EOHHS Secretary - State of the Commonwealth

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thank you for joining us here at the spectacular Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital.  It is the first time I have been here since I was a VP of Operations at UMass Memorial and the Department of Psychiatry reported to me. I can tell you, I have heard about the facility, but all the remarks pale in comparison to what we have right here in Worcester. This is a truly a great place for caring and recovery. And this is just one example of the great things happening in Worcester and all across Central Massachusetts.

Central Massachusetts has been the fastest growing region in the state over the past 10 years, thanks in part to major investments like this state-of-the-art Recovery Center and Hospital. In talking with the Speaker of the House yesterday about coming to Worcester, he stressed to me the importance of the Central Massachusetts region and the incredible work that has been going on here.  The Speaker didn’t have to convince me of that….I live here….but it is nice to know that other folks value all   of the good things happening here as much as I do.

We are so fortunate to have good schools, great businesses, effective public – private partnerships and elected officials at the local, state and national level who are committed to the success of this region.

And that makes people want to live here, to fulfill their dreams here  – and every single person in central Massachusetts, as they do across the Commonwealth, deserves that opportunity, to find a good job with good wages to support their family, to have access to high quality education for their children, to have access to reliable, efficient public transportation for their commute, it all is about opportunity.

And opportunity is too important to leave to chance.  Opportunity requires growth.  And growth requires thoughtful planning and investment. It’s just as true of government as in any family home or business.

Before Governor Patrick gave me the honor of serving in this new role as Secretary of Health and Human Services, I had the amazing opportunity to lead some of our cutting edge hospitals here in Massachusetts, including Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Brighton, and Marlborough Hospital and before that at UMass Memorial Medical Center, right up the road.

And as someone who comes from the private sector, I know how important it is to invest in growth to create opportunity.

As Governor Patrick has said: “The economy is not like the weather; it is not some natural force that is beyond our control, something where we have to wait for others to predict or explain to us.  What we choose to do, and not do, shapes our future.”

That is why we must invest in education, innovation and infrastructure, to grow our future.

Investing in Education

We invest in education because well-prepared young minds and mid-career talent is our state’s global calling card and our economic edge.

After twenty years of education reform, our students are at the top of the nation in student achievement and at the top of the world in math and science. Teachers have more support and flexibility to respond to students’ individual needs, and standards and accountability are high.

Now we have the opportunity to focus resources where poverty is too often concentrated, and ensure that every middle school child in our Gateway Cities, including Worcester has a longer school day, filled with enrichment programs, service learning, art, exercise and music.

Public colleges and universities in Central Massachusetts educate over 41,000 students each year. And through the Patrick-Murray Administration’s historic higher ed investments they are doing great things for area employers and students alike.

For example, at Mt. Wachusett Community College, a collaboration with Clinton company Nypro Corporation, and Scientific Management Techniques is addressing the manufacturing skills shortage by matching students with employers and training them for the right job.

Just yesterday, Quinsigamond Community College announced that they were expanding to the former T&G building in downtown Worcester, and will use the space to focus on an expanded menu of health sciences-related programs, including radiation therapy and oncology-related support programs.

The Patrick Murray administration is committed to expanding access to higher education, to training our students for the jobs of tomorrow and to keeping those bright young people right here in Massachusetts.

Investing in Innovation

We know we must invest in innovation because, with a workforce like ours, enabling and encouraging new ideas is the best way to take advantage of the knowledge explosion happening in the world economy today.

We all know that innovation is not just happening in Cambridge.

Through a $90 million investment from our Life Sciences Center, Governor Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Murray just yesterday cut the ribbon on UMass Medical’s Albie Sherman Center, a cutting edge research and education facility that is fostering interaction and collaboration among scientists and physicians.

The centerpiece of it is the Advanced Therapeutics Cluster, a major new initiative that will dramatically expand the school’s research efforts and focus some of the best minds in the world on creating new therapies for many debilitating diseases.

In order to complement these new research efforts, last fall, HHS launched one of the nation’s first Health Information Exchanges to allow providers to increase the timeliness and accuracy of health information, by sharing electronic patient records over a secure network. Innovations like these create a strong infrastructure for our health care reform goals. And there is so much more to be done.

Investing in Infrastructure

We must invest in infrastructure because rebuilding our roads, rails, bridges, expanding broadband to every community, building new classrooms and labs and more affordable housing gives private initiative and personal ambition a platform for growth.

Thanks to the leadership of Lieutenant Governor Murray and Congressman Jim McGovern, the Administration purchased the rail line between Framingham and Worcester from CSX. This will allow 40 trips a day to Union Station by the end of 2013.

The Lieutenant Governor has also been a huge part of the CitySquare project – a great example of a public-private investment that will create jobs, housing and commercial opportunities in downtown Worcester, and I thank him for his commitment to this city.

Because we invested in facilities like this new state-of-the-art Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital, patients and families for generations to come will be able to access revolutionary mental health services in a space that promotes recovery with dignity and respect. This was the largest non-transportation construction project undertaken in more than 50 years, and a perfect example of why investments in infrastructure can help change lives.

New Revenue for Growth

But as important as these successes are, they are not enough. If we want to accelerate our growth and expand opportunity in Worcester and throughout the Commonwealth, we have to continue to invest.

The Governor’s Fiscal Year 14 budget is designed to create growth and opportunity throughout the Commonwealth.

The budget includes groundbreaking new investments in education, innovation and infrastructure that will create growth and opportunity in Massachusetts’ economy in the short-term and over the long haul – giving the people and employers throughout our state the complete set of tools they need to succeed.

Businesses know you cannot cut your way to success and the state cannot create growth and opportunity by cutting or continuing to use one-time resources to fill our revenue gaps.

The Patrick-Murray Administration has made great progress in reform and cost control, but even with these reforms the state budget is challenged to meet our obligation to protect the most vulnerable residents in our communities while making critical investments in our economy.

The Governor’s budget proposes new tax revenues which are essential to achieving all of these objectives.

The Governor has proposed that we cut the sales tax from the current rate of 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent and dedicate all of the proceeds to a public works fund.

To support our education initiatives, the budget will propose that we increase the income tax by 1 percentage point - to 6.25 percent. To make that increase fair to all according to their ability to pay, the Governor has propose that we double the personal exemptions for every taxpayer and eliminate a number of itemized deductions.  Making those changes gives us a tax code that is simpler and fairer.

Under this plan middle to low income folks will end up paying a little less, while the more fortunate will pay a little more.

These changes to our sales, income and business taxes will be comparable to and competitive with other states in the region and beyond with which we compete.

Funding these key investments will keep Massachusetts on a growth trajectory, and will help our students, families and businesses to compete in the 21st century global economy.

HHS Investments

These investments are important, but more important to me is how the revenue generated in the budget also supports the Commonwealth’s ability to make investments in other key areas.

Following years of deep cuts and meaningful reforms, I’m pleased to report that Governor Patrick has been able to make significant investments in Health and Human Services programs in his budget -- and each of my fifteen agencies has seen an increase over last year’s projected expenditures.

These investments will help us implement the Governor’s health care reform law, enhance our public health oversight to ensure that our medicines and pharmacies are safe, and strengthen our safety net programs to help our most vulnerable populations.

In addition to the Governor’s new regulations and legislation to strengthen oversight of compounding pharmacies, his budget adds to those efforts by making critical investments in state public health programs and services.

Safe and Successful Youth Initiative

The budget supports Governor Patrick’s efforts to eliminate youth violence through the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative.

I’m looking forward to building on Governor Patrick’s efforts to eliminate youth violence in Worcester and across the Commonwealth by deepening the focus on prevention and intervention.

The Governor’s budget maintains $10 million to fully fund the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative. This will support innovative violence prevention strategies in some of our cities with the highest levels of youth violence.

We know that peace in urban communities is possible and this program is working to end the cycle of violence, while giving the next generation a chance to succeed.

Health Care Reform

Massachusetts was the model for President Obama’s health care reform law, and now thanks to Governor Patrick, we are leading the way on the next phase of health care reform: cracking the code on costs.

The Governor’s budget includes more than $34 million to facilitate implementation of the groundbreaking health care cost containment legislation signed last summer. This will result in nearly $200 billion in health care cost savings over the next 15 years and will lead to savings that will accrue directly to both employers and their workers.

The budget allows MassHealth to allocate nearly $30 million in rate increases to hospitals to help them provide innovative care to more patients, and form accountable care organizations, which support our cost containment goals.

As a result of enhanced federal revenue available through the Affordable Care Act, the Administration is also supporting strategic investments in member benefits, including restoring full adult dental coverage for members whose benefits were reduced due to the recession. Preventative dental services increase overall health, reduce costly longer term issues and increase opportunities for employment and success.

Addressing Substance Abuse

Like in many of our Gateway Cities, Worcester faces challenges in combating substance use and addiction. We have seen the devastating impact of opioid drugs in our schools and neighborhoods. We know this is not an emerging trend for this community, but it is certainly a trend we are committed to resolving.

Our Department of Public Health has worked side by side with the Lieutenant Governor, Mayor Petty, City Manager O’Brien, law enforcement and other key stakeholders to increase our efforts to address substance abuse and provide improved services.

In December, thanks to significant funding from the Obama Administration, Worcester and seven high-need communities received $3.6 million to reduce prescription drug abuse, specifically for youth ages 12 to 25.

Mental Health Safety

Recent events underscore the need for strong mental health services. Mental illness is a disease that can be treated, and our communities are safer and stronger when the appropriate services and supports are available for people in need.

The Governor has proposed a 3.3% increase in funding for the Department of Mental Health, including an increase of $5 million to fund mental health safety programs.

This will fund programs that promote public safety and increase public awareness that mental health treatment is available and effective. Programs include, funding for mobile crisis teams, mental health training and consultation to schools, crisis intervention training and funding to increase child psychiatric access.

The Governor’s budget invests in our Community First Principles by moving away from institutionalized care in oftentimes antiquated facilities and towards community care and revolutionary treatment through places like the Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital.

Conclusion

People across Massachusetts want the investments we have described; they want the rail and road services we have laid out across the Commonwealth; they want good schools, colleges and universities for their children; and above all they want the opportunity and growth these investments will bring us. But wanting is not enough, we have choices to make and we choose growth to help us continue support that opportunity.

Because we all have a stake in these programs I have mentioned, we should all contribute to paying for it. As the Governor has mentioned, any new revenue must meet three key principals:

First, it must be comprehensive. We have to pay the bills we have accrued already over a decade, we have to fix and modernize what’s broken, and we have to invest in ways that unlock our economic potential. We won’t tell people in Worcester, or Fitchburg or Springfield to wait to share in the state’s prosperity. And In education, we can no longer keep choosing some 4th graders over other 4th graders to get their chance to succeed.

Second, in transportation in particular, new funding must be dedicated. We need disciplined, sustained investments in specific service improvements and expansion projects over time, without the risk that funds will be diverted to the next good idea.  Whether it be from regional projects, our bridge program or Chapter 90 funding, we need to show the people of Massachusetts that their money is achieving specific results.

Third, the sources of new revenue must help us remain competitive. With this plan, our overall tax rates are comparable to our neighbor states and the states with which we compete. We need to sustain that balance, and assure a sharing of the load within the Commonwealth that is fair.

Some will say this is too aggressive. But I assure you that these additional dollars will have maximum impact in securing our growth and future growth.

Thanks to the Patrick-Murray Administration’s investments we lead the nation in economic competitiveness, in entrepreneurialism, in student achievement, health care coverage, life sciences and biotech, veterans’ services, and energy efficiency. That’s why the state’s structural deficit is gone and why we have achieved the highest credit ratings in our history. That’s why, with further still to go, to be sure, we have emerged from recession faster than most other states and stronger than we were before.

I look forward to working with you all to support this growth agenda that will help us lead the nation in these areas for generations to come.

Thank you.

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