Governor Deval L. Patrick
Associated Industries of Massachusetts Annual Meeting
Waltham Westin Hotel
Friday, May 10, 2013
Andrew, thank you very much for the generous introduction and for your friendship. We've been partners on many things, as you acknowledged, and I look forward to continuing that partnership strong, for the next 18 months and beyond. I want to thank Rick and all the members of the board and staff of AIM for inviting me today and also for your partnership.
And I want to especially acknowledge and thank Kristen Rupert of your staff, who has joined our trade missions in Colombia and Brazil. She said, just as we were getting off the stage, that she read I was going to be in Ireland next week for two days and couldn't believe she wasn't asked to come along. It's just two days. Just two days. Kristen is an exceptional saleswoman for Massachusetts and understands the value to business opportunities of making friends and encouraging partnerships. Thanks, Kristen, for your leadership.
I want to acknowledge the members of my team who are here. They are your team. I hope you, if you don't know them, you will get to know them and work with them. You will find them to be responsive, interested, engaged problem-solving and also really, really good men and women.
Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you very much for having me. Your conference, I saw in the preparation, is entitled “Envisioning Massachusetts.” I think - or at least, I hope - you know that my vision for Massachusetts is of a unified community, where we work together to build a better future for everyone.
In some ways, I think we got a glimpse of that in the past couple of weeks. So many lives were suddenly, viciously and profoundly affected by the bombings on Marathon Monday. And yet out of the dust of that tragedy emerged a strong sense of community, the notion of common stake and common cause. The bravery of first responders, the supreme professionalism of the medical teams, the acts of kindness and generosity by ordinary citizens – in these ways and others the strength of our community was on display for the world, and maybe most especially, for each other, for ourselves.
I hope we hold on to that. Because there isn’t a single challenge that we face in this state or in this country that can’t be overcome by a renewed sense that we have a stake in each other’s dreams and struggles as well as our own.
In that spirit, I remain committed to working with you to grow jobs, wealth and sustained economic opportunity in every corner of our Commonwealth. We have many subjects on which we have worked together successfully to those ends – from health care implementation, as Andrew mentioned, to corporate tax cuts to regulatory reform and simplification – and we have much progress and many results to celebrate. From economic competitiveness to student achievement to energy efficiency to our bond rating, our Commonwealth has never been stronger.
And yet I hear from people every day who are concerned about finding or keeping their jobs, and so do you. I hear from young people and parents worried about paying for college, and so do you. I hear from parents who are concerned about the quality of their kids’ education, or employers and employees concerned about the reliability of the T or commuter rail or the road they live on, and so do you. And every one of these challenges cries out for something better than kicking the can down the road again.
Part of the solution to every one of the challenges I just mentioned includes taxes. That most certainly does NOT mean that I or anyone else in government is off the hook when it comes to making government more efficient, more accountable and more innovative. But it DOES mean that citizens who want and need public services to grow jobs and opportunity are also not off the hook when it’s time to talk about how to pay for those services. The nature of civilization, it seems to me, is that all of us contribute to the public good.
Now what does or does not constitute the public good is the subject of perennial debate. Let’s have it. We’re in the midst of that very debate on Beacon Hill right now in many, many ways. It’s not an abstract debate. It’s about you, your businesses, your jobs, your lives, your children’s futures. It’s about opportunity. And that requires growth.
When I envision Massachusetts, I envision a state that is growing jobs and opportunity and that is prepared to make the investments needed for that growth. For the last 6 years, that’s exactly what we have been doing.
By a disciplined strategy of investing in education, innovation and infrastructure, and working diligently to reduce business costs, Massachusetts has climbed out of recession faster than most other states and is growing twice as fast as the national growth rate. Earlier this year the Labor Department reported that Massachusetts has more jobs today than it did at its pre-recession peak in the spring of 2008. We are one of only seven states in America to have achieved this milestone. That may seem like abstract evidence of recovery to some of you, but the businesses and workers right here in Waltham know what I mean, because the rush hour traffic around here is becoming unbearable again.
Now, those businesses are asking my team to help with solutions, including transit alternatives to driving back and forth on Route 128. To enable them to grow jobs and opportunity, their government needs to help them solve the transportation issues. Rather than take future growth for granted, we all need to step up.
As you know, I have proposed to invest in transportation and education, because they are tried and true means by which government can help you grow jobs and opportunity. And I have proposed to do so by asking those who earn a little more to pay a little more. Not more, by the way, than most other states. Not more, by the way, than most of other states. One thorough reported noted that taxes in Massachusetts have for some time now been “stubbornly average” and my proposal would not change that.
Let me add that proposing new revenue was not the first thing we tried. We have eliminated over 6,000 positions in state government, consolidated agencies, shut down the Turnpike Authority, reformed the pension system, asked employees to pay a greater share of their health care benefits, and much more. We have, with your help, undertaken a comprehensive review of regulations and cut the time for state approvals to a fraction of what it once was. Of course we are not done. Of course. But it’s a fact that this administration has not only saved taxpayers billions of dollars and made state government vastly more efficient, but we have accomplished more of AIM’s agenda than any administration in 20 years.
Experts agree that we need about $1 billion more a year -- in addition to further operating efficiencies -- to deliver a safe, functional, modern transportation system to keep pace with a growing economy. The bill that the Senate passed a few weeks ago is a significant step in that direction and I commend them for it.
Soon we will all see what comes out of the conference committee. My focus will be on whether we can rely on these new resources in the future, whether the revenues are real, because it will take sustained investment over a decade to rebuild our system.
We will also be looking to see when these resources become available, because the sooner we start rebuilding our system, the sooner we get the many jobs – direct and indirect -- these improvements will bring.
We will also be looking to see whether the bill gives us the authority to make the additional reforms and achieve the additional savings I and others have sought. For example, we have in the past proposed tort reform to align transportation agencies with the same liability limits as the rest of state government. We have asked for flexibility with toll revenue and inspection fees so we can cross-subsidize transportation systems. We have asked for authority to procure electricity throughout the transportation network on the same favorable terms we do now for the MBTA (yes, we have to ask the Legislature for authority), and to reform the sclerotic MPO process for approving surface transportation projects. To achieve further savings, the Legislature will need to give us these tools.
The further complexity here is that the transportation bill is closely tied to the state budget. Because, in the House version at least, transportation is paid for in part by diverting resources from other needs, such as education. That seems to me counter-productive and frankly, hard for me to accept.
We have, all of us together, done really important and valuable work over the past several years to strengthen public education. But we have some unfinished business.
The House budget does more for UMass and other public universities, and that’s good, but it does nothing to make any of that more affordable.
The House cuts early education - cuts early education - something every researcher has proven and most business leaders acknowledge improves performance dramatically and cuts social costs significantly over time.
Funding for Innovation Schools, the centerpiece of the Achievement Gap Act enacted just three years ago and a wildly successful way to reach the kids we’re leaving behind, is eliminated in the House budget.
So we have much unfinished business. And I look forward to working with the Senate and then with the conference committee to see that that business gets done.
And I am here to ask you to join us in that work. Because the work of building the platform for growth is vital to the business community. Some of that will involve taxes. Some will involve reforms. They are not mutually exclusive, but rather, two sides of the same coin.
We have choices to make, difficult choices that don’t lend themselves to simple solutions or sound bites or stale partisan demagoguing. Saying one thing to me and something else to legislative leaders down the hall may seem like clever politics but does little to make lasting solutions. The choices before us are about real people’s lives and opportunities, yours and your neighbors’. If we want to do more than envision a better future for Massachusetts, but actually enable it, we need to face the choices before us now, fearlessly, candidly and together. No more kicking cans.
Which brings me back to where I started. In many, many ways what we have been trying to do these last six and half years, across this whole Commonwealth, is rebuild that sense of common cause, of community. It’s not going to come from a kneejerk aversion to taxes or a kneejerk aversion to reform, or from labels or slogans or sound bites. It’s going to come from the same sense of shared destiny that caused ordinary onlookers to run to the aid of strangers three weeks ago on Boylston Street.
I am not running for anything else. I have no agenda other than to make our Commonwealth stronger, to leave it better than I found it. We have a rare chance, right now, to do some lasting good in transportation and education, in growth and opportunity, for our time and the generation to come. If that is what you’re interested in, I look forward to working with you.
Thank you for having me.