AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY:
Governor Deval L. Patrick
Berkshire Chamber of Commerce
Tuesday, November 12, 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. Indeed, we have a generational responsibility to position our state to prosper 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 from you. Business creates jobs, not government. In my private sector experience, what business wants first 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 less than 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. Here’s why.
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 the center point of the state, education is our most abundant 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 10-year, $1 billion 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 and greenest 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. During this administration, manufacturing has grown more than 50 percent faster in Massachusetts than in the nation as a whole, and seven times the rate it did during the previous administration.
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. Early 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 person 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 Berkshires:
Washington Elementary School in Becket and the Berkshire Trail Elementary School in Cummington opened as Innovation Schools last fall, using new ways to reach the kids we are leaving behind.
Berkshire Community College and Taconic High School have teamed up on a state-of-the-art computer lab to support students, faculty and incumbent workers in careers in advanced manufacturing.
In fact, we have helped train over 4,000 workers and job seekers throughout the Berkshires since 2007.
We worked with Community Enterprises and Project A.I.M to rehab apartments in Pittsfield for people with developmental disabilities to live in their communities.
We are building new sidewalks along South Atlantic Street from West Union Street to Linden Street in Pittsfield, along with other improvements, to help students get safely to and from the Conte School.
We lit the first section of a new 1,200 mile fiber-optic network so that every community will have access to high-speed Internet.
We helped Crane and Company move a production line from Maine to North Adams, retain 206 employees, and add 74 new ones.
26 of Berkshire County’s 32 cities and towns have energy efficiency programs underway today, and new wind projects are operating today in Hancock and Florida.
Pine Island Farm in Sheffield is generating renewable power, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and protecting groundwater with new anaerobic digestion technology.
MCLA’s new Center for Science and Innovation is up and open, at long last, anchoring this region's claim on the innovation economy.
Hawthorne and Melville Halls at Berkshire Community College are being renovated to support allied health, human services, engineering and computer science fields.
We restored the historic Baird and Benton Block building in Lee, enabling the College Internship Program -- one of the world's most recognized programs for young adults with learning disabilities -- to relocate their national headquarters there. And we supported 57 Main Street, a mixed use development in downtown Lee, another project helping to revitalize the downtown area.
The former Adam Memorial School in downtown Adams is being remodeled and will be reused for community purposes.
River Road in Florida is redone. Foley Bridge in New Marlborough and the Route 8 bridge into downtown North Adams are being rebuilt. The Route 7A bridge over the rail line in Sheffield is being replaced. The cut-through in Lanesborough from route 7 to route 8 is widened and improved. Main Street in Great Barrington, West Street in Lenox, Main Street in Lee, and South and North Streets here in Pittsfield have all gotten face lifts, restoring commercial activity.
And we haven't forgotten the cultural destinations in Berkshire County
The visitor center at Mt. Greylock; the Clark in Williamstown; the gardens at Naumkeag in Stockbridge; the main house at The Mount in Lenox; the campus at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket; the second stage at Barrington Stage in Pittsfield; the new open air pavilions at Tanglewood; the new carousel in Lanesborough -- all these and more to support the cultural, tourist and creative economy so vital to this region.
And among the over 110,000 acres of land we have preserved across the state in the last 7 years are many landscapes and farms in the Berkshires, including the 906-acre Lyme Timber property in Otis, part of the Long Mountain conservation project.
These are just a few examples of what our growth strategy has meant for the Berkshires. And we’re not done yet.
Today, I am pleased to announce an additional $1.7 million to finish First Street Common here in Pittsfield. This will help fund a spray park, a multi-purpose court, an outdoor performance pavilion and perimeter fencing – completing a vibrant community space downtown.
I am also pleased to announce another $2 million MassWorks grant for Phase III of the Pittsfield Downtown Streetscape Master Plan, a project which is truly catalyzing the revival of this City’s central corridor.
And just this morning at the Rockwell Museum, I announced that we are tripling this year's Cultural Facilities Fund – an increase to $15 million to invest in our creative economy.
The point is: 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 and every other 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 a governor and legislators, but also for the people of the Commonwealth.
As we consider the wisest approach to meeting our transportation needs, in particular, 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 a half billion dollars. 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. 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, new buses for the RTAs, 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 some of our rail lines, it will mean making smarter use of our existing assets. In still others, like South Coast Rail, the Green Line to Medford and the Housatonic Line to New York City, 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. And the sooner we grasp the connection between these principles of reform, increased capacity and regional equity, on the one hand, and economic growth, on the other – and deal with that – the better off we will be.
As I wrap up, I want to return to why that matters, why economic growth and the opportunity it promises 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. Without opportunity our civic ideals are nothing but rhetorical flourishes. 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 a few weeks ago, 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. I don't know whether this is meant to serve as a source of inspiration or 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, choose wisely.
Thank you. I look forward to the conversation