Live from the budget address

UPDATE: I’ll have more thoughts later, but also check out the AP’s story.

I’m in Memorial Hall in Melrose, waiting for the Governor’s address on the budget. I agree with Adam Reilly: liveblogging basically sucks. But here’s your chance to get the hot fresh talking points, before the professional media has a chance to digest it.

Anyway, nice auditorium, with a mini-Parthenon with ostentatious Greek goddess statues for pillars. A similar vibe to other Deval appearances … people are lively. Come on, it’s just a budget. Boring, right?

Grace Ross is in the house. John Walsh is in the house.

Will have more.

Patrick enters to warm, loud, long, State-of-the-Union-type applause … This is apparently friendly territory. Maybe they didn’t hear about the drapes?

So far it sounds like a campaign speech. I like eloquence, but I will try to distill the essence of it.

Plans coming soon (not tonight) for public education and transportation reform. We’ll look forward to that.

Problems cited: Young people leaving from high cost of housing. Facing global competition as well. Public investment in infrastructure and education is wise — other places understand that.

$1.3 billion deficit: Low revenue growth + health care costs. “We have closed that budget gap.” Targeted investments. Budget request is $26.7 billion. Used conservative revenue forecast — spending growth 1% lower than rev. growth. Found savings of $950 million. (!) “Balanced without gimmicks.” Didn’t balance on backs of cities and towns, public schools, poor people.

Jobs & Economy: Speed business approvals: one-stop shop for approvals; $4 million for localities to set up those shops. $2 million for small biz, along with MassDevelopment $5 million.

Public education: increase funding for education by $200 million. This year total spending will be $3.7B. 12-15,000 students will get all-day kindergarten. Double allocations for grants for after-school programs.

Health care costs: Fully funds the next phase of [Ch. 58] implementation. 100k people have coverage already — 50k more on the way. We’ve saved a lot of money already. Disease prevention, more $ for developmentally delayed kids, immunizations.

Local aid: Extend senior circuit breaker to people of all ages; up to $870 in savings per household. $77 million more to build new schools. Open GIC to municipal workers [save on health care costs]. Local meal tax options — at least 25% tied to prop tax relief. “Eliminate homelessness once and for all in Massachusetts.”

Pension contributions: Over long term, wants to save $7 billion on pensions.

Thanks to Tim Cahill, we’ll save $100m on debt management.… will have more information on particular programs’ line items.

Tax loopholes: Support R&D tax credits, other stimulative measures. Finding loopholes: “I used to hire people to do just that.” Won’t hurt our ability to compete. Other states competing with us already have closed such loopholes. Speedier permitting and state sales force will make state competitive. Companies want good services, affordable housing, just like workers.

Shared responsibility applause line.

There wasn’t money for everything: eg. state parks. Housing: MA Housing Partnership has doubled “Soft Second” program. FY 2008 $85 million to bring public housing back up to grade. Some efficiencies found in education (purchasing, e.g) — but his real ed. plan to be unveiled later.

… and that’s it.

Q&A (I’m going to miss some of these):

Q: School funding: special ed circuit breaker funded? Answer: $3 million increase.

Q: More local aid? Cities and towns squeezed. A: We’re helping with health care costs [GIC].

Q: Public college fee relief? A: No relief in the budget, but the ed plan will deal with that in a few months.

Q: Women and minority businesses dealt with? Some better interfaces on the OSD website; wait ’til next year.

Q: When will we fund full-day kindergarten for every kid? A: We’re going to have to make that case to the public in a limited-funding environment. Some places don’t want full-day kindergarten.

Q: Homeless programs? Homelessness will be dealt with in a “wraparound” manner — dealing comprehensively with the problem.

Q: Workforce development: What are we doing for our workforce? A: [Deval hands mic to cabinet sec.] We’re trying to match up skills to employers — North Shore CC is doing a good job of that.

Q: Proposed 2% meals tax; effect on Mom-n-Pop restaurants in a very competitive and unstable line of business. A: My daughter is thinking of going into that business [Answer: "Tell her to go back to to school." Laughs.] It’s not a requirement, it’s an option. DP respectfully doubts that restaurants will face a competitive disadvantage to those unaffected by a local-option meals tax.

Q: Is there sewer and water relief for the MWRA? A: We’ll have to get back to you [none of the cabinet folks knew].

Q: [Sheriff of Middlesex County] Upgrade training of law enforcement officers — more capacity for training? A: In fact, we actually don’t have training capacity for 1,000 new cops [as promised]; the 250 new cops in budget have training included.

Q: How do we keep young educated people here? A: New economic centers: Clean energy, stem cells, colleges and universities for their own sake. We’ve moved energy to cabinet-level position. I see activity in cultural and creative enterprises: tourism. How many tourists go to Boston Symphony? Berkshire County has figured that out. I want to create some buzz around some areas where MA distinguishes itself.

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11 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Nice Job

    I have been a bit upset with Deval lately. Not so much with his actions as his inability to understand people's reactions to them. However I was pleased with his performance tonight. He did the things I expected him to do regarding the budget. I saw the man I knew early in the campaign and it reaffirmed why I supported him from the beginning.

  2. Nice liveblogging

    I missed some of the speech due to panic at a pot of pasta boiling over. Then I realized it was past 7pm. Grr.

    $950M in savings? How in the hell did he do that??

    Sign me up for the Patrick personal finance class, LOL. I could use some of that budget magic!

    I can't even believe that they've closed the budget gap. Zowzers, I thought that'd take a couple years, even for Patrick. Any asshat who claims Democrats are spend, spend, spenders needs to take a look at how fiscally restrained, efficient, and yet fair this budget is, if all this is true (which I suspect it is - we elected Patrick because we trust him, and I've never seen him pad the truth like most pols).

    He sure does know how to make a budget exciting though. I am happy for 4 more years of this! But no wonder the guy went underground and off the radar, this must have been all-consuming. And no offense to Patrick, but he is rather new at being Governor. ;)

    I haven't felt this optimistic in a long while. I think we're on the right track.

    • $950 million

      You know Lynne, that sounds wild to me, too ... maybe I misheard it. Anyway, I've got a request in for the text of the actual speech, so I'll correct as necessary.

  3. NECN didn't run the questions?


  4. Budget

    Housing? Anything?

    • Missed it

      Someone asked about housing, but I was busy typing and didn't catch it. Sorry. Anyway, I don't think bumping up 40B, R or S was a major focus of this year's budget. I could be wrong.

  5. all day kindergarten

    12,000 to 15,000 kids will get it--how many kindergarteners are there in all in our state?

    • All-day Kindergarten

      In the 2005-06 school year, there were 68,242 students enrolled in kindergarten.

      Full-day K may help fulfill the aims of MGL C.71 s.26a (under which school committees are authorized to offer extended services), but it will not improve educational outcomes. As a case in point, BPS has offered full-day K since 1998, yet there is no indication this has resulted in marked improvements. 

      In today's Globe, Commission of Education David Driscoll addresses part of the problem (emphasis mine):

      AFTER MORE than four decades as an educator, there is one question I just cannot answer: Why has so little changed in public education? We've made schools handicapped accessible, wired them for the Internet, lowered class sizes, and made school lunches more nutritious. Some communities have full-day kindergarten, many students are reading and writing earlier and better than ever, high schools offer advanced placement courses by the dozen, and vocational-technical schools have expanded to include everything from biotechnology to robotics.

      On the surface there have been plenty of improvements, but when you dig deeper it's clear that little of substance has changed in public education since the days of Horace Mann, the Commonwealth's first secretary of education.

      One of the problems with these types of initiatives is that the investments are not tracked all the way to student performance.  We might know that x-number of students or y-number of communities offer full-day K, but we don't know how these students are fairing compared to their peers.

      This money would be better spent, and would have farther reaching impact, were it invested in the state DoE.  In 2005, the Rennie Center released a report on the state's role in improving low-performing districts. One exception that I do take is from their abstract:

      Both in Massachusetts and nationally, there is limited knowledge about how to educate poor and diverse students well at scale.

      While that may be true at the state level, nationally you need to Google "Project Follow Through" (or see here or for chapter-by-chapter commentary search this site). If it means less local control, if it means less "freedom" (at least as perceived by some) in the classroom, if it will cut the profits of publishers or require a retooling of ed schools, -- is it worth it because it works?  Or will we continue to fund education on "feel good" initiatives like full-day K, universal pre-school, "balanced" math, whole language, only to ask in another 15 years why nothing has changed?

  6. Hat tip and a bow, thanks Charley

    Refreshing to have a Governor come to the people and credit other key players in the game (Cahill).  A good  executive defers to their team when the answer eludes them, again points.  Patrick and Murray briefed the Lege this afternoon which was a huge step in communications.  I hope they (the Lege) realize the opportunity they have to make our Commonwealth's government a team sport and don't blow it.

  7. seems impressive

    I'm excited to read about some of the details tomorrow.

  8. I was there too

    I wasn't live blogging, but I was taking pictures.  And I couldn't resist a few comments.  Here:

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