AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY:
Governor Deval L. Patrick
Fall River and New Bedford Chambers of Commerce
Thursday, October 31, 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. We have a generational responsibility to position our state to succeed in the 21st century. 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 you. 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 so-called “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 have 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.
We have trained almost 100,000 people statewide for jobs in the innovation economy.
And we have 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 the South Coast.
Kuss Middle School and the Doran School in Fall River have not only shed their “failing” status, but become two of the highest achieving schools in the state.
The Edmond Talbot School in Fall River has been converted into an innovation school with a focus on STEM, a shared leadership model and strong community partnership, and the new Renaissance Community School in New Bedford now serves grades K through 5, with a novel integrated arts program – all ways teachers are trying new things to reach the kids we are leaving behind.
UMass Dartmouth is home to our new public law school.
Next month we break ground on Bristol Community College’s new tech building to support the region’s growing tech and innovation industries.
Indeed, this region is the fastest-growing clean energy cluster in the state, with a 14.3 percent rise in jobs over the past year. And that will only speed up with the Marine Commerce Terminal under construction now in New Bedford to support an entirely new industry in offshore wind.
Rhode Island Novelty relocated to Fall River – bringing 100 jobs.
Jewelry manufacturer Richline Group is improving their site in Attleboro with our help, retaining 628 jobs and creating 100 more.
We have helped to train over 11,000 workers and job seekers throughout the South Coast since 2007.
We built a new exit ramp on 24, providing direct highway access to the new “Biopark” in Fall River. And construction is underway there now on UMass Dartmouth’s first-in-the-nation Accelerator for Biomanufacturing.
In September, we broke ground on the project to reconstruct the Route 79/I-195 “spaghetti ramps” interchange in Fall River – a transformative project that will put 300 people to work and unlock the City's waterfront.
And then there’s South Coast Rail. We bought the right of way, we rebuilt the bridges, and now the Army Corps has approved the route. Commuter rail is coming to the South Coast.
These are just a few examples of how our growth strategy is working in the South Coast. And we’re not done yet.
I am pleased to announce today a $51.5 million investment to construct a new academic building at UMass Dartmouth to support the campus’s growing enrollment.
I am also pleased to announce that we will convert the former Watuppa Secondary rail line along the Quequechan River in Fall River into multi-use green space for families.
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 Legislature
provided 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 – any experiment that is equitable and effective to get the job done.
Second, we must increase capacity. Few things are more frustrating than being stuck on I-93 or Route 24 on your way to work or home again. Being repeatedly 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 who live 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, the Silver Line to Chelsea, and of course South Coast Rail, it will mean expanding our network. Without an intentional focus on and commitment to increasing capacity, we will constrain the Commonwealth’s and this 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, the Big Dig is a “proof point” of the value of infrastructure investment, because that project 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 their opportunity, future governments will have to continue to invest – in both modernization and service expansions -- outside of Boston as well. And you will have to hold them accountable to do so.
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 is central to who we are as a nation.
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 the governor’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