Gov. Patrick Looks to the Past and Future in State of the Commonwealth Address
By Lauren Dezenski
BU News Service
In his seventh and final State of the Commonwealth speech last night, Gov. Deval Patrick pledged to continue working to grow Massachusetts’s economy.
“Let’s keep going,” he said numerous times during his 30-minute speech.
Patrick identified a number of his administration’s strategies for continued growth, including increasing education funding in the state, which currently has one of the more successful education records in the U.S. He brought up specific policies such as freezing tuition rates for public colleges and universities and increasing funding for all-day kindergarten programs.
“There are children here in our own Commonwealth tonight whose future is still defined by the zip code in which they were born,” Patrick said. “I was once one of those kids.”
The Governor focused much of his speech on income inequality and reiterated his support for raising the state’s minimum wage, which is currently set at $8.00 an hour. He also set a goal to reform the unemployment insurance policy, though supporters of that change have called for a more specific plan from the governor, which he has yet to produce.
Patrick was initially set to deliver his speech last Tuesday, but it was delayed due to a snowstorm in the Boston area. His annual budget proposal was still unveiled on schedule last week due to state constitution requirements. The $36.7 billion budget represents a 4.9 percent increase from the previous year’s budget, and includes increased funding for K-12 and higher education, job creation, transportation and public safety.
In his speech Patrick spoke of “running through the tape” with his budget proposal, referring to the proposed line items that would support long-term policies that would add to Patrick’s legacy, such as climate change preparation funding.
Patrick will not be seeking a third term as governor of Massachusetts and has yet to announce his plans for his future.
Some speculate the governor will use his clout as Massachusetts’ chief executive to bolster his rising star in the national Democratic Party. Others say he will return to the private sector.
In his speech the governor touched on a number of controversies that have flared up for his administration in recent weeks, such as the Department of Children and Families’ bungling of a case involving a missing Fitchburg boy, and technical woes surrounding the state’s federally mandated healthcare exchange website.
“It’s inexcusable to lose any child we are charged with protecting. And it’s frustrating to offer a public convenience that is anything but convenient,” Patrick said. “Time after time, when problems arise, we have kept our wits about us, gathered the facts soberly and thoughtfully, and stepped up to find solutions, not just fault.”
Patrick also spent time addressing the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing last spring, a few of whom were in attendance that night. The Pledge of Allegiance preceding the speech was delivered by Officer Richard Donohue, who was seriously injured during a shootout in Watertown that ultimately led to the death of one of the bombing suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
At the end of his speech, Patrick praised the Commonwealth’s response to the bombings.
“These are the firm and big-hearted, pragmatic and compassionate people I know the people of Massachusetts to be,” Patrick said. “These are the people, at the most trying moment in the last seven years, when the eyes of the whole world were on us, who showed the world and each other what a strong community looks like.”