and several officials from quasi-public agencies.
In addition to his meetings with IT firms, the governor is also expected to meet with life sciences and clean-energy companies, along with venture capital firms that provide seed money for new businesses and products.
Patrick's three-day trip comes as layoffs ripple through the state's economy. The state shed 17,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate soared to 6.9 percent, the highest since October 1993. The unemployment rate has risen 2.6 points since December 2007, and the number of unemployed workers has increased by nearly 90,000.
Altus Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Waltham is reducing its workforce by 100 jobs; Bose Corp., the Framingham maker of audio equipment, has announced 1,000 layoffs companywide; and EMC Corp., the Hopkinton technology firm, is slashing 600 jobs in Massachusetts.
Casey Ross can be reached at email@example.com.
A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL: Short fuse, February 8, 2009
"Beacon Hill: Government lobbies itself"
Governor Patrick wants to prohibit state agencies from hiring outside lobbyists to influence the Legislature or other state agencies. Upon hearing of this praiseworthy effort, many citizens were no doubt surprised to learn that practice was ever allowed in the first place. Why should state government spend public money to influence itself? And yet the MBTA, MassDevelopment, and other branches of the state have done so - to the tune of at least $1 million in 2008, according to a Globe review of public records. Patrick slyly tucked a ban on the practice into his budget proposal. So-called "outside sections" are often used for mischief-making, but Patrick's measure deserves to pass on the merits.
Ipswich real estate developer Jeffrey A. Simon was chosen to oversee the distribution of billions of dollars in federal funds. (CHARLES KRUPA/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
"GOP hits Patrick stimulus chief"
By Andrea Estes and Frank Phillips, Boston Globe Staff, February 14, 2009
Republican lawmakers sharply criticized yesterday Governor Deval Patrick's choice of real estate developer Jeffrey A. Simon to oversee the distribution of billions of dollars in federal stimulus money, citing the state pension he has been receiving since he was fired from his job at a state development agency in the mid-1990s.
"Symbolically, the governor couldn't have picked a worse person for the position," said Senate minority leader Richard R. Tisei of Wakefield. "It highlights what's wrong with Massachusetts government, people cashing out and serving their own interest, instead of the public interest.
"This is the person who will be distributing all the federal stimulus money," Tisei said. "Doesn't it make you feel a little unsure the money is going to be spent properly?"
Said House minority leader Bradley H. Jones Jr.: "I have to think with the nature of the economy and the people being laid off that there was someone they could have chosen who didn't bring the pension issue with them. It speaks to the vetting. Either they didn't know or should have known. Or they did know and thought he was so exceptional they didn't care. Shame on them either way."
Simon, an Ipswich real estate developer, was named by Patrick Wednesday to the newly created $150,000 post of director of infrastructure investment. His resume, posted online, highlighted his experience as a real estate professional, with special expertise in redeveloping military bases.
It also mentioned his work for the Massachusetts Government Land Bank in the mid-1990s, helping to redevelop Fort Devens, but it did not say he was fired from that state job in 1995. Under a Massachusetts law intended to protect employees from patronage-related retribution in a change of administration, Simon was able to collect an enhanced state pension while in his mid-40s. He has collected more than $400,000 in the last 13 years.
His termination from the Land Bank took effect three years and a day after he started in the job, entitling him to a pension based on his pay during those three years, when he received the highest salary of his state and local public service.
Simon could not be reached for comment.
Yesterday, administration spokesman Joe Landolfi called Simon "well qualified."
"He was very successful in helping develop Devens," Landolfi said. "Spending a fraction of the money we could receive in federal stimulus funds to have a seasoned real estate developer make sure the money is spent honestly and with transparency is well worth it."
Though Simon's official resume suggests he left the Massachusetts Government Land Bank because he was recruited for a similar job by the government of Bermuda, he was fired from the land bank by Michael Hogan, then its executive director.
Hogan declined to comment yesterday on his decision to fire Simon, whose title was director of development for the Fort Devens project.
"The governor was looking for a change; that's why I went over to the Land Bank," said Hogan, who took over as executive director in February 1995.
According to those who worked on the project, Simon went through a bruising, bare-knuckles battle with local officials and the local news media while crafting a plan to convert the former US Army base into a massive private and public development. Governor William F. Weld, who had strong support in the Republican strongholds around Fort Devens, was then feeling the heat from his political supporters in the area.
Weld asked Hogan, the former mayor of Marlborough and then head of the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, to take over the Land Bank and quell the discontent. After months of reviewing the project, Hogan fired Simon.
Hogan, who is now chief executive officer of the real estate firm A.D. Makepeace, will find himself in the awkward position of having to appeal to Simon to fund two projects with the federal stimulus money: infrastructure improvements for a technology park in Wareham and a residential complex in Plymouth.
Stephen Tocco, who oversaw the Land Bank as Weld's economic development secretary, praised Simon, saying he had shown strong skills in the difficult process of converting Fort Devens from an Army base to the private complex it is now.
"I thought he did a very good job," said Tocco, who left his Cabinet post before Hogan fired Simon. "I was impressed with him. He was very capable." He said he has worked with Simon on other base-closing and development projects.
"Patrick stimulus chief was fired from state post: Simon has been receiving pension since 1995"
By Andrea Estes and Frank Phillips, Boston Globe Staff, February 13, 2009
The real estate developer chosen by Governor Deval Patrick to distribute billions of dollars in federal stimulus money has been receiving a state pension ever since he was fired from his job at a state development agency in 1995, according to state records.
Jeffrey A. Simon, 58, was tapped by the governor on Wednesday to the newly created job of director of infrastructure investment, which will pay him $150,000 a year. The governor promptly posted a summary of Simon's résumé on his website after the appointment, listing a distinguished career as a real estate specialist in government and the private sector, with expertise in redeveloping military bases.
But what the résumé posting did not say was that Simon was terminated in 1995 from his state job overseeing the redevelopment of Fort Devens.
The governor and his staff also did not disclose that, under a Massachusetts pension law intended to protect patronage hires from retribution, his firing entitled him to begin collecting an enhanced state pension while he was in his mid-40s.
Simon could not be reached for comment. His retirement records do not include a reason for his dismissal from the agency where he worked in the mid-1990s, the Massachusetts Government Land Bank. His official résumé suggests he left the Land Bank because he was recruited for a similar job by the government of Bermuda.
A spokesman for Patrick, Joe Landolfi, provided a statement last night that said the administration knew Simon had departed state government. The statement did not address the questions of Simon's pension or his dismissal from the agency, however.
"Mr. Simon was fully vetted prior to being offered the position of director of infrastructure investment. He disclosed that he retired from state service more than a decade ago," Landolfi said. "He is eminently qualified to serve in this critical role, and we are confident he will successfully ensure federal stimulus funds are invested responsibly and transparently."
State retirement records show that Simon has been paid $29,000 to $32,000 a year since December 1995 with his enhanced, early pension. He has collected $403,751.84 in all, according to state records.
Simon will forgo the pension payments while he serves in his new state job, according to administration officials.
Patrick has called for pension reform. Pensions such as the one Simon is receiving have been criticized by some who say some former state officials are taking advantage of statutes intended for another purpose, but the Legislature has not changed the law.
The state retirement board has balked at paying benefits to some workers who sometimes lose their jobs just after recording their 20th year of service. In 2007, then-House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi fired his executive assistant after she worked almost exactly 20 years to the day.
In 2002, the retirement board rejected a claim by Peter Forman, chief of staff for Acting Governor Jane Swift after board members questioned whether he had really been fired.
A handful of Big Dig managers who worked at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority also left the agency with pensions at a relatively young age.
Simon, who also worked in the 1970s for Senate President William M. Bulger and for the Massachusetts Land Bank in the 1970s and 1980s, did not have the required 20 years of state service when he was fired.
So to qualify for his early pension, he took advantage of another quirk in state law - the ability to include pension credit for nonstate jobs. Simon asked the Essex County retirement board to have time he served as a $150-a-year member of the Ipswich School Committee added to his pension.
The board refused, but Simon appealed to a state administrative judge, who eventually ruled in his favor and awarded him five years of School Committee time.
"Patrick: Mass. getting up to $9 billion from feds"
By Glen Johnson, AP Political Writer, February 18, 2009
BOSTON --Gov. Deval Patrick was cheered by business leaders Wednesday when he announced that the new federal stimulus law would funnel between $6 billion and $9 billion to Massachusetts, but he was quick to caution it "was not a panacea" for lingering state financial ills.
Patrick said the package signed into law by President Barack Obama a day earlier includes $1 billion for infrastructure work, including $400 million for highways and $300 million for mass transit, which would double transportation spending when coupled with planned state bonding.
Much of the other money, though, will flow directly to the state, its communities and individuals over the next two-plus years, either as direct subsidies for social services or tax credits.
The state will get the money as it tries to close a $1.1 billion deficit in its current budget and a $3.5 billion cut in projected spending for the budget beginning July 1.
"These funds will certainly help, but this stimulus package will not be a panacea," Patrick told 600 people attending a breakfast meeting of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. "We will continue to face serious challenges to our operating budget and our overall economic health."
Patrick said he was especially happy for $800 million in federal education assistance expected during the same period. He said it would allow the state to maintain programming that, since a state education overhaul in 1993, has allowed Massachusetts fourth- and eighth-graders to lead the nation in assessment tests.
"You know, second graders get their chance at second grade now," he said. "They don't get to sit out the recession until we can afford enough teachers or materials to make second grade meaningful."
Patrick also said he would announce a proposed overhaul of the state's transportation system on Friday.
The governor had been scheduled to outline the plan before the Chamber, according to a draft of the proposal obtained by The Associated Press. He and his staff decided to change the focus of his speech after Obama signed the stimulus law and talk of a possible 27-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax increase triggered criticism.
Such a hike would boost the state tax to 50.5 cents per gallon, the highest in the nation.
Patrick told the Chamber he had "a menu" of proposals still before him, and he had not settled on the size of a proposed gas tax increase. But he said either a 4-cent tax hike or a doubling of some tolls would be the minimum necessary to address funding problems at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.
The toll proposal has triggered outrage in the state, especially among MetroWest and North Shore commuters who rely on the Turnpike and Boston Harbor tunnels.
A larger gas tax increase, Patrick said, would give the state money to address larger problems such as a $5 billion debt at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, a $2.2 billion Turnpike debt and a projected $20 billion tab to maintain the existing transportation infrastructure during the next 20 years.
He also said it would have to be accompanied by a comprehensive set of transportation reforms. The draft called for a streamlined bureaucracy around four divisions: Highway, Rail and Transit, Aviation and Ports and Registry of Motor Vehicles.
"I am unwilling to support any new revenue stream unless we get radical simplification of our transportation bureaucracy and a more focused and aligned way to develop and implement transportation strategy," the governor said.
"I will not support a gas tax and a toll increase," he added. "One needs to substitute for the other."
An audience show of hands showed overwhelming support for the gas tax rather than the toll hike, something Patrick later said didn't surprise him given the composition of the audience, which tends to be relatively affluent and civic minded.
"We don't have the choice to do neither," he said sternly. "Believe me, nobody runs for governor to raise tolls or gas taxes. It's not like this is a happy choice, but we don't have the choice to do nothing."
MICHAEL FORBES WILCOX
"In Case You Haven't Heard: I'm the Newest State Committee Member Representing the BHF District"
My term as a State Committee member officially begins on February 10, 2009, at the next State Committee meeting. I am joining the Democratic State Committee (DSC, or Massachusetts Democratic Party), representing the Democratic voters in the Berkshire, Hampshire, and Franklin Senate District (Ben Downing's District). I am filling out the remaining three years or so of Peter Arlos's term. Peter was elected about a year ago, on the Presidential Primary ballot, and he died a short while ago at the age of 82. If I decide to run for reelection, my name will appear on the ballot in 2012.
I want to give a shout-out to all those who formally endorsed my candidacy (listed below), and to the many others who expressed enthusiastic support when I announced my interest. Apologies to all those I did not reach in person before the filing deadline (January 16), or whose names are not on this list because I did not explicitly ask their permission.
I have already accepted a position on the ad hoc Platform Committee (this committee is formed every four years to review and revise the MassDems Platform). I'm awaiting guidance on what this means, and who else will be on the committee with me, but for now I can tell you this: the process this year will be very different from what it's been in past cycles. We will be making an active effort to solicit input from all Democrats, in an informal structure similar to that instituted by the Obama campaign leading up to the National Convention in Denver. This year's MassDems Platform Convention will be held in Springfield on June 6. I hope you will consider participating in this process.
For those not familiar with my background, I list a few highlights, and then a partial list of my many backers, whom I'd again like to thank for their generous support and encouragement.
I have worked hard for many years to support Democratic candidates and issues. Most recently, besides serving as Deval Patrick's Senate District Coordinator (and Co-Coordinator for Western Mass) in his successful 2006 campaign, I also served in similar capacities in the Barack Obama campaign. I have supported many other Democratic candidates, both within our District and across the state, and I am well known within the State House. I also worked on the recent "Vote No on Question 1" campaign to defeat the repeal of our income tax. I won't bore you with a long list of political activities spanning my lifetime, going back to college days and the Civil Rights Movement, the anti-Vietnam War Movement, the George McGovern campaign, and so on.
In addition, I have been active on the DSC in several capacities over the past few years. I have served on the Field Services Committee, and am now a member of the Communications Committee. I also am a member of the Steering Committee of the Berkshire Brigades, the Berkshire County Democratic Party organization.
The reason that I decided to take a more active role in the DSC, by becoming a member, is that I will be able to be more effective at building the Party from the grassroots, strengthen the local town and ward committees, and start up committees in communities where none exist. The Obama campaign has demonstrated that voters have an appetite for this kind of politics, and I want to help capture the energy generated by that campaign and to reach out to people who became involved in a political campaign for the first time in their lives. Together we can work to enact the very similar visions of our Governor and our new President, and restore citizen involvement in government.
In the area of civic engagement, I am a former member of the Conservation Commission in Alford, and currently serve as the town's Moderator (an elected position). I am also on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Moderators Association. I have been involved with many other issues and organizations, too numerous to list here, but one that I am particularly proud of is my role on the Leadership Team of ONE Massachusetts, a network of organizations and individuals dedicated to the proposition that we deserve a state government that offers "healthy lives, healthy families, quality education, safe, vibrant communities; and broadly shared prosperity in a thriving state." ONE Massachusetts is dedicated to help make that come about, through a fairly and fully funded state government.
On a more personal note, I serve on the Board of Directors of the Aspergers Association of New England (AANE), and have been very active in advocating for persons with disabilities in general, and especially those with Aspergers Syndrome, autism, and related conditions. You can poke around on my website to get an idea of some of the things I've been involved in.
I have a business background; I am a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), and had a successful career for many years on Wall Street. I have a BA in Economics from AIC in Springfield, and an MA in Economics from Trinity College in Hartford.
I have listed below the names of some of the people who endorsed my bid for the seat, and generously allowed me to use their names.
. Senator Ben Downing
. Rep Smitty Pignatelli
. Register of Deeds Andrea Nuciforo (LUCIFORO)
. State Committee Member Mary K. O'Brien
. State Committee Member Lee Harrison, Chair, Berkshire Brigades
. State Committee Member Margie Ware
. State Committee Member Cliff Nilan, Chair, Pittsfield Ward 3 Democratic Committee
. State Committee Member Rhonda Serre, Chair, Pittsfield Ward 7 Democratic Committee
. Sheriff Carmen Massimiano
. Honorable Sara Hathaway, Pittsfield
. North Adams City Chair Joyce Wrend
. Suzanne Bump, Great Barrington
. Laurie Lane-Zucker, Great Barrington
. Wes and Vivian Orlowski, Great Barrington
. Sandra MacDonald, Lenox
. Gae Elfenbein, Chair, Lanesborough Democratic Committee
. Jim Lovejoy, Chair, Mount Washington Democratic Committee
. Mayor Jim Ruberto, Pittsfield
. Marge Cohan, Pittsfield
. Steve Como, Chair, Pittsfield Ward 2 Democratic Committee
. Patrick Gable, Pittsfield
. Glenn Guachione, Pittsfield
. Bill Irvin, Pittsfield
. Sheila Irvin, Pittsfield, Vice Chair, Berkshire Brigades
. Linda and Al Barten, Conway
. Jan Carr, Chair, Heath Democratic Committee
. Calvin Carr, Heath
. Will Ryan and Susanna Opper, Alford
. Bob Lichter, Alford
. Steve Yarmosky, Chair, Richmond Democratic Committee
. Elliott Vines, Chair, Stockbridge Democratic Committee
Michael F. Wilcox
217 East Road, Alford, Massachusetts 01266
Editorial: "Who cares about your fiscal health? Not Patrick"
West Roxbury, Massachusetts, with news from the West Roxbury Transcript, By Staff Reports, Wednesday February 25, 2009, 10:57 A.M. EST
West Roxbury - Are the 257 families in the Parkway who during 2008 faced or are about to face foreclosure worried about the state’s fiscal problems? Do they really care about tax revenue being down this year?
And more important — would any of those poor suffering families happily chalk up more money to the state instead of trying to save their homes? Would they rather give more money to Gov. Deval Patrick and the Legislature instead of putting food their tables to feed their children?
Does anyone in state government actually care about the suffering that families, not only in the Parkway, but across this commonwealth are experiencing? We have seen no sign of that from Patrick or any of the self-indulging members of the Legislature.
While President Barack Obama and the Congress has been working to put more money into the pockets of middle-class and poor families, Patrick and the Legislature is working hard to make the residents of this state poorer and keep Massachusetts in a recession long after the rest of the country is enjoying recovery.
Patrick wants you pay 19-cent per gallon more in the gas tax, which will make us the most energy-taxed state in the entire country.
If Patrick and the Legislature have their way, you won’t see a penny of cash from the federal stimulus relief plan, which starting April 1, was supposed to add an average of $13 a week into the paychecks of residents. Patrick will make sure the stimulus individual tax cut here will help no one but state government.
Patrick wants a long series of other tax increases as well, including raising the meals tax from 5 to 6 percent and allowing cities and towns to have their own version of a meals tax. If that happens, people in the Parkway can expect to pay an addition 2 percent meals tax that Mayor Tom Menino wants to add.
Patrick also wants a sugar tax, a bottle bill expansion and higher registry fees. He has even floated around an idea of a nursing home tax for people who pay for their care privately and not through government programs.
And a little known extra fee hardly anyone noticed is a surcharge on your auto insurance policy. Patrick wants to tax policies somewhere between $1.60 and $2 per policy, starting on July 1. What’s the money for? It’s going to police training – something that the federal relief plan already provided a lot of cash to fund.
And as if motorists are not already getting whacked enough by our state government, in an effort to make sure Massachusetts will always have the highest gas tax in the country, Patrick he has slipped into the bill a provision to have an annual increase based on inflation — inflation that is often energy-related. Will that make Massachusetts a more attractive place to live for anyone? No, not unless you are one of the construction companies or overpaid special detail cops that will get a good chunk of your money for projects that do nothing to create any permanent jobs in Massachusetts.
Obama understands that in order for this economy to recovery, people need to have money to spend. Patrick doesn’t care about your fiscal health. His only concern is to make sure that state government has enough money to continue operating in same ineffective manner we have endured for years with no real fiscal restraint.
What Patrick is doing will not work. Raising taxes, especially the gas tax, will cause the price of just about everything to go up in Massachusetts. Businesses and individuals in this state will be sunk into a deeper financial hole.
Patrick is sucking the state into an endless cycle of financial decline that higher taxes will never cure — and we will all pay the price for years to come. The best way for Patrick and the Legislature to solve the state’s financial problems is to let people keep their money.
Consumer confidence is never built on more taxes. It comes from people feeling they have the money in their pockets to afford to buy things again. It’s a simple reality that is ignored by the governor and the legislators on Beacon Hill.
There has never been and will never be any real sacrifice by government in any of this. The only people doing the sacrificing in Massachusetts are the taxpayers.
If the governor were to do something that actually helps the average person in this state, we would see recovery a lot faster. And with recovery comes money back into the state coffers without the need for all these tax increases.
"Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's staffers earning good money: 3 employees on Gov. Patrick's communications staff are earning more than $100,000 a year."
By Matt Murphy, Berkshire Eagle Boston Bureau, Wednesday, March 04, 2009
BOSTON — With the state's budget in turmoil and Gov. Deval L. Patrick facing tough decisions on where to cut back services, public employees who get paid to deliver the bad news are doing just fine financially.
Paid to spin and brand Patrick's message, the executive office currently boasts a communications staff of 33 public employees hauling in close to $2.5 million a year. They represent everyone from the governor and cabinet secretaries to MassHighway and the Sex Offender Registry Board. Another position at the Department of Public Health is currently vacant.
That number has increased slightly since former Gov. Mitt Romney left the corner office with about 30 on the communications staff.
Officials said their numbers are justified by the volume of requests for public information that are processed each day and the expertise each person can bring to the job.
Staffing remains the same
"Our staffing levels are consistent with the previous administration, and much less than administrations before that. We continue our strong commitment to have a responsive and transparent administration, and part of that includes an adequate communications staff to respond to hundreds of inquires each week from various media outlets from across the state," said Rebecca Deusser, one of two deputy press secretaries in the governor's office.
Three employees on Patrick's communications staff are earning more than $100,000 a year, and a total of 13 spokespeople earn more than $80,000 annually.
Three of the new positions include Cyndi Roy, assigned to the secretary of Administration and Finance; Jonathan Palumbo, the spokesman for the new cabinet-level education secretary created by Patrick; and Lisa Simmons at the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.
'Going to raise taxes'
And that only scratches the surface of those employed in state government to speak for the dozens of agencies and elected officials that fall outside the executive branch.
"I don't know how many people you need to send the message that you're going to raise taxes and cripple the economy," said Barney Keller, the spokesman for the Massachusetts Republican Party.
The communications team, representing 77 agencies and 45,000 employees controlled by the Patrick administration, earn salaries that range from $50,000 to almost $120,000 a year.
Topping the list under Patrick is his Communication Director Joe Landolfi, a Beacon Hill main-stay who has worked under several administrations and earns $119,893 a year. Landolfi heads a team of four in the governor's office, including Patrick's $97,850-a-year Press Secretary Kyle Sullivan and two deputies, Deusser and Kimberly Haberlin.
Both Deusser and Haberlin earn $63,860 a year.
"Providing access to these spokespeople, and the knowledge they have about their respective agencies, helps the media and the public get timely and accurate information," Deusser said.
Romney's former communication director Eric Fehrnstrom said he was not sure how the Patrick team was organized, but said Romney made a conscious effort to reduce payroll.
"When Mitt Romney arrived in office, we made it a priority to reduce the number of press secretaries in state government and through layoffs and attrition got the number down to about two dozen," said Fehrnstrom, who earned close to $160,000 while he held the top communications job.
When Romney took office in January 2003, the communications staff had ballooned to 60 employees under successive Republican administrations.
Romney, on Jan. 28, 2003, announced he was laying off 21 spokespeople and eliminating 11 more positions by relocating those employees in other jobs.
The cuts saved $1.2 million, leaving 28 communications employees on staff. That number increased to about 30 before he left Beacon Hill.
Michael Widmer, who ran the communications shop under the last Democratic governor, said the numbers didn't strike him as something out of the ordinary from past administrations, including that of Michael Dukakis.
"Too much communication"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial, Thursday, March 5, 2009
We are all for good communications on the part of the governor's office, but in this day and age, 33 communications officials collecting nearly $2.5 million a year is excessive. Businesses in the private sector are making painful personnel decisions ever day as the stagnant economy worsens, and similar painful decisions must be made in the public sector.
Communications staffers, whose job is to spin as well as to communicate, particularly when the news is bad, as it almost always is these days, have a role in government. Just not this lucrative, or in this considerable number. Three of Governor Patrick's staffers, as explained in a Berkshire Eagle story on Wednesday, earn more than $100,000 annually, and 10 more earn between $80,000 and $97,000. These salaries would be difficult to justify in good economic times, but they are impossible to justify when taxpayer-funded government programs are being slashed and those same taxpayers are confronting layoffs and pay cuts in their own workplaces.
The executive office's communications staff was actually twice this large under a succession of Republican governors until Mitt Romney reduced it dramatically in 2003. Six years later, with the state facing a perhaps unprecedented economic crisis, a communications staff this large and well-paid is again too much.
"Gov. staff salaries are justifiable"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters, Saturday, March 07, 2009
In regard to the March 4 article on the salaries paid to the communications staff of Gov. Patrick, I run a national executive search firm specializing in communications personnel, and a low six-figure salary for the chief elected official's executive communications staff is not only standard throughout the country, but a salary of anything less would be a disservice both to the governor and to those he is trying to get his points across to.
Salaries are determined by the marketplace, and by the experience the candidates bring with them. One misspoken word, as we saw recently within the Berkshire political community, can cause outrage and unnecessary pain. These positions require personal maturity, clarity of focus, the ability to write and speak well, and the skill to take a raw message and turn it into a meaningful one.
Remember this. The most powerful person in the world, the president, whoever he may be at any given time) makes $400,000 a year, whereas Mike Lowell of the Red Sox makes $12,500,000 a year.
ARNOLD M. HUBERMAN
"Governor Deval Patrick heading to Jamaica on vacation"
By Associated Press, Tuesday, March 3, 2009, www.bostonherald.com, Local Politics
BOSTON — Governor Deval Patrick is heading to the Caribbean next week.
The governor and his family and some friends will be vacationing in Jamaica from Saturday until next Friday.
Patrick told reporters Tuesday his agenda is simple: "Sleep."
The state Republican Party criticized him, suggesting he shouldn’t be leaving the state while it faces a $1.1 billion budget deficit.
The governor dismissed the GOP criticism, saying "That’s what they do."
Article URL: www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1155970
"Deval: I will run again"
By Hillary Chabot, Thursday, April 2, 2009, www.bostonherald.com, Local Politics
Gov. Deval Patrick confirmed today he will run again for the Corner Office as he headed to a fund-raiser in New York, adding he has time to catch up to Treasurer Tim Cahill’s massive $3 million war chest.
“There’s a lot of time ... to spend all that,” Patrick said when asked about competing with Cahill’s fund raising. “We’re going to be raising it and getting ready and building the base and all the rest of it.”
Patrick currently has $431,000 in his campaign chest, according to Office of Campaign and Political Finance records.
Patrick, who is flying to New York this afternoon, said the trip serves a dual purpose.
“I’m getting an award from an organization and we organized the fund-raiser so we’d make one trip and not two,” Patrick said. “I have some supporters down there who wanted to be helpful, so I’m in and out.”
When asked how he’ll retain the trust of the public, Patrick said he’d continue to bring change to areas such as auto insurance and replacing some police details with civilian flaggers on road construction sites.
“My job is to continue to do the job and not just think about how to hold onto it, and that’s a part of it I understand. But I’m not trying to make a career out of politics. I’m just trying to move the agenda,” Patrick said.
Patrick addressed his future ambitions after an hour-long appearance on radio station WTKK (96.9 FM). The governor appears on the show once a month to field questions.
Callers and e-mailers peppered Patrick about the over population of deer, new cash for student loans and stimulus funds for cities and towns, especially Boston being shortchanged.
He said he’ll know more tomorrow about education funds being funneled to Bay State communities. He added it’s a “sad fact” that cities and towns will face cuts as the economy struggles, no matter what aid is alloted.
“I don’t have a sock back at the State House to use for free cash,” he added about the cuts.
Joe Dwinell contributed to this report.
Article URL: www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1163053
"Massachusetts tax collections fall 16 percent in March: Down $979M through the year"
By Associated Press, Friday, April 3, 2009, www.bostonherald.com, Local Politics
BOSTON — Massachusetts revenue officials say March tax collections were 16 percent below where they were a year ago.
All told, the state collected $1.6 billion, a drop of $309 million from March 2008.
In a release issued today, the Department of Revenue said tax collections for the first three quarters of the fiscal year were $13.4 billion, a drop of $979 million — or nearly 7 percent — from the same period a year ago.
Corporate and business tax collections represent the biggest decline, down $188 million from where they were a year ago, a drop of more than 21 percent. Those collections totaled $691 million this March.
"Facing budget gap, Patrick announces plan to cut 750 jobs"
By Matt Viser, Boston Globe Staff, April 14, 2009
Governor Deval Patrick this afternoon announced that the state was immediately cutting 750 jobs and ordering mandatory furloughs to help close a $156 million mid-year budget deficit.
The deficit is expected to grow by another $400 million, Patrick said, and would be closed through a variety of proposals that need legislative approval.
“The economic downturn is hitting state government especially hard, leaving us with tough choices among miserable options,” Patrick said at a State House news conference.
Patrick has also asked Administration and Finance Secretary Leslie Kirwan to begin negotiations with state collective bargaining units over a range of concessions. Patrick refused to disclose what the proposed concessions would be.
Patrick is also planning to use $128 million in federal stimulus funds to help balance this year’s budget.
The problems Patrick outlined today will only begin to solve the budget crisis for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30. The House is scheduled to release a budget proposal tomorrow that is expected to include deep budget cuts.
Patrick was forced to close a $1.4 billion shortfall in the state's $28 billion budget in October and an additional $1.1 billion shortfall earlier this year.
With the economy staggering, the state's finances are also struggling. With people earning less and spending less, and businesses profiting less, the state is collecting less income, sales, and business taxes.
Patrick on Monday criticized leaders of the House and Senate for passing watered-down legislation to transform the state's transportation network. He said the bills didn't go far enough in saving money.
He also criticized the Legislature for not passing overall budget-balancing measures he proposed in January, the Globe reported today.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Gravy train rolls"
By Don Schwarz, Wednesday, April 15, 2009, www.bostonherald.com - Letters to the Editor
Gov. Deval Patrick has rewarded campaign volunteers with taxpayer-funded jobs, with pensions that taxpayers will pay for even after they retire (“Deval campaign workers cruise into top state gigs,” April 11).
Tammany Hall lives on in Massachusetts. To the victors go the spoils of taxpayer funding.
"Quinn bill must go"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, Wednesday, April 22, 2009
The $50 million to pay police officers bonuses for earning advanced college degrees was perhaps the easiest cut legislators could make from the budget, but the House appears poised to restore the funds the Ways and Means Committee recommended be removed. Should this happen, it will tell voters that even in a time of economic crisis lawmakers cannot find the nerve to stand up to powerful unions, in particular the police unions.
Just days after the Ways and Means Committee unveiled its bare-bones budget, the unions went to work, and according to The Boston Globe, they have garnered enough votes to protect the funding. Others across the state who don't have unions to argue their case in Boston — the poor, the homeless, the elderly — will presumably not see money restored for programs that benefit them.
The so-called Quinn Bill, which was passed in 1970 to provide bonuses for police officers who earn degrees in law, criminal justice or law enforcement, was always far better in theory than in practice. Encouraging police officers to increase their education in their fields is a sound concept, but colleges looking for easy money abused the program by encouraging police officers to sign up for easy courses that were only vaguely related to police work. Those police officers were part of the problem, of course, as were those who padded their salaries over six figures with taxpayer-provided education bonuses.
Reform measures have been passed over the years (police lobbying scuttled a major overhaul of the program in 2001), but the potential for abuse remains in a state program that at best is a luxury item affordable only in good economic times.
Obviously, we are not in those times. The House budget proposes a 25 percent cut in local aid. Programs to feed the needy, house the homeless and provide home care for the elderly are being gutted. Community policing and gang prevention programs would be eliminated. Shouldn't the police unions be defending programs that would make their jobs easier rather than go to the mat over bonuses?
Like the police patrols at construction sites, the educational bonuses are a long-standing perk that police unions are reluctant to give up and are applying political pressure to maintain. Like the police patrols, the bonus program entangled itself in town and city contracts when economic times were good, which will make it that much harder to eradicate.
The process must begin in the House and Senate, however, and the budget crisis gives lawmakers the political cover to stand up to the union. Voters, many of whom have been laid off from their jobs, reduced their hours to protect co-workers, or taken furloughs, others of whom are watching as state programs that help them or family members are wiped off the books, will be paying close attention to how lawmakers come down on the educational bonuses for police officers.
April 22, 2009
Re: My response to The Berkshire Eagle's Editorial
"...even in a time of economic crisis lawmakers cannot find the nerve to stand up to powerful unions, in particular the police unions."
That is why the Governor(s) and Legislature(s) never provided any real oversight over the "Big Dig"! The unions all pushed the "Big Dig", while the contractors all donated to the Pols. The Governor and State Representatives & Senators are all CORRUPT!
"Others across the state who don't have unions to argue their case in Boston — the poor, the homeless, the elderly — will presumably not see money restored for programs that benefit them."
The average citizen, especially those in need, is being shafted while the political insiders feed like vultures on their federally-funded dollars that are mismanaged by the state government. Moreover, the average citizen saw their tax bills go up, along with the pay of their Legislators! The average guy got poorer while he who "represents" him got richer.
"The House budget proposes a 25 percent cut in local aid. &...Community policing and gang prevention programs would be eliminated."
The police unions are not interested in the state funding local government and have placed their pay & benefits above their "sworn" duties to protect and serve the people and community.
The thing I don't understand, even in New Hampshire, is that the federal government funds a majority of the state budget. The federal funds are supposed to go to social service and public education programs and infrastructure projects. The state government takes a lot of these federal dollars and uses them for special interests or the general fund instead of what the money was intended for. How does the state government get away with this? This is FRAUD!
Finally, the only real answer to reform state government is to vote out your Legislator every two years! That way, the people will end the vested and special interests of the career Pols and those who predictably contribute to their campaign coffers. The running joke is that your Pol would sell you into slavery for $100 if it was legal, but instead they just steal your money!
- Jonathan A. Melle
"Lawmakers defend Quinn Bill"
The North Adams Transcript Statehouse Bureau, By Matt Murphy, 4/24/2009
BOSTON -- Several of the region’s lawmakers are backing a push to restore funding in the state budget for the Quinn Bill, a fiercely protected union benefit that provides police officers with a salary boost for furthering their education.
In fact, a majority of the 160-member House favors restoring at least $50.2 million to the career incentive program after House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Murphy, D-Burlington, announced last week that funding for the Quinn Bill had been stripped from the House spending plan.
"The whole idea of establishing that Quinn Bill years ago was to get professionally trained law enforcement officers in police departments," state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, said Tuesday. "A lot of that has been made a part of collective bargaining in cities and towns, and to pull the rug out from under them is another cut to local aid."
The Quinn Bill, enacted by the Legislature in 1970, provides police officers with salary incentives to pursue higher-education degrees in law enforcement and criminal justice.
Increases can range from 10 percent to 25 percent of a police officer’s salary, depending on the level of degree achieved. The raise also has a longer-term impact on officers’ pensions.
The state shares the cost of the bonuses with cities and towns but could leave many communities with the entire bill if state funding gets eliminated.
In advance of next week’s budget debate, at least 80 lawmakers, including Reps. Pignatelli, Denis Guyer, D-Dalton, and Christopher Speranzo, D-Pittsfield, have signed on to three different amendments that would restore Quinn Bill funding. The most popular amendment would actually increase funding for the program by $1 million over this year’s funding.
"I think it’s important that we continue funding this line item," Guyer said. "Career incentives are important to the law enforcement profession, and having police officers that are highly educated is a benefit to the communities they serve."
Gov. Deval Patrick included Quinn Bill spending in his proposed budget in January but cut funding by $8 million -- to $42.2 million next year.
Denis E. Guyer has also signed on to two other amendments concerning law-enforcement spending, which would restore $13 million in community policing grants and $21 million in Shannon grants for gang violence prevention that are crucial funding sources for cities like Pittsfield.
Not all members in the House, however, are eager to start adding to the bottom line.
Rep. Kevin Murphy, D-Lowell, said he supports giving police officers an incentive to further their education and law enforcement training, but he is concerned about how the state will pay for the program. He did not lend his name to amendments that add spending on law enforcement.
"I didn’t sign on to a lot of amendments because it’s hard for me to [oppose] increasing taxes and know whether or not we have the money," Murphy said.
Asked about reforming the program instead of cutting it, he said he could envision a compromise that reduced the benefit in exchange for not cutting the program entirely.
Currently, police officers get a 10 percent salary bonus for an associate’s degree, 20 percent for a bachelor’s degree and 25 percent for a master’s degree.
Pignatelli said he would oppose any proposal to increase taxes on residents, adding that he is frustrated that Legislative leaders have not moved faster to provide municipal relief through local-option meals and hotel taxes, taxing telecom companies and other tools.
He said he is not convinced government has exhausted the potential for thorough reforms to many state agencies.
As a worst-case scenario, Pignatelli said, the House could tap the state’s reserve fund to pay for the Quinn Bill and other important programs, noting that the fund is a source untouched by the House budget proposal, out of fear that it could run dry before the recession is over.
"We have a healthy reserve," Pignatelli said. "We can’t deplete that reserve by any stretch of the imagination, but we have to ask ourselves what are key essential services. At this late stage, we have to establish some priorities."
The state’s "rainy day" account has about $1.2 billion in reserve.
The state currently splits the cost of the Quinn Bill down the middle with local cities and towns, allocating $50.2 million in the fiscal 2009 budget to the program.
Some towns are protected in contracts from dips in state aid, but other cities have agreed in the past to foot the entire bill if state funding for the education bonuses dry up.
April 24, 2009
"The state’s "rainy day" account has about $1.2 billion in reserve." So the state government on Beacon Hill's State House is sitting on $1.2 billion dollars of taxpayers' money, while asking the taxpayers to take record setting cuts in public services and pay increasing taxes, i.e., the proposed 7% sales tax. The Legislature will not touch its emergency account, but will ask taxpayers' to give more money for less services. PIGnatelli & "Golddigger" Guyer are the defenders of police officers' compensation! I wonder how much money these two Pols are going to receive from the police officers' unions when they run for re-election next year? Probably many thousands of dollars. PIGnatelli & "Golddigger" Guyer want the taxpayers to pay the police officers more money! That is NOT a big surprise. After all, PIGnatelli & "Golddigger" Guyer excepted a 3.2% pay raise -- or over $3,200 -- earlier this year knowing full well that state government was in a financial or budgetary crisis. THIS IS GOVERNMENT AS ITS WORST!
More on PIGnatelli:
More on PIGnatelli:
PIGnatelli is also a staunch supporter of Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C Massimiano II's re-election campaign in 2010.
I remember when the Legislature voted Carmen Massimiano a 21% pay raise 3 or 4 years ago.
More on Denis E "Golddigger" Guyer:
- Jonathan Melle
Governor Deval Patrick answered questions on budget cuts yesterday at Thayer Public Library in Braintree. (Globe Staff Photo / Matthew J. Lee)
"Patrick's calendar shows many empty days: Nearly equivalent to 6-week vacation"
By Brian C. Mooney, Boston Globe Staff, May 12, 2009
As he often does when preparing to take time off, Governor Deval Patrick ended last Aug. 5, a Tuesday, heading west toward Sweet P Farm, his sprawling estate in the Berkshires, near the New York state line.
After a busy day at the State House, he traveled 2 1/2 hours on the Massachusetts Turnpike to an early evening, town-hall-style meeting at the bandstand on Main Street in Great Barrington, two towns away from Richmond, site of the Patrick vacation manse.
For the next 28 days, however, Patrick maintained an extremely light schedule and did not set foot in the State House, according to his daily calendars.
That stretch includes many of the 60 weekdays when his daily calendar was empty during his first two years as governor, indicating that he had no official activities scheduled on those days, according to a Globe review of his schedule.
Patrick's staff points out that he is always on call and often makes official telephone calls or sends e-mails, even during his down time. Still, the vast majority of the blank weekdays on his calendar corresponded with the governor's known summer vacations in Richmond each year, which were described in press reports at the time or were clustered around holidays such as Christmas and long weekends.
The empty pages reflect the equivalent of almost six weeks of vacation or other days containing no official activities per year, a benefit beyond the reach of ordinary workers.
In addition, before releasing copies of his calendar to the Globe, his staff also deleted a variety of other activities that it said were "political and personal" and thus not duties that the governor is required to disclose.
Patrick's aides portrayed his Richmond home as almost an extension of his State House office and said his schedule is merely a rough sketch of all his activities. An example of official work performed on quiet days: He has signed 85 bills while staying at his Berkshires home, according to his staff.
Patrick's state salary is $140,535 a year. Massachusetts has no limit on the amount of time elected officials may take off. But previous governors have taken heat for absenteeism, William F. Weld for his many fishing vacations and Mitt Romney for spending all or part of 219 days out of state in 2006 while he was laying the groundwork for a presidential run.
"To draw conclusions solely from these schedules - without taking into account countless hours meeting with staff, talking to reporters, at his desk sending e-mails, reviewing legislation, crafting policy and remarks, and working on the phone at all hours of the day - paints an incomplete and misleading picture," Kyle Sullivan, his press secretary said in a prepared statement.
Leslie Kirwan, Patrick's secretary of administration and finance, said: "I can see morning, noon, and night where I have e-mails from the governor. He works a lot, and he is demanding a lot of us in terms of the hours we work. I don't know why anyone would have the perception that he is not on the job around the clock."
Kirwan is among a small group of top aides who occasionally travel to Richmond for meetings with Patrick, usually making the five-hour round trip on the same day, but sometimes staying overnight in one of the home's eight bedrooms.
Patrick's principal home is in Milton, but one result of his spending so much time at his Richmond retreat is that Western Massachusetts sees a lot more of Patrick than it did previous governors. A recent exception was Jane Swift, a resident of Williamstown, who also scheduled many events in the central and western parts of the state during her stint as acting governor.
For example, in Patrick's first 27 months as governor, he made as many official appearances (10) in Pittsfield as he did in Fall River and New Bedford, has been to Amherst as many times (six) as Waltham, and attended nearly as many events in Springfield (20) as Cambridge (22). Even tiny, western towns like Colrain, Goshen, and New Salem have had gubernatorial visits.
Doug Rubin, the governor's chief of staff, said the calendars offer a distorted picture of Patrick's work day.
"I'm on the 7:45 call with him every morning where we go over the issues and the schedule of the day," Rubin said. "I get calls from him all hours of the day and night, and there are days when he's in the office and doesn't have public events. I've worked with a lot of elected officials in my career, and I can't remember one who works harder than the governor."
None of Patrick's campaigning, both in and outside the state, usually on weekends, on behalf of Barack Obama's presidential campaign is noted on his calendars, nor is his trip to Chicago to celebrate Obama's historic election on Nov. 4. On his calendar, Election Day and Nov. 5 are empty.
"The political stuff is work; that's part of his job," said Rubin. Trips on behalf of Obama benefit the state, he said.
Another day with no scheduled official duties was March 20, 2008, the day Patrick's casino gambling bill was voted down by the House and he was in New York in pursuit of what would become a $1.35-million contract to write his autobiography. Patrick said last year that he planned to work on the book at night and on weekends.
Responding to the list of weekdays with no activities compiled by the Globe, Sullivan produced some events on days that were blank in copies provided to the Globe. But virtually all of the events Sullivan cited were of a personal or political nature, confirming that Patrick was not conducting official business on those days.
For specific dates, Sullivan said Patrick was attending events at his daughters' schools, the Democratic National Convention in Denver, three other Democratic Party or Obama events, a wedding in San Francisco, the Richmond firefighters' barbecue, a think-tank meeting in Colorado, travel days for Thanksgiving observances with relatives in Atlanta, and a day off before his wedding anniversary.
Senator Frederick E. Berry, chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Ethics said the bill tries to "address public concerns about lobbying and pay to play." (Globe Staff / Pat Greenhouse)
"Senate hits back at Patrick on ethics: Measure would limit gifts to special account"
By Andrea Estes and Frank Phillips, Boston Globe Staff, May 13, 2009
The state Senate wants to curb a controversial system used by Governor Deval Patrick to get around campaign contribution limits, in an unusual case of Democratic leaders seeking to undermine their own governor's fund-raising powers.
The Senate's measure, part of an ethics overhaul bill, is a pointed jab at Patrick. The governor, who released his own ethics legislation without any campaign finance changes earlier this year, has generated ire among lawmakers by criticizing them for moving too slowly on reforms.
Now that they are prepared to act, senators are attempting to scale back a practice of Patrick's that has been criticized by some campaign finance watchdogs.
"It takes away the influence of big business and dispels the notion that people can buy elected officials through campaign contributions," said Senator Frederick E. Berry, Democrat of Peabody and chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics and Rules.
The Senate targeted a system that used a special account, called the Seventy-First Fund, to net $1.2 million in donations from lobbyists and wealthy Democratic contributors over the first two years of Patrick's term.
Named for Patrick's standing as the 71st governor of the state, the fund allows individuals to contribute $5,500 in one check - a combination of $500 for the governor and $5,000 for the state Democratic Party - allowing Patrick to maximize his fund-raising leverage over special interests. The party has used a large portion of the proceeds from the Seventy-First Fund to pay Patrick's political expenses, about $700,000 in all.
The Senate's proposed restriction would reduce the amount individuals can contribute to a party to $500, diminishing the combined effect significantly.
Patrick administration and Democratic Party officials were surprised the provision was included in the Senate's ethics package, but they downplayed its impact on fund-raising operations and said they welcomed all reforms.
"If it applies to all parties, we support it, " said Democratic Party chairman John Walsh, who was Patrick's campaign manager. "It limits the amount that anyone can give to the party, but most of the people who give to the party have nothing to do with the 71st Fund, which is just a joint fund-raising agreement."
Whether the House will adopt the Senate's bill was unclear yesterday. Seth Gitell, a spokesman for House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, said the speaker "looks forward to seeing the final Senate bill and will work on the bill with the Senate in conference."
The Seventy-First Fund has collected contributions from prominent executives and entrepreneurs, including Cleve Killingsworth, chief executive of Blue Cross/Blue Shield; former Citizens Financial Group chairman Lawrence Fish; and Joshua Boger, chief executive of Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Patriots owner Robert Kraft donated $5,500 to the fund in December, just after the administration designated 500 acres near Foxboro Stadium as a growth district, making it eligible for fast-track approvals and infrastructure funds.
Doug Rubin, Patrick's chief of staff, said limiting donations to the party would actually hurt other candidates more than Patrick, who has a proven ability to raise millions of dollars from big and small donors alike. "The governor has the largest and most diverse base of support," he said. "That allows him to raise a lot of low-dollar donations."
The Senate has been slower than Patrick and the House to take up ethics law changes this year, and Senate President Therese Murray has come under fire for appearing reluctant to tackle the matter, even after former senator Dianne Wilkerson was indicted on bribery charges in November.
But in some ways, especially in the area of political campaign finance, the plan the Senate has now produced is stricter than either the House or the governor's version, which contained no campaign finance reforms.
For instance, it would prohibit lobbyists from making any political donations. Lobbyist donations are currently limited to $200 per candidate per year. It also defines lobbyists as anyone who is paid to advocate for a third party and requires them to carry ID cards.
Additionally, it mandates disclosure when groups other than campaigns pay for election ads, such as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads, widely viewed as a deceptive attack on US Senator John Kerry.
"We were trying to address public concerns about lobbying and pay to play," said Berry, the bill's major sponsor. "When I was in college, I took an ethics course. Things were either right or wrong. We tried to use that as a barometer and say this is all about what is right and what is wrong."
Like the House bill, the Senate version stops short of a strong provision proposed by Patrick that would restrict lawmakers from accepting gifts.
Under the Supreme Judicial Court's current interpretation of law, which Wilkerson relied on to justify accepting tens of thousands of dollars from donors, gifts to lawmakers are forbidden only if they were given to influence an official act. The governor's bill outlaws most gifts and could make accepting them a crime. The Senate bill includes a gift ban, but violation of the ban would be a civil, not a criminal, violation.
With three ethics bills now in play on Beacon Hill, open-government advocates are hoping for a victory in 2009.
"There are some bold proposals here we're very excited about," said Pamela Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause/Massachusetts, who had not yet seen the measure. "The ban on lobbyist campaign contributions would have a huge impact in reducing special interest influence in politics."
The bill would give subpoena power, with a judge's consent, to Secretary of State William F. Galvin, whose office regulates lobbyists. By broadening the definition of lobbying, the bill would make it easier for Galvin to get information about who is seeking to influence government officials.
"People who are paying to influence public decisions will now have to come out from behind the curtain," Galvin said.
Governor Deval Patrick's 6,800-square foot , 3 1/2-bathroom Colonial on Hinckley Road in Milton has nine fireplaces. (Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff)
"Patrick's 'empty nest' up for sale: 5 bedrooms, cook's kitchen, $1.9m"
By Andrea Estes and Scott Helman, Boston Globe Staff, June 10, 2009
It has five bedrooms, nine fireplaces, and an expansive cook's kitchen for an owner who takes uncommon pride in his culinary skills. For Governor Deval Patrick, the stately Colonial on Hinckley Road in Milton also holds 20 years of family memories.
That aside, Patrick and his wife, Diane, are putting their house on the market for $1.925 million. They have declared themselves empty nesters, have decided to leave their beloved Milton, and are looking to buy a condominium in the city.
"The kids are gone, and I think Diane and I realized it had been months since the last time we were in the dining room," Patrick said in an interview yesterday, after a tour by three dozen realtors set off a buzz in his neighborhood. "It's just weird to have all that space and just the two of us and the dog rattling around in there. It's really time."
One daughter, Sarah, 23, graduated from New York University and is working in New York. Katherine, 19, will be a sophomore at Smith College next fall and is not living at home this summer.
Of course, for a governor, a straightforward matter like selling a home is rarely perceived as straightforward. In this case, it raises questions about the state of the governor's personal and political finances, questions that he addressed yesterday.
Patrick said he is under no financial pressure to sell the property, even though he and his wife are carrying three mortgages on two expansive properties. They have a $1.28 million adjustable rate mortgage and a $299,000 line of credit on the Milton house. On a sprawling estate the couple built in Richmond, a rural town in the Berkshires, they have a $4 million mortgage with an adjustable rate.
Aides would not say how much the couple's monthly mortgage payments are.
But generic calculations show the Patrick's could be making more than $30,000 a month in mortgage payments on their two properties. A $4 million mortgage, calculated at the 5.75 percent rate that Patrick is currently paying on his adjustable loan in the Berkshires, would require monthly payments of $23,343, according to an interest rate calculation. A $1.28 million mortgage, calculated at the current 5 percent rate on his adjustable loan in Milton, would require $6,871 in monthly payments, according to the rate calculation.
"I am very blessed, and I don't take that lightly," he said. "We have a little money in the bank. My wife is well compensated, and we've been blessed through life. It doesn't mean I don't feel the stresses other people are feeling. I've been touched in my own way, but that's not a factor."
Built in 1900, Patrick's house is a 6,880-square-foot, 3 1/2-bathroom, clapboard Colonial on three-quarters of an acre, according to Milton records. In addition to a circular driveway, it features an expansive kitchen, music room, and study. The town assessed its current value at $1.8 million, with property taxes of $21,000 a year.
The house, purchased in 1989 for $560,000, is a powerful symbol of Patrick's rise from a boy who grew up poor on the south side of Chicago, won a scholarship to Milton Academy, attended Harvard, and became a successful lawyer and politician. Patrick said he grew to love the neighborhood on a paper route while he was a student at Milton.
About three dozen Milton realtors yesterday showed up for a tour of the house, setting off confusion and questioning among neighbors, who appeared outside to find out what was happening at the governor's house.
"It's absolutely magnificent," said one realtor on the tour, who talked on the condition she not be named. "The living room is fabulous. I said to myself, 'This is a true political living room,' with two huge sofas and lots of seats facing each other and the fireplace," she said. She described a huge mahogany dining table, a music room with a grand piano, an office decorated with honorary degrees given to Patrick, and a red telephone on a nightstand in what appeared to be the master bedroom.
"It reminded me of the president," she said.
Patrick said he and his wife, Diane, are hoping to buy an apartment somewhere near downtown Boston, a single-level unit preferably within walking distance of the State House and the Financial District, where Diane works as a lawyer.
"It would be great to be someplace where we could close the door and go off to the Berkshires and not worry about the roof and the lawn being cut and that type of thing," he said.
Patrick said he recognized it may not be the best time to sell a multimillion dollar property. In fact, only one house has sold in Milton for more than a $1 million since January, according to the realtor on the tour.
"We had that conversation with Joey," he said, referring to Josephine McCloskey, the realtor who originally sold him the house. "It's the right time in our lives. That's the point. If it sells, it sells. If it doesn't, we'll wait. We don't have to sell it."
Patrick is putting his house up for sale as he heads into what promises to be an expensive 2010 reelection campaign. He has less money in his political account, about $500,000, than nearly every statewide officeholder. By contrast, state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, who is pondering a challenge to Patrick next year, is sitting on nearly $3 million.
The governor insisted that next year's campaign has "no bearing on a lifestyle decision that we're making."
"I'm going to use a two-syllable word: puh-lease," he said. "I did this once before, and everybody had more money than I did."
He continued: "My campaign isn't going to be just about money. It isn't going to be even mostly about money. It's going to be about engaging people. That's a different kind of politics."
Patrick said he would tap his personal funds for his reelection campaign if he needs to, as he did in the 2006 race.
"But I don't think I'll need to," he said.
"Governor Deval Patrick to sell Milton home"
The Associated Press, Wednesday, June 10, 2009
MILTON, Mass. (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick says he's selling the Milton home he and his family have lived in for the past 20 years and buying a condominium in Boston.
The Patricks are asking for $1.925 million for the five-bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom home on three-quarters of an acre that has a customized cook's kitchen and nine fire places.
The governor and his wife, Diane, say they just have too much space in the home now that both their daughters, ages 23 and 19, have moved out. Patrick says he is under no financial pressure to sell.
The Patricks paid $560,000 for the home in the community just south of Boston in 1989.
The Patricks have not yet decided where in Boston they will move. The family also has a 78-acre estate in the Berkshires town of Richmond.
"Guest Column: What price bipartisanship?"
By Lee Harrison, Op-Ed, The North Adams Transcript, 6/26/2009
Let's state the obvious: Getting to universal, accessible, affordable health care is upsetting a lot of vested interests, including insurers, health care providers and their Republican toadies in the U.S. Senate. But we've seen this movie before.
In 1935, opposition to Roosevelt's Social Security Act was strongest in the business community, and as biographer Jean Edward Smith notes, "In the procedural motions that preceded final passage, House Republicans voted almost unanimously against" the bill. But Roosevelt stood firm, and in doing so, says Smith, he redefined the responsibility of the nation to its citizens.
"If, as our Constitution tells us, our federal government was established among other things ‘to promote the general welfare,'" said FDR, "it is our plain duty to provide for that security upon which welfare depends."
Now, it's Obama's turn to redefine the responsibility of the nation to its people. In doing so, he will define his presidency.
Berkshire Brigades urges him to provide the same leadership and direction on universal health care that Roosevelt provided on Social Security. This opportunity was three generations in the making. Of course, the bar has been lowered. We are no longer talking about true universal health care. Now, it's the "Public Option," a government-run, mini-Medicare that has yet to be fully defined. But, still, under Obama we have a real opportunity to move the ball down the field toward the goal of universal healthcare; let's not blow it on a misguided attempt at bipartisanship.
Indeed, as E. J. Dionne wrote recently in The Washington Post, "Where did we get the idea that the only good health-care bill is a bipartisan bill?" Or, as comedian George Carlin noted, "The word bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out."
Accordingly, we urge the president and the Senate Democrats to let the Senate Republicans filibuster the Public Option. In fact, let's show them to the podium.
Let them talk till they drop (in which case they will no doubt avail themselves the platinum-plated health care program available exclusively to members of Congress). Let them explain to the American people how the Public Option, which would give Americans an alternative to employer-provided health insurance if they currently have a job -- or a safety net if they don't -- actually limits their health care choices.
Let them explain how Republicans -- who (1) see competition as the foundation of American prosperity and (2) constantly complain that government can't do anything well -- now fear competition from the Public Option.
Clearly, cost is an issue, and congressional Republicans cheerily glommed onto a report from the Congressional Budget Office that put a huge price tag on health care. Of course, the fact that neither of the plans the CBO studied contained a Public Option eluded TV news anchors, who simplemindedly portrayed the report as devastating for us Public Option advocates.
That report further rattled conservative Blue Dog Democratic senators. Incredibly, they are balking at the Public Option even though, as The New York Times' Paul Krugman notes, most of them come from small states, where just one or two private insurers dominate the market. Although these opponents of the Public Option say they're defending market competition, Krugman points out that, "what they're actually doing is defending lucrative local monopolies."
So where does this leave us? Nate Silver of the blog fivethirtyeight.com has studied the matter statistically, and he sets out three things we absolutely need to make the Public Option happen:
1. A good CBO score for the House Public Option bill
2. Successful intervention on behalf of the Public Option by Obama
3. The willingness and/or ability to proceed in a 50-vote environment, a.k.a. reconciliation. In other words, to heck with bipartisanship.
No. 1 is beyond our control, but a day after Obama stood up for the Public Option, he seemed to signal that he valued a bipartisan bill even more.
"My big fear about Obama," says Krugman, is that "his vision of himself as a politician who transcends the old partisan divisions will lead him to negotiate with himself and give away far too much."
He did it with the stimulus, and now he's headed down that same path with health care. If you want the Public Option -- and it's really our only hope for controlling health care costs and expanding coverage -- then help us stiffen Obama's spine. Call the White House today: 202-456-1111.
Lee Harrison is chairman of the Berkshire Brigades, the county-wide Democratic
"Invitation from the governor"
By Gov. Deval L. Patrick, Op-Ed, The North Adams Transcript, 6/26/2009
When you elected me as your governor, I promised to be the governor of the whole commonwealth. That means getting out of the Statehouse and its sometimes inward-looking focus and staying connected to you in your own neighborhood. It means hearing directly from you.
That's why this summer I am once again traveling to communities across the state to hold a series of informal town hall meetings. And on Thursday, Aug. 13, I will be in Adams at Greylock Glen, Gould Road at 6:30 p.m.
You can learn more about the town hall meetings and find a full schedule at www.mass.gov/governor/townhall.
Last summer we held 14 of these meetings across the commonwealth. Over 1,000 residents turned out to raise hundreds of challenging, interesting concerns: from a dairy farmer in Rehoboth who asked about farm subsidies to a woman in Great Barrington who opposed the Iraq war; from an Amesbury resident who suggested an alternate pension funding system to a nurse in Hull worried about staff ratios.
I don't pretend to have all the answers. But in every conversation I learn things that help us make better policy.
On August 13, 2009, I hope you and your neighbors will come out and talk with me and each other about the challenges and possibilities facing our communities and our commonwealth. I want to talk about the tough economic circumstances we are all facing, the work we are doing to create jobs and improve education and the reform agenda we have been pursuing on Beacon Hill. And I want to hear what ideas you have for how we can better serve you and your families.
I've learned in my job that, no matter how certain I am about the right thing to do, there is always another side to the story. Usually, there's more than one other side. That's what makes our work and our approach to governing so exhilarating: the opportunity to consider all the different viewpoints, to debate publicly the multiple ideas and passions that people bring to the table and then to follow a path forward the serves the common good.
Meeting our challenges and working together to strengthen our communities must begin with civic conversation. We can't work with each other if we don't talk with each other.
Despite the unprecedented economic challenges before us, I have confidence in the commonwealth and her people. I know that if we see the stake that each of us has in our neighbors' dreams and struggles, as well as our own -- and act on that -- our better tomorrows will come.
I hope to see you on August 13, 2009.
"Patrick heads South for summer governors meeting"
By Glen Johnson, AP Political Writer, July 17, 2009
BOSTON --Seating at National Governors Association meetings is arranged by the order of a state's entry into the union, so Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick usually ends up right next to South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.
Not this weekend in Biloxi, Miss.
Sanford, a possible 2012 Republican presidential contender, is skipping the mid-summer meeting of the country's chief executives as he tries to repair his marriage following an extramarital affair. Also absent will be another high-profile Republican, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
She recently announced she would resign at the end of the month amid speculation the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee also was positioning herself for a 2012 White House campaign.
"I don't know what to say," Patrick said Friday as he left the Statehouse for his flight to the Gulf Coast. "People have all kinds of reasons for making the decisions they make."
He said he was particularly anguished by Sanford's situation, given the time they have spent chatting during previous meetings.
"We've had a lot of exchanges. I've met his wife and he mine. And you don't wish this sort of thing on anybody," the governor said.
The biannual meetings -- the first generally in Washington during the winter and the second at an outside location -- give governors a chance to network and discuss their individual and shared problems. This weekend they are focusing on infrastructure issues, though Patrick says he is looking forward to private time with the new federal appointee dealing with the Massachusetts universal health care law.
Next summer, the meeting will be held in Boston, creating a high-profile spectacle for Patrick amid what will then be his re-election campaign.
He cast the impending gathering as a boost to the state's tourism, not his political stature.
"Folks come with their families, their spouses and kids and so on," he said. "It's just good convention business."
While Patrick has said he won't engage in any politicking until "the campaign season" begins, there are signs of ramped-up political activity for him in the aftermath of two recent developments.
Treasurer Timothy Cahill abandoned the Democratic Party in preparation for a possible 2010 independent gubernatorial campaign, while Harvard Pilgrim Health Care President Charles Baker announced he was resigning to prepare for a 2010 Republican gubernatorial campaign.
Even the schedule announcing Patrick's departure for the NGA meeting can be viewed in a re-election context.
Whereas before only Patrick's public movements -- such as his departure from the airport for Mississippi -- were publicized, his staff has now taken to filling his scheduled with a citation of his closed-door meetings so observers can see the volume of his business activity.
Patrick was criticized his first summer in office for taking a six-week summer vacation. This year he will take a shorter break next month.
Meanwhile, the executive director of Patrick's political committee, Charlotte Golar Richie, sent out an e-mail two weeks ago to defend the governor's decision to sign a 25-percent increase in the state's sales tax. She said it was the only realistic option to deal with a precipitous drop in state tax collections.
And, on Friday, former Patrick campaign manager John Walsh criticized Baker for his involvement in Big Dig financing during his 1990s tenure in the Weld and Cellucci administrations. Walsh now serves as chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party.
Walsh said Baker "has a lot to answer for."
He added: "Today, I call upon him to start to answer questions about what he knew and when he knew it in regard to decisions he made and proposals he offered connected to the flawed financing of the Big Dig."
A Baker spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.
Patrick denied there was any duplicity in the political machinations of him and his surrogates.
"You should ask John Walsh about that," he said as he left the Statehouse for the airport. "I'm talking about my own campaigning. That'll come a little later. I've got some other stuff to do first."
"Patrick makes series of western Massachusetts stops"
By Associated Press, Tuesday, July 28, 2009, www.bostonherald.com - Local Politics
BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick is reaching out and touching western Massachusetts residents with state money for broadband services.
The Democrat visited Northampton today to announce $4.3 million in state bond funding for expanded Internet service to businesses, schools and homeowners.
The money supplements federal funding U.S. Rep. John Olver has secured to run fiber-optic cable along Interstate 91.
During his western swing, the governor also was holding an editorial board meeting with the Daily Hampshire Gazette and then unveiling a housing initiative in Springfield.
At nightfall, Patrick was planning to be in Lenox for the Tanglewood on Parade festivities.
The trip allowed him to spend Monday and Tuesday nights at his vacation home in Richmond.
Greet the Governor
"Gov. Patrick holds public meeting"
By Benning W. De La Mater, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Wednesday, August 12, 2009
PITTSFIELD -- The topics stretched from the economy to wind turbines.
Introductions were made between government officials and environmentalists.
And the gestures ranged from handshakes to hugs.
Gov. Deval L. Patrick offered up a full serving of civic service Tuesday evening at a town hall meeting at Controy Pavilion on OnotaLake. The meeting drew more than 200 citizens who spoke their minds to the commonwealth's commander-in-chief.
In the first Berkshires stop of 17 town hall events planned across the state this summer, Patrick fielded questions from concerned citizens on issues ranging from zebra mussels to health insurance reform to the economy.
He told the crowd that the numbers are starting to show that the current economic slide may be leveling off, but tough decisions lie ahead.
"We could lay every state employee off and still have a $1 billion-plus deficit," Patrick said. "There are a lot of hard choices to make. The question is how do we come out of it strong ... and power out of the other side?"
Patrick fielded several questions pertaining to wind turbines, including proposed farms in Berkshire County and Nantucket Sound. Several residents voiced concerns on both sides of the issue.
Patrick told the crowd he supports "smart" wind turbine projects, including Cape Wind.
"It would be a large symbol to have the first major wind farm in the nation," he said.
Patrick asked for a show of hands on who supported the local proposal, called Hoosac Wind. About one-third of the crowd supported it, one-third opposed it, and one-third had never heard of it.
Mount Washington resident Bobbi Hallig told the governor: "There's plenty of things to do rather than put turbines across the landscape."
"There are thoughtful views on both sides," Patrick said. "I don't think wind turbines are always right or always wrong. There have to be multiple strategies, conservation, solar ... I think we can fuel our future growth with conservation."
Bob Race, president of the Lake Onota Preservation Association, and several Richmond Pond supporters told the governor they were unhappy with the state's response to the threat of zebra mussels in area lakes.
"We have a real crisis now," Race said. "And it may be too little too late."
Race urged Patrick to allow towns to close boat ramps when state or volunteer monitors aren't available. Patrick introduced Race to Mary Griffin, commissioner of the state's Department of Fish and Game, and urged that the two speak on the issue after the meeting.
From Dennis to Lynn to Chicopee to Pittsfield, the governor has held 16 town hall meetings "to encourage civic engagement." Dressed in light brown slacks, a dark brown tie and white dress shirt -- the cuffs rolled up -- Patrick walked through the crowd with a microphone in hand as jet skis bounced across the water.
When Chris Collins, of Lee, asked Patrick how to get funding for the development of a cultural committee in his town, Patrick solicited advice from the crowd and then introduced Collins to a woman who knew of some options.
Local radio host Sherman Baldwin asked Patrick when citizens -- other than road repair contractors -- would see benefits of stimulus funds.
"Most of the money hasn't been spent," Patrick said. "Broadband money will be released late this summer and fall. And some of that money retained our teachers ... but I understand, we need jobs now."
When Marie Cowell, a Pittsfield resident, began to tell Patrick that her two children who have developmental disabilities lost several hours of state-funded services, Cowell became emotional and then apologized.
"Don't apologize for emotions -- you're living it," said Patrick, who gathered Cowell in his arms and hugged her.
"Can you say today that there will not be any more cuts to the line items for disabled people and the services?" Cowell said, breaking down.
Patrick said he couldn't promise anything when it came to budget cuts.
"I know there's a face behind those cuts," he said. "But I want you to know I get it. Everything in this budget has taken a hit. We're having to make terrible choices among miserable options."
The last of the 17 town hall meeting will take place Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Greylock Glen in Adams.
To reach Benning W. De La Mater: email@example.com, (413) 496-6243.
"Forward on education"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorials, Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Governor Deval L. Patrick came into office touting a variety of educational goals, which he acknowledged Tuesday have been slowed by economic realities. Slowed, but not stopped.
In the county Tuesday (8/11/2009) for a variety of meetings, the governor, who owns a home in Richmond, discussed the economy, education and their many links in a visit to The Eagle. The governor pointed out that the Readiness Project, an ambitious program with the goal of bringing about dramatic improvement in education through the cooperation of all in the state with an investment in education, is a "10-year project, and it is happening. We have general bragging rights in educational achievement but it has disguised a real achievement gap that has trapped children of color, special needs and those speaking a second language. That has to be closed."
Mr. Patrick was emphatic Tuesday that the MCLA Center for Science and Innovation in North Adams "is going to happen," pointing out that the center, by filling the demand for workers in biotechnology, life sciences and other growth fields, will be a huge boost to the county economy. MCLA's Cultural Resource Center will enrich the county's creative economy, which must go hand in hand with the industrial section if the Berkshire economy is to sustain growth.
Berkshire governmental and business leaders understand the link between education and the economy, and it is manifested in programs like the Berkshire Compact for Education, which is pushing the Readiness Project. The Compact's goal of providing access to 16 high-quality years of public education and encouraging residents to take advantage of it is enhanced by Readiness Project goals of exploiting new teaching tools and getting parents more involved in education, among others. A good economy cannot be built and maintained without a good educational system.
"Fighting out of the recession"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorials, Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Governor Deval L. Patrick senses a high level of "personal anxiety" at the town meetings he attends this summer, anxiety he tries to temper with cautious optimism about the economy. There is reason to believe that the state is easing out of a recession that has not been as crippling here as elsewhere in the nation and we agree with the governor that the state must aggressively shape its economic future, not react to whatever the future may bring.
While acknowledging real challenges in his meeting at The Eagle, the governor pointed out that the state had the largest percentage of job gains in the nation in May, federal stimulus money is at work in visible highway projects, and the state is poised to come out of the recession more quickly than many states that went in far deeper. Mr. Patrick emphasized the need to come out of the recession "roaring."
The governor's proposed economic summit of business, financial and state officials could be instrumental in the state breaking free of the recession and moving forward economically. We would suggest having the summit in the Berkshires. County leaders could discuss their efforts to link up with three high-tech industries in the Albany region, an effort the governor supports, noting Tuesday that "state lines are not a wall, and if we don't take advantage of Albany we are missing something."
Mr. Patrick, who signed on to but did not advocate the 25 percent sales tax hike, said he was recently told by a woman in a van full of children that "you are taxing us to death, my friend" as he walked through Stockbridge. While noting that the woman "didn't make the connection to the kids in her car," he also acknowledged that "tax policy won't deliver change, that will require more jobs." On that front, there is reason for cautious optimism.
"Gov. Patrick tours local turbine, senior center today"
Berkshire Eagle Staff report, 8/12/2009
Gov. Deval L. Patrick continues with his agenda in Berkshire County today, which includes a meeting on wind power and the swearing in of the new secretary of elder affairs.
The governor is scheduled to join officials of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust at the Williams Stone Co. in Otis today at noon.
The group will celebrate the recent installation of a 600-kilowatt wind turbine at the family-owned granite quarry and manufacturing facility. This turbine can be seen from the Massachusetts Turnpike.
At 3 p.m., the governor will be in Pittsfield at the Ralph J. Froio Senior Center for a swearing in ceremony for Ann L. Hartstein, the state’s new secretary of elder affairs. Hartstein previously visited the senior center on Friday in a public forum.
"Governor finds support, solace in Western Mass."
By Matt Viser, Boston Globe Staff, August 17, 2009
PITTSFIELD - With the sun setting behind him over pristine Onota Lake, Governor Deval Patrick was answering questions about wind farms, zebra mussels, even how to get a nonprofit off the ground.
And then Marie Cowell began to cry. She was upset at Patrick’s budget cuts for those with developmental disabilities, pointing to her two children as evidence of the human toll of his decisions.
“We really need support,’’ she told him between sobs last week at a town hall meeting.
Patrick hugged her, lamented how tight the budget was, then conceded that his words “were cold comfort.’’
But they weren’t: Even though she’s angry at his decisions, Cowell spoke approvingly about the governor and his intentions, a distinction that encapsulates a more forgiving attitude toward Patrick in the western reaches of a state he governs from Boston.
With Patrick suffering at times in the hothouse of Boston politics and estranged from some leaders in his own party, he is finding a much more receptive audience out west. For an urbane governor who has lived in the Boston area for much of his life, it is notable that one of his most reliable reservoirs of support lies in the rural, less populated stretches well beyond Beacon Hill. In both personal and political terms, this part of the state has become something of a home base.
“He feels more comfortable out here,’’ said North Adams Mayor John Barrett, after finishing a series of events with Patrick last week. “He does not react well in the political hub of the state. And when he gets out of that and gets out into the vineyards, as they say, and interacts with people, they see a different guy.’’
Patrick, who vowed to be the governor of the whole state, spends a large amount of time outside of Boston, particularly in Western Massachusetts. It is an area that, according to a recent Globe poll, sees him far more positively than voters elsewhere. Many here say that’s partly because the political sensibilities in this part of the state suit Patrick: earnest, policy-minded, less concerned about personality-driven spats or media-fueled controversy.
“Everywhere outside of 495, I have found a little love goes a long way,’’ Patrick said in an interview. “People really feel like Beacon Hill is focused on Beacon Hill, and not on them. And showing up matters.’’
By virtue of having a vacation home in the area, he’s been able to cultivate the region the way a mayor would target precincts in a city, going to ribbon-cutting ceremonies, having coffee with local mayors, and walking through town centers simply to chat up the local business owners.
This past week, he donned safety goggles and toured a factory in East Otis that turns granite into sidewalk curbs. He walked the streets of North Adams, swore in a Cabinet member in Pittsfield, and announced - at a hockey rink, with about 40 children skating nearby - $40.4 million in federal stimulus money to be disbursed throughout the state. The governor drew standing ovations nearly everywhere he went.
A rift with Senate President Therese Murray was never raised. No one asked about his administration’s ouster of Daniel A. Grabauskas as MBTA general manager. Even the recent increase in the state sales tax - an issue that has dogged him elsewhere - was barely mentioned.
“The personality politics are a little less; there’s a little less emphasis on it in Western Massachusetts than closer in,’’ Patrick said. “People aren’t interested in who’s mad at whom - or who is alleged to be mad, or rumored to be mad at whom. They’re very interested in results . . . People respond to the leadership we show as a Commonwealth in health care and education, in life sciences.’’
In Western Massachusetts, said state Representative Daniel Bosley, a North Adams Democrat who has clashed with Patrick on some issues, “there’s not as much vitriol in the press. And there’s no talk shows. . . . When you’re down in the polls, take solace where you’re doing well.’’
According to the Globe poll, conducted in July, 53 percent of respondents in Western Massachusetts expressed a favorable opinion of Patrick, compared with 36 percent statewide. It was the only region where more people said they approved than disapproved of his job performance, though by a slim margin. More than any other potential gubernatorial candidate next year, it is Patrick whom residents here trust most to handle taxes, the budget, and health care.
“When a person is trying to do his best, that’s all he can do,’’ said Brunina “Bunny’’ O’Donnell, an 83-year-old Pittsfield resident.
Patrick did well in Western Massachusetts in the 2006 election, winning all but four communities. He got 80 percent of the vote in North Adams, 76 percent in Pittsfield, 80 percent in Great Barrington, and 84 percent in Amherst (his most lopsided victory in the state).
Western Massachusetts, with about 13 percent of the state’s population, is rarely pivotal in statewide elections. But it could help Patrick in a close race.
Even out here, though, there are indications of challenges ahead.
Carol Grossmann was an enthusiastic supporter of Patrick’s 2006 campaign, but she’s grown angry, mostly about budget cuts to social services.
“He’s disappointing,’’ said the 59-year-old home heath aide from Conway. “I would never vote Republican. But I just don’t know what will happen.’’
The area has long felt ignored by Beacon Hill; it has, arguably, as many cultural connections to New York than Massachusetts.
So Patrick simply showing up - picking up a sugar cider doughnut at Bartlett’s Orchard, shopping at Guido’s, a high-end grocery store in Pittsfield - seems to endear him to locals.
“It’s kind of refreshing to have a governor who understands how far out the Turnpike goes,’’ said Shirley Edgerton of Pittsfield. “He’s kind of put us on the map.’’
During his first 27 months in office, Patrick had held 69 official events in the four counties of Western Massachusetts. By comparison, he did 78 events in Boston during the same period. In 2007, after the governor marched in a July Fourth parade in Pittsfield, the Berkshire Eagle noted that Patrick had logged more visits to the Berkshires in six months than Mitt Romney did in his entire four-year term.
“We have access in Boston like we have never had before,’’ said Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto. “In a large sense we are isolated from the petty criticisms that are directed at the governor, and we can look at him through a lens that isn’t muddied by all the small distractions deemed to be political missteps.’’
Patrick often takes sojourns to his country home in Richmond during the summer months, and next month he plans to recover there after having hip surgery. He has held staff retreats there, entertained other politicians, and invited the entire state Legislature for a summer barbecue last year.
The governor and his wife, Diane, have put their Milton home on the market, intend to buy a condo in Boston, and plan to one day retire to the Berkshires.
“It feels like you want me to say I feel more comfortable out there than I do elsewhere in the Commonwealth - I don’t,’’ Patrick told a reporter.
But it is clear he finds comfort there.
“It’s just very friendly,’’ he said. “And I like that. I respond to that. Who wouldn’t?’’
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"How the west was won"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorials - Tuesday, August 18, 2009
It's unfortunate that there is no longer a Berkshire County Commission because its chairmanship could be a nice sinecure someday for Deval Patrick whenever his gubernatorial tenure ends. With a tough re-election race looming in difficult economic times, the western end of the state continues to be welcoming turf for a governor whose roots are actually in the commonwealth's eastern end.
According to a recent Boston Globe poll, 53 percent of respondents in Western Massachusetts expressed a favorable opinion of the governor, compared with 36 percent statewide. That the governor has a house in Richmond where he plans to recover from impending hip surgery is a major factor, of course, but since his election, Mr. Patrick has made a point to be of the Berkshires, not just in the Berkshires.
Regarding his popularity in the western hills, the governor told The Boston Globe that "showing up matters," and earlier this month, the governor was indeed all over the Berkshires, speaking at a variety of town hall-type gatherings and discussing hot button local issues like zebra mussels. Beyond these meetings with constituents, which he appears to have more of a flair for than dealing with Boston politicians, Mr. Patrick can often be seen standing in checkout lines at Guido's, Petco and Bartlett's, which impresses residents surprised to see a chief executive out and around doing his own shopping.
Mr. Patrick has the advantage of succeeding Mitt Romney, who rarely showed up out west and didn't appear clear on the difference between Pittsfield and Springfield when he did. Acting Governor Jane Swift, of course, had actual Berkshire roots, but she was brushed aside by Mr. Romney before she had a chance to run for election once. The Globe story speculated that Mr. Patrick's earnest, policy-driven style is a good match for the western region of the state. Some of the controversies that have enveloped Mr. Patrick, such as the management of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, have no resonance in this region.
Mr. Patrick did extremely well in western communities in the 2006 election, winning 80 percent and 76 percent of the vote in North Adams and Pittsfield, respectively. This resounding vote in his favor can be attributed in part to a backlash against Mr. Romney, represented on the ballot by his former lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey, but Mr. Patrick's continued popularity here could be significant in November of 2010. Western Massachusetts contains only 13 percent of the state's population, but if the governor finds himself in a closer race in 2010 than he did in 2006, which would seem to be a certainty, his "showing up" around the region for four years may pay dividends.
In this Jan. 19, 2009 file photo, then-President-elect Barack Obama, left, is introduced by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick at a dinner in Washington. Photo by AP (File).
"A little help from Obama"
BOSTON & BEYOND NOW. METRO-DESK. Boston.com - 8/21/2009
For an incumbent governor, Deval Patrick is not showing much fundraising prowess -- but then again, not every governor can count on a popular president to raise millions of dollars for his re-election.
Patrick aides say to look for President Obama to swing through Massachusetts in October to help out his good friend. Between that fundraising trip and another expected presidential visit next year, Patrick's team hopes to raise as much $4 million for the governor's political committee and the Democratic State Committee.
While Patrick can only raise $500 a year from each donor, he can collect $5,000 donations annually for the party, which would then pour its resources into Patrick's campaign.
Patrick's political committee, which now has a relatively paltry $525,000, also lost some much-needed cash this month when the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance forced his committee to ''purge'' its account of $28,000 worth of donations from his 2006 election. The office's audit said the donations did not comply with the legal standards, mostly because some individuals had exceeded the $500 annual limit.
Patrick can also tap into the $1 million account that his running mate, Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, has built since the two took office. Still the Patrick-Murray team will be up against some well-funded campaigns, including, in all likelihood, that of Cahill, whose war chest tops $3 million.
-- FRANK PHILLIPS
"Funds could shape campaign"
By Matt Murphy, Berkshire Eagle Boston Bureau, Monday, August 24, 2009
BOSTON -- As the unofficial end to summer approaches, Gov. Deval L. Patrick will visit Martha's Vineyard this week in an attempt to bolster his bank account as he prepares for what looks to be a challenging re-election campaign in 2010.
Money for the race could become important as the field of candidates takes shape and looks to include an incumbent Democrat, a CEO, a self-made millionaire and a newly minted Independent with a hefty stockpile of campaign funds.
The economic climate could also put a dent in political fundraising across the board, according to professionals, as former big donors have less to give, and smaller benefactors are more reluctant to part with their hard earned cash.
Patrick's seaside soiree comes as some Democratic fundraisers and consultants are privately expressing concern that he has not been able to stash away more cash over the past two-and-half years.
The diminutive war chest, they suggested, invites confidence among his challengers that they can compete financially with the incumbent Democrat next year.
Campaign finance records show Patrick with just over $525,000 in the bank as of mid-August.
"I' m surprised, frankly. No incumbent statewide candidate should have $600,000 in the bank heading into an election year," said one Democratic fundraising consultant, who asked to speak on background because of his business. "Deval can easily turn around and raise $1 million by the end of the year, but that still invites people to think you're vulnerable."
Patrick spent over $8 million in 2006, the year he first ran for governor.
Treasurer Timothy Cahill is expected to announce whether he will run for governor as an independent some time after Labor Day, but the Quincy politician already has $577,000 in his campaign account and another $2. 3 million squirreled away in a separate savings account.
Republican Christy Mihos has raised over $60,000 since July 1 but has access to significant personal wealth and has shown he is not shy about tapping it.
Charlie Baker, the other Republican in the race and the former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim, raised $23,100 in one day on July 31.
Patrick aides, however, said they are not worried.
"We are confident we will have the funds necessary to wage an aggressive and successful campaign," said Steve Crawford, the spokesman for the Patrick campaign committee.
Patrick's low balance is not necessarily an indication of his fundraising prowess. The governor has aggressively spent money in non-election years, spending over $514,000 this year alone building up his grassroots operation.
He will also be able to share the nearly $1.2 million account his running mate, Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, has built since taking office. It also appears he will not have a primary challenger, allowing him to save resources for the general election.
The governor's Oak Bluffs fundraiser at the home of Deborah Jackson, Red Cross of Massachusetts Bay CEO, and her husband, Duane, on Friday will give Patrick a gateway to a community of deep-pocketed donors.
Although President Barack Obama will also be at the Vineyard next week, Crawford said he had "no indication" that Obama might stop by.
The fall will likely see a ramping up of efforts by all candidates to raise funds for next year's race before the real campaigning begins, and Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket could be ground zero until the leaves start to turn.
"That's where the money is. This is the time of year when all you do down there is go from event to event and pay money," said Michael Goldman, a Democratic consultant and informal advisor to Patrick.
Raising money in other parts of the state, however, could prove to be more difficult for all candidates, thanks to the still slumping economy and lack of jobs.
"I think I'd be lying if I said it hasn't been more challenging. There's a lot of people who used to have money who don't now, and a lot of industry people who just aren't giving," said Vann Snyder, a fundraising consultant who worked on former Gov. Michael Dukakis' presidential campaign.
Despite Cahill's hefty campaign account now, Snyder said, the treasurer could face a particularly challenging landscape following his decision to leave the Democratic Party and potentially run as an independent.
Cahill, in switching his enrollment, leaves behind a reliable base of Democratic supporters and has created the challenge for himself of convincing donors he has a chance to win.
"Raising money will be very difficult for him, in my opinion," Snyder said. "He's been able to raise money because of the Democratic Party and his office as treasurer. This might open him up to more Republicans, but the Republicans are going to have a spirited primary of their own -- and without a vested interest in Cahill, he will have to convince them he can win."
Dick Morris, Mihos' chief political consultant and a former advisor to President Bill Clinton, this week blamed Mihos' independent status in the 2006 election as the reason his client lost. Morris said Mihos will be able to topple both Baker and Patrick this time around, running as a Republican, because of his opposition to Big Dig spending and the "considerable financial advantage" the multimillionaire brings to the campaign.
Although Patrick spent over $10 million in his first run for governor from 2005 through 2006, he had just $277,368 in the bank at this same point in time in the race.
Aides to Baker say the Republican hopes to raise $12 million for his first run for public office.
State Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh said the party will also be there to support Patrick financially as the nominee and likely will have more fundraising power in the blue Massachusetts than the Republicans will.
"We will raise a lot of money for the Democratic nominee. We will work as hard as we can to support that effort," Walsh said.
The Legislature recently pulled the plug on a unique arrangement between Patrick's campaign and the party called the Seventy-First Fund that allowed Patrick to raise $5,500 at a time from donors, accepting the maximum $500 donation for himself and sending $5,000 to the Democratic Party.
The party, in turn, helped Patrick pay campaign expenses by donating nearly $630,000 of in-kind contributions to Patrick's campaign between 2007 and 2008.
The systematic fundraising partnership is no longer allowed under state campaign finance rules, but the Democratic Party can and will continue to support its candidates financially.
"We will aggressively continue to do that, and I think there's definitely an advantage in the party design for our candidates," Walsh said.
"Governor at home in Berkshires"
By Garett Sloane, Berkshire Eagle Staff, October 19, 2010
All politics are local but not all politicians are, a fact that has left the Berkshires feeling a little unloved at times from the state's Boston power center.
Not when it comes to Gov. Deval Patrick, however, who is about as local as it gets with his second home in Richmond. A number of Berkshire leaders said the governor is a friend in Boston with an awareness of the region unlike many of his predecessors.
Patrick's command of local issues has benefited the county, according to those local leaders, and political observers said that in turn the governor has built a solid base of support here that could be pivotal this tight election cycle.
Talking to Patrick, his sentimental attachment to the
Berkshires comes across right away. During a phone interview from Boston he started by asking, "How is it out in God's country?"
It was a beautiful fall day.
"You're killing me," he said, lamenting the fact he was stuck out east.
Patrick and his wife, Diane, know the natural beauty here well. They've owned property in Richmond for a decade, and during the first five years -- before they built their home -- they would camp on the land and daydream, the governor said.
Patrick has certainly made his presence felt as a neighbor. He has attended Richmond Fire Department fundraisers, he's a regular at Pittsfield's Fourth of July Parade, and you'll find him at a Colonials game and the checkout line at Guido's market.
His strong Berkshire ties have local leaders like Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto pulling for him to win re-election. Ruberto said the governor is uniquely familiar with issues here.
"In taking the governor around as a candidate [during Patrick's first run four years], he was keenly interested in different sections of the city, demographics of the schools and the economics of the city," said Ruberto, who shares his Democratic Party affiliation with Patrick.
The mayor contrasted Patrick's familiarity with the terrain with former Gov. Mitt Romney's seeming lack of understanding.
"At a Berkshire Chamber of Commerce breakfast, more than once [Romney] called the city Springfield, explaining how happy he was to be here," Ruberto recalled.
Patrick made more Berkshire visits in his first six months in office than Romney did during his entire administration.
Knowledge of the Berkshires
The last time the Berkshires had a governor with a strong local connection was during Gov. Jane Swift's tenure from 2001 to 2003.
Swift, a Republican originally from North Adams, rose from lieutenant governor to acting governor when Gov. Argeo Paul Cellucci stepped aside to become ambassador to Canada.
In a recent interview, she said her knowledge of the Berkshires was an advantage for the region, because she understood issues ranging from farming to school reimbursement rates.
"My challenge was to be similarly absorbed in other regions," she said. "You have to be intentional about making yourself aware and building credibility."
That of course is the governor's job, to brush up on the commonwealth's varied regions, Swift said. However, the sense of many people in Massachusetts is that Boston politicians neglect them.
"I was shocked. Four miles from the Capitol, everyone had the same sentiment," she said. "People on the Cape, the North Shore, Central Massachusetts all have the same sense that politicians lack understanding outside of Boston."
While that is the popular perception, it doesn't necessarily reflect the reality, according to Matt Kerwood, Richmond's town manager and a veteran of several governors' administrations, including Swift's.
"The general perception out here -- in all of Western Massachusetts not just the Berkshires -- is that the state ends in Worcester," Kerwood said. "But from my experience in state and local government, I can say the state government doesn't end in Worcester and they are paying attention."
Kerwood worked in the office of business development during the administrations of William Weld, Cellucci and Swift. He saw the state foster Berkshire projects such as the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and Beacon Cinema.
"It took from the Cellucci-Swift to the Patrick-Murray administrations, and three city mayors, to get Beacon Cinema from concept to opening. So none of this happens overnight," he said.
Kerwood, a Republican, won't be throwing his support to Patrick, because there are more important factors than just where a governor owns a home, he said, but he did recognize how Patrick's local ties could help him.
"You can always say you have an edge because if the governor is from the region they're going to probably know players and individuals involved on a local level more intimately than say some unknown part of the commonwealth. There is a little bit of a home-field advantage," he said.
That's a point Swift stressed, as well. "All governor's strive to understand, but that's more easily achieved, and more absorbed, when the governor lives part time in the community," she said.
Patrick has often said his job encompasses the entire state not just the regions where he has a personal connection.
"I committed to be the governor of the whole state," Patrick said. "If you only focus on Beacon Hill, you only do a fraction of the job." When it comes to the Berkshires he demonstrates his command of distinct regional issues such as the need for broadband infrastructure.
In fully wired Boston, "broadband wouldn't come up at all," he said.
Understanding Western Massachusetts also comes down to knowing details as simple as the lay of the land. He talked about how the counties in these parts are north-south oriented, different from the east-to-west geography closer to Boston.
It's a seemingly minor distinction, but one that comes into play when considering important issues such as transportation, he said.
As much as a politician's connection with the region can benefit the Berkshires by providing access to Boston, the politician benefits from the access to the Berkshires, Swift said.
During her brief time as governor, Swift lived under the intense media scrutiny of Boston, a situation she described as being trapped inside a bubble, and her best escape was to retreat to the Berkshires, she said.
"The real benefit is to the politician who gets to live out here," she said. "There's a modicum of privacy away from the public eye, and a degree of freedom to live your life when you're in the Berkshires."
Patrick also talked about the quality of life in the Berkshires, but oftentimes his stays out here have been working vacations. He's held cabinet meetings in Richmond, for a brief time shifting the state's power center to the west.
While the county has played a role policy-wise during Patrick's first term as governor, it will play a factor politically this election, according Maurice Cunningham, an assistant political science professor at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.
"People in the west historically feel ignored, so this gives him some advantage," Cunningham said.
Could sway tight race
Although the Berkshires is not a major population center, the votes here could sway a tight race between Patrick and Republican Charlie Baker. State Treasurer Timothy Cahill is running as an independent and Jill Stein is running on the Green-Rainbow line.
"Politicians have to be good counters, and more so than most this will be a close election," Cunningham said. "Politicians ignore the west at their peril."
Patrick's base here is confident the county will be delivered.
"He will see such solid support from the county, he will be pleased," Ruberto said.
Backing in the Democrat stronghold of the Berkshires would not surprise anyone. The governor took the county solidly in his first run in 2006 with numbers consistently around 80 percent of the vote from North Adams to Great Barrington.
However, in this year of anti-incumbent fervor political players and observers said this is not the time to take any vote for granted, and the governor said so as well.
"Never take anyone or anything for granted," Patrick said. "Just because I have a family retreat, doesn't mean I have expert knowledge on all issues. I listen to people."
Win or lose the governor and his wife's Berkshire ties will remain.
"Our second home is there, and one day we hope to retire in the Berkshires," he said.
But, Patrick hopes, just not come November.
Where the gov. goes
Gov. Deval Patrick gives The Eagle an insider's look at what he considers to be some of the Berkshires' top spots -- from restaurants to hiking trails.
Patrick calls himself a "foodie," and here are two eateries at which you might find him: Rouge in West Stockbridge -- "It's just down the street from our house," Patrick said. And Elm Street Luncheonette in Pittsfield -- a popular breakfast stop for the governor.
Some of his other Berkshire-favorite things include:
Guido's: The governor prefers to shop for groceries at this well-known Berkshires market, but he also stops at any number of farmstands. He frequents one on Swamp Road near Bartlett's Orchard in Richmond. "It's on the honor system, they leave out the corn, and you leave the money," Patrick said.
Richmond furnace: The governor said is among his favorite places to hike to. The furnace, off Route 41, is a little-known gem from the county's little-known iron age, and now it's mostly in ruins. Quite a sight.
Lenox Mountain: The governor hasn't done this hike yet, but it's tops on his list to hike the area behind Bartlett's Orchard to the fire tower, he said.
Snowshoeing: In case you were wondering how the governor gets around in the winter, it's not by snowboard or ski. Snowshoeing is among his preferred winter recreations.
Gov. Deval L. Patrick speaks at a press conference on Friday (11/5/2010) at City Hall in Pittsfield. State Rep. William ‘Smitty’ Pignatelli, left, and state Sen. Ben Downing are on hand. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
"Gov. sets goals"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff, November 6, 2010
PITTSFIELD -- Gov. Deval L. Patrick outlined the priorities for his second term Friday during a rare Western Massachusetts press conference at City Hall during which he said his administration's primary focus would be on jobs, education and health care.
Patrick, who owns a home in Richmond, said he intends to build on the achievements of his first term. As accomplishments, the governor listed the closing and consolidation of state agencies, Criminal Offender Record Information reform, autism and school nutrition bills, the passage of anti-bullying legislation, enabling small businesses to purchase health insurance through cooperatives, and the state's ability to maintain its AA bond rating for four straight years.
"We've had the most productive legislative session in 30 years," he said. "You wouldn't know it because everybody focuses on whether the casino bill did or didn't happen."
Patrick said, "We are moving the commonwealth forward. The reason I sought a second term is to finish that work because I think there are some big, hard decisions that if we face up to now and get right we can leave a better and stronger commonwealth."
Patrick said his immediate priorities are "jobs, jobs and jobs, and related to this [are] education and health care."
From the beginning, Patrick said his administration's job creation strategy has been focused on education, innovation and infrastructure. He expects new job opportunities to arise from the state's focus on information technology, the life sciences, biotechnology and clean technology, as well as the manufacturing that goes with these industries.
"We are increasingly making the things that we invent here," he said.
In Western Massachusetts, Patrick cited the Center for Science and Innovation building at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, which was dedicated on Oct. 26, as an example of his administration's focus on the innovative economy.
He also expects jobs to be created through infrastructure improvements, specifically repairs to roads, rails and bridges, and the expansion of broadband access to this area of the state which lags behind the rest of Massachusetts.
"You will have high-speed broadband in Western Massachusetts in the next two years in every single community," Patrick said to applause from those in attendance.
When asked how he planned to close the state's $2 billion budget gap, Patrick referred to the gap as part of the "lore" of the recently completed gubernatorial campaign. It became a campaign issue when one of his opponents objected to using one-time funds from the state's "rainy day fund" to balance the state's spending plan, he said.
In July, Patrick said the state experienced the biggest gain in private sector jobs in 20 years. With more people working, he said payroll taxes were $200 million above their benchmarks in both September and October.
"If that trend continues, that's part of the [solution] for next year," he said. "The other part is that we were not able to use any rainy day funds for this budget year, so there's another $600 million or $700 million in that account."
Patrick said he was disappointed that state residents voted to repeal the state sales tax on alcholic beverages by approving Question 1 because the revenue funds substance abuse programs.
"The sad part of this is that substance abuse tends to go up at a time of economic distress like this one," he said. "So we have a greater need for services. Having already cut $4.3 billion out of state spending, [coming up] with another $125 million isn't that simple."
On education, Patrick said the Achievement Gap bill that he signed in January "is the single most important reform bill" in the 17 years that education reform has taken place.
"We now have the tools to close the achievement gap," he said. "But we still have an achievement gap to close."
Patrick said he is "very proud" that 98 percent of state residents currently receive health care, but said those benefits still "cost too much," especially for businesses and working families.
He cited eliminating duplication from the health care system as a way of cutting costs, but said it won't be easy.
"I think it's going to be a very, very heavy lift," Patrick said. "I think that's one area where we will need legislation."
Patrick declined to comment on his position regarding a casino bill.
"You know where I am on the casino bill," he said. "You know where we are politically. It rests with the Legislature right now.
"What I don't want to have in the coming (legislative) session is what happened in the last one or two," Patrick said. "It sucks the air out of the building for everything else, and we have a lot of other stuff that we need to do."
To reach Tony Dobrowolski: email@example.com, or (413) 496-6224.
Gov. Deval Patrick speaks with reporters from The Associated Press Tuesday in the Governor’s office at the Statehouse in Boston. During a phone interview with The Eagle, Patrick said he plans to close the state’s budget gap by next year. (Associated Press)
By Clarence Fanto, Berkshire Eagle Staff, January 5, 2011
On the eve of his second-term inauguration in Boston, Gov. Deval Patrick said he plans to unveil a budget proposal in three weeks that will slash $1.5 billion from current state spending, which is nearly $28 billion this fiscal year.
In a wide-ranging telephone interview with The Eagle on Tuesday, Patrick said those cuts would close the state's estimated budget gap for the next fiscal year.
"That's on top of similar cuts in recent years so we could manage the worst economy in memory," he pointed out.
Although state coffers are benefiting from increased revenue through higher tax collections as unemployment gradually declines, Patrick warned that "everything's on the table because it has to be. We're looking at different scenarios, but the budget will be balanced and on time."
Asked how he plans to tackle out-of-control cost increases plaguing MassHealth, the state Medicaid program for the unemployed and the working poor, the governor stressed the urgency of "cracking the code" on health care costs, preferably through a "global payment system" for physicians. If agreed to by all the players in the health care system, doctors would be paid for ongoing, overall treatment for each patient rather than the current fee system that rewards each service and procedure.
Patrick stressed that the state's landmark health care reform law is not the cause of the MassHealth cost crisis; instead, he said, it's the sharp increase in patients eligible for state-subsidized care because of job losses.
"Emphasizing job creation gets pressure off MassHealth, and cost containment helps job creation because insurance costs cut into potential hiring by small businesses," Patrick said.
On other subjects, Patrick declared:
* Cleaning up the scandal-plagued Probation Department requires not only "changing leadership, which is the right thing to do, but we need probation to be part of a more comprehensive, modern re-entry system for people incarcerated, involving probation, parole and the sheriffs, since many inmates coming out are more dangerous than when they came in." State Probation Commissioner John J. O'Brien resigned last week ahead of a disciplinary hearing that had been slated for Tuesday.
* Consultation with members of Congress, state representatives and the entire public hearing process will determine whether western Massachusetts retains its two congressional districts now that the 2010 Census requires the loss of one seat. "I think we probably will, but we won't know how it will all turn out. It's in the early stages now," he said.
* A recent report predicting that wind-turbine projects in the Berkshires could supply enough power for most of the county's homes shows that "we have to be serious about our generational responsibilities. Folks on the Cape think wind energy is fine in the Berkshires, while folks in the Berkshires think wind energy on the Cape is a great idea." Patrick said streamlining the approval process is "more than fair," and emphasized that the Wind Siting Reform proposal "is all about local control, but you can't have people from 60 or 70 miles away telling Pittsfield what to do."
* Casino gambling is "not a priority of mine, but if we do it the right way we can get the jobs and revenues. But I'm not going to support no-bid contracts for track owners, and it would be better to get an agreement on the parameters before a bill is filed in the legislature, otherwise it sucks all the air out of the room."
Patrick will be inaugurated for his second term on Thursday in a toned-down ceremony including a $50-per-person party at the Boston Public Library. Total inaugural expenses are put at $400,000 now, compared to the $2 million Patrick raised for elaborate celebrations four years ago.
Patrick, who has no plans to run for public office after his second term, is working on his autobiography during his limited spare time and has said he and his wife intend to retire to their Berkshire country home in Richmond.
Here are Gov. Deval Patrick's top five goals for 2011, the first year of his second and final term, as outlined during an interview with The Eagle on Tuesday:
1. Job creation.
2. Investment in education, innovation, infrastructure and broadband.
3. Closing the achievement gap in the public schools.
4. Devising strategies to contain health care costs.
5. Developing a comprehensive plan to combat youth violence.
"Patrick leaves with record of accomplishment"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, 12/27/2014
When Deval Patrick ran for governor eight years ago, not many in the state were familiar with the corporate attorney and former U.S. Justice Department official. Not many in the Berkshires knew he had a home here.
But Mr. Patrick's optimism, charisma and progressive platform quickly ignited his outsider campaign against familiar Democratic rivals. He easily won the party primary, cruised to election and easily won re-election four years later. He is now winding down his terms in office and looking forward to whatever is next, and while that will involve change, he did tell The Eagle in a phone interview that he and his family will maintain their home in Richmond — "God's country," as he referred to the county.
If an elected official is measured on whether or not his town, city, state or nation is better off upon his leaving than his arriving, the governor certainly passes the test. Mr. Patrick guided the state through a recession and Massachusetts has seen a 4.1 percent growth in jobs in his tenure, compared to a 1.7 percent hike nationally in that period. The state's AA+ bond rating, a testament to a solid economy and good management, is the highest in state history.
The governor made education a priority at all levels, and perhaps most notably elevated the game of the state's long-neglected community colleges. He emerged as a strong advocate for life sciences and the biotech industry, and his emphasis on the development of clean energy technology has made Massachusetts a leader in that area as well. He addressed the state's long-neglected infrastructure, and successfully advocated for a needed toughening of the state's gun violence laws. Inevitable tiffs aside, he worked efficiently with the state Legislature.
There were problems along the way, among them breakdowns in the Department of Transition Assistance and the Department of Children and Families. However, Mr. Patrick, a non-traditional politician, didn't respond with the traditional three-step political response of denial, blame-shifting and media-bashing. He instead acknowledged failings and set about correcting them.
Mr. Patrick's Richmond presence gave him a perspective on Berkshire issues, such as a persistent job crunch and poor broadband access, that he worked to address. His appreciation for the county's beauty certainly played a part in his environmentalism and advocacy of clean energy. Less tangibly, it was important to a region often neglected by Boston to have a governor who knew his way around the county, realized the different challenges facing a North Adams and a Lenox and a Pittsfield, and could be bumped into at a local retailer.
The governor is looking at a return to the private sector and isn't considering any runs for political office (including when asked by The Eagle, a bid for Richmond Selectman.) Mr. Patrick emerged as a national political figure during his tenure, partly because of his friendship with President Obama and also thanks to a powerful speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2012 in which he chastised Democrats for their passivity and urged them to "grow some backbone."
Mr. Patrick's popularity and ease on camera means that his party is not likely to let him drop off the radar no matter how hard he tries to disappear into the private sector. It's also easy to envision Mr. Patrick on TV news commentary although he has expressed his disinterest in a career as a pundit.
Whatever the future holds for Mr Patrick he has left behind a legacy of accomplishment. In spite of periodic baseless rumors that he would leave for a position in the Obama administration, the governor's focus never drifted from Massachusetts — which cannot be said of every recent governor. A progressive, he came into office determined to assure that the state would progress, and he succeeded on a variety of fronts. The state is better for Deval Patrick having been its governor.
December 28, 2014
Re: Deval Patrick was a good Governor, but problems will continue
Deval Patrick was a good Governor of Massachusetts. He stands for progressive liberal policies of the Democratic Party. He grew up in a poor family in Chicago who received welfare assistance programs. He obtained success in higher education, business, and state and federal government. I do not blame Mr. Patrick for Massachusetts' financial mess, but he did not make any structural improvements to the way the Bay State operates.
Massachusetts is the number 1 per capita debtor state government in the nation since the mid-1990's, or for the past 2 decades. The Big Dig's multi-billion dollar cost overruns are mostly to blame. Over the past 2 decades, state aid to cities and towns was cut by around 40 percent! That really hurts constrained communities like Pittsfield and North Adams, which are the population centers of rural Berkshire County.
On top of cuts in state aid, inflationary costs of municipal government services such as healthcare insurance and unfunded liabilities have increased for municipalities. That means the state not only cut its funding for local governments, but that local governments are paying more than ever before to fund its operations. It is like two cuts in one, or local governments batting with 2 strikes with a Cy Young pitcher winding up for strike 3.
In 2006, Deval Patrick campaigned against Romney/Healey's "shell game" of not raising taxes on the state level, while forcing the hand of local governments to hike regressive property taxes due to cuts in state aid funding. Over the past 8 years, Deval Patrick's administration continued to cut state aid.
When Charlie Baker takes the oath of office next week in early January 2015, Deval Patrick will have left office with the a current budget deficit between $750 million and $1 billion. Unlike Mr. Patrick, Mr. Baker will not raise state taxes like his Republican Governor predecessors Weld, Cellucci, Swift, and Romney. That means Mr. Baker is going to borrow money (debt) and/or cut state and local funding, meaning further cuts to public services like education, police, fire, and roads.
The bottom line is that in Massachusetts politics and public finances, Deval Patrick didn't change anything for the better. He inherited all the political and financial problems that will continue with the Baker Administration.
I hope Deval Patrick becomes a future U.S. President because he is a good man, I concur with his political platform, and he is a true leader who believes in the U.S.A. and World.
- Jonathan Melle
...more to come!...