Remarks in Chelsea
Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I have spoken often over the past several years about how we support public schools and close the achievement gap, how we expand quality, affordable health care and control costs, how we stimulate innovative industries, how we rebuild our roads, rails and bridges.  Over and over again, I have stressed the importance of investing in education, innovation and infrastructure, because doing so is a winning strategy for growth.  That’s all about “how.”

As we look ahead, let’s remember why growth matters.  For me, it’s all about opportunity.

The opportunity to build a better life for ourselves and our

families is what drives most of us in this room.  Positioning our state to succeed in the 21st century and giving our children and grandchildren the opportunity to succeed is our generational responsibility.  Meeting that responsibility by expanding opportunity for people all over Massachusetts is why I wanted this job in the first place.

Well, opportunity requires growth.  An expanding economy needs well-prepared and competitive talent.  It needs inventors and innovators and investors.  Opportunity without growth is a zero-sum gain, just a rearranging of the pieces on a checkers board.  Opportunity through economic growth lifts us all.

That growth comes from businesses, large and small.  Business creates jobs, not government.  In my private sector experience, what business wants most from government is a light

touch on regulation and taxes.  So, we eliminated or simplified over 130 unnecessary regulations; reduced the permitting time for state approvals from two years to about 60 days; cut business taxes three times so far; slowed the growth in health care premiums; and much more.  By any reasonable measure, Massachusetts is a more competitive place for business today than it was seven years ago.

Another, larger lesson I learned in the private sector is that growth requires investment.  And to support business growth – and the opportunity that depends on it – government must invest alongside business.

So, for the past seven years, we have invested strategically in education, innovation and infrastructure.

We invest in education because education is our calling card to the world.  With over 300 colleges, universities and research institutions within a 90-minute drive of downtown Boston, education is our most significant resource -- as important to Massachusetts as oil is to Texas and corn is to Iowa.  Meanwhile, the global economy is in the midst of a knowledge explosion – so being educated is how our children and grandchildren will compete.  And we get a great return on those education dollars: a dollar spent on a child’s education before the age of five saves 11 dollars in public spending later.

So, with the Legislature’s help, we funded the public schools at the highest level in our history, even when the bottom was falling out of the budget.  We worked to bring kids off the wait-list into quality early education programs and to make college more affordable.  And we engaged our community colleges in the vital

work of meeting our workforce needs, leveraging our training dollars.

We invest in innovation because there are a handful of high growth industries that depend on the concentration of brainpower we have.  That’s what the life sciences initiative is about, our $1 billion, 10-year commitment to strengthen our biotech sector.  That’s what our clean and alternative energy programs are about, from stewarding the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the nation’s first successful cap and trade market, to enabling a 30-fold increase in wind generation and a 90-fold increase in solar.  That’s why we travel to other states and overseas to promote our financial services and digital gaming and robotics and cyber security and Big Data expertise, and why we built – with five universities and two IT companies -- the fastest high performance computing center east of the Mississippi in downtown Holyoke.

 And because we are making more of the things we invent, advanced or precision manufacturing is making a strong comeback, too.

And we invest in infrastructure – the unglamorous work of government – because it supports everything else.  Roads, rails, and bridges, as well as broadband, public and affordable housing, lab and library facilities, even health care -- all things the public sector builds as a platform for private sector investment and personal ambition.

Education, innovation and infrastructure.  That’s our growth strategy.  And it is working.

Massachusetts has climbed out of recession faster than most other states and is growing faster than the national growth

rate.  Earlier this year we re-gained all the jobs lost in the Great Recession, one of the first states in America to achieve that milestone, and we’ve continued to add jobs since.  September was the best month in home sales in Massachusetts since 2005.

We are first in the nation in student achievement; at or near the top in the world in math and science.  We are also first in the nation in economic competitiveness, entrepreneurial activity, health care coverage, veterans’ services and energy efficiency.

We have emerged as the top international supercluster in the life sciences and biotech, attracting more biotech venture capital per capita than any other state.

We have become a national leader in clean and alternative energy, with double-digit job growth in the latter sector in each of

the last few years.

And we’ve trained almost 100,000 people statewide for jobs in the innovation economy.

And we’ve done it responsibly.  Our budgets are balanced and on-time, our bond rating is the highest in our history, and we have one of the largest rainy day funds in America.

That's what our strategy has produced for the Commonwealth as a whole.  Here's what it has meant for Chelsea and neighboring communities.

The Paul Revere School in Revere became the state’s first innovation school; the Linden School in Malden became a STEAM Academy, emphasizing Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics; and Revere High School revamped their science program to foster interest in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and other sciences -- just three examples of new experiments teachers are trying to reach the kids we’re leaving behind and get them ready for the new economy.

We helped train over 1,500 workers and job seekers in Chelsea alone, working with employers like Kayem Foods.  And we are working with Project Triangle in Malden to prepare people with disabilities for work and independent living.

Toward Independent Living and Learning transformed a derelict Chelsea building into affordable housing units.  Management Services for Health is moving into a new office complex in Malden. The Residence at Malden Station is the site for 80 new market rate apartments, with 210 more going up right around the corner.

We are expanding Wonderland Station and modernizing Orient Heights.

We opened the new Chelsea Street Bridge to more traffic both on the deck and in the river below.

We are rebuilding the Belle Isle Bridge between East Boston to Winthrop.

Road and signal improvements on Route 99 in Everett are nearly complete.  And we will soon begin resurfacing Route 1 in Chelsea and Revere.

We are partnering with the City to improve the streets and utilities and build a new park in the newly created Box District in Chelsea.

Opportunity is growing in these communities, and we’re not done yet. 

Today, I am pleased to announce that the Silver Line is coming to Chelsea. The project will include the reconstruction of the Washington Avenue Bridge and the modernization of the Commuter Rail Station, which will become part of a new multimodal station on Everett Avenue. The point is that in two years, the people of Chelsea will be able to get on one high-speed bus and travel direct to the airport, the Seaport District and South Station.

I am also pleased to announce $3 million to create the Chelsea Greenway.   A portion of the former CSX Grand Junction Secondary Track right of way will be used for the multi-use greenway to provide bicycle, pedestrian and green space connections in the Box District, and the greater Bellingham Hill neighborhood.  The greenway, which will span about three quarters of a mile, will benefit residents in our most densely populated areas.

This strategy is not rhetorical.  It’s real.  This is how we use public investment – of time, money and ideas – to stimulate private sector growth.  But there is still so much more to do, faster growth to support, more opportunity to create.  As numerous and worthy as these projects are, they don’t fully meet our needs.

To meet more of that need, I proposed new taxes for education and transportation last January.  The Legislatureprovided more modest resources, limited primarily to transportation.  So, this community will have to return to the subject in just a few years.  In the meantime, how we use those new resources, and how we leverage new reform authority, present important decisions – not just for the governor and legislators, but also for the people of the Commonwealth.

As we consider the wisest approach, keep these principles in mind.

First, we must continue to reform.  Our transportation system in 2007 consisted of projects under construction without a plan to finish them; a Turnpike Authority accountable to no one that had entered into financial deals that posed huge fiscal risks; a non-existent capital plan; and, according to independent analysis, a chronically mismanaged T.

So, we shut down the Turnpike Authority.  We reformed the T’s infamous pension system.  We reduced headcount at the Registry by leveraging technology and third party partnerships like AAA.  We merged duplicative legal, human resources and IT departments.  We negotiated a path out of those risky financial deals.  And we saved over $500 million.  We did more projects, and did them faster, with less money.

Let me be clear: Reform is no substitute for adequate revenue.  But reform must continue alongside investment, and should include public-private partnerships, smartphone apps, border tolls and electronic tolling.

Second, we must increase capacity.  Few things are more frustrating than being stuck on the Pike on your way to work, orwaiting for an overcrowded train at the end of the day.  Being constantly late because your commute is inconvenient and unreliable is both frustrating and compromising.  It is critical for us to invest in the means to move people (and goods, for that matter) more conveniently around the state.  Our residents, those here today and those we wish to attract and retain, must have the access to more affordable housing; to medical and educational and work opportunities; and to shopping, too, that adequate transportation makes possible.  In some cases, like new cars for the T or replacing failing bridges, that will mean upgrading and repairing what we have.  In others, like replacing tollbooths with open road tolling on the Pike or using DMUs on the Fairmount Line, it will mean making smarter use of our assets.  In still others, like the Green Line to Medford, South Coast Rail to Fall River and New Bedford or the Silver Line to Chelsea, it will mean expanding our network.  Without an intentional focus on and commitment to increasing capacity, we will constrain the Commonwealth’s and the region’s growth.

Third, we must achieve regional equity.  Leaving aside for a moment the fiscal damage it did, I love the outcome of the Big Dig.  As a constant traveler on our roads, an occasional flyer out of Logan and a frustrated architect, I think the Big Dig is a marvel and a huge benefit to our Commonwealth.  Indeed, Boston is a “proof point” of the value of infrastructure investment, where the Big Dig helped place Boston at the center of the state’s recovery.

But the needs left unmet outside of Boston because of the Big Dig inside Boston are a profound economic failing.  Catching up on the deferred maintenance of our regional roads, local bridges and commuter rail is critical.  If we want to provide what people outside of Boston need to grow opportunity, future governments will have to continue to invest – in both modernization and service expansions -- outside of Boston as well.

After all, economic growth, across the whole of the Commonwealth, is our goal.  Investing in education, innovation and infrastructure is how we stimulate growth.  As I wrap up, I want to return to why that matters, why expanding opportunity matters.

Opportunity has been a central principle of this country.

America, unlike any other nation on earth, is organized around civic ideals.  Not religion or race, not language or geography, like other countries, but transcendent statements of civic purpose.  And we have defined those ideals, over time and through struggle, as freedom, equality and fair play.  That’s what America has been about for more people, for a longer time, than any other nation in human history.

Opportunity is what makes all our other civic ideals possible.  But opportunity is not inevitable; it doesn’t just happen.  Each generation of Americans has had to strive and to sacrifice to make opportunity real.  Whether it was freeing the slaves or giving women the vote in one era; the GI Bill, rural electrification or the interstate highway system in another; or expanding broadband and early education, and closing the achievement gap today, making opportunity real requires action.

Renewed action is critical today.

In a society dedicated to equality, income inequality is getting worse.  As we emerge from the global recession, for those already college educated and with transferable skills, the knowledge-based job market is wide open.  Those already with money to invest benefit from the resurgence of the Dow. 

But the ability of people to bridge that gap is harder than ever.  The poor are no longer just the abject destitute: nearly half of food stamp recipients in Massachusetts are working people.  Just the other day the homeless population living in motels hit an all-time high, many of them school age children.  Many middle class families where both parents work still can’t get ahead, let alone imagine a better life for their children.  According to Opportunity Nation, for the first time in America, today’s young adults risk having lower educational attainment rates, on average, than their parents.  Only six percent of children born to parents at the bottom make it to the top.  Children in many European countries now have greater socio-economic mobility than those in the United States.

The American Dream is in trouble.  For this Commonwealth and this country to be true to her civic ideals, opportunity has to be accessible to all our residents, not just the favored few.  And again, opportunity requires action.  That means we must make public investments mindful of the lack of opportunity of the left out and left back.  If the American Dream is to endure, we who benefit first from economic recovery need to care about those who benefit last, or not at all.

One of the traditions of Massachusetts governors is that you hang the portrait of a former governor over the fireplace in thegovernor’s office, as a source of inspiration, I suppose, or perhaps just as a reminder that you are but one in a long line of others.  I'll bet every one of my predecessors wondered at some point, as I do now, whether anything they accomplished would last.  We have shown that investing in education, innovation and infrastructure, alongside reform and modernization of government itself, is a way not just to endure recession but also to shape a brighter future.  More than anything, I hope what lasts is a broad understanding that growth is a choice and that opportunity for all is why that choice matters.  For the sake of the next generation’s opportunity, let’s choose wisely.

Thank you.  I look forward to the conversation.