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.
http://www.mass.gov/… 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.