Saturday, March 03, 2007

My buddy Mark, a fellow Massachusetts resident, has asked me repeatedly to give the new governor, Deval Patrick, a report card. In many ways it's too soon to tell about substantive issues, but he has had a little public relations flap about hiring a $72,000 a year assistant for his wife and wanting a more expensive car than the former governor.

PR mistakes are relatively easy to fix if you can get to doing the job you were elected to do: bringing about real change in the state's government. Has he done that? Not yet. Proposals are just proposals. He has to convince the Legislature that his plans are politically sound...not financially sound, not realistic...but will aid the legislators politically.

So I give him a C- in pratical PR, and a B+ for his budget. To get the A he has to get some of his ideas passed. To get on the honor role, he also will have to tackle some issues such as auto insurance reform and unemployment insurance reform.

I like the guy and have high hopes he won't flunk out.

Has Patrick Governor Patrick is heading into first big test with the release of his
proposed state budget. It’s a dual-layered test at that. He needs to impress
the public with his planning and he needs to convince the Legislature that
his ideas are valid.

The first might be a lot easier than the second.

Patrick’s on the tightrope. He must please the people who elected him by
instituting some of of his campaign promises, while at the same time appear
to be fiscally responsible.

He had to close the budget gap of $800 million to $1 billion (depending
upon who is speaking), as well.

So Patrick had to cut, find economies and reallocate funds.

Well, let’s see what you think. Here are some highlights:

• 46 percent increase in funding for Kindergarten Expansion Grants for a
spending total of $39.5 million.

• A $200 million increase in Chapter 70 education aid, enabling every
operating public school district to receive increased funding. Total Chapter
70 spending: $3.71 billion.

• 5.5 percent increase in Local Aid (including $77 million for School
Building Authority). Total Local Aid spending: $6.04 billion.

• Doubled funding for Extended Learning Time Grants. Total spending: $13

• Direct property tax relief through Homeowner Circuit Breaker for 100,000
qualified households.

• The start of a community policing initiative by funding up to 250 officers
and training. Total spending: $33.7 million.

• Adds $2 million for a new, year-round employment program for at-risk
youth. Total spending: $6.7 million.

• Provides $4 million for Expedited Permitting Program.

• Fully maintains and funds health care reform expansions in MassHealth
benefits, eligibility, and rates. Total spending: $514.4 million.

• Includes $472 million for Commonwealth Care Insurance to allow nearly
150,000 residents to enroll in the program for FY08.

• $24.8 million increase for Universal Immunization Program, covering three
new vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to prevent
young people from contracting serious illnesses. This funding will provide
71,334 infants with the Rotavirus vaccine, 108,188 children with the
Meningococcal Conjugate vaccine, and 72,126 girls between the ages of 9 and
18 with the Human Papilloma Virus Vaccine (HPV). Total spending: $61.6

• More efficient delivery of services to assist homeless families or
families at-risk of homelessness by consolidating 11 line items into two
line items for one purpose. This facilitates the transfer of funding to
greatest need. Total spending at Health and Human Services: $122.1 million.
Total spending at Department of Housing and Community Development: $37.9

• Shifts salaries for 158 workers in the Executive Office of Transportation
from the capital budget to the operating budget to save 60 cents on every
dollar in interest costs. This begins to address the problem of the more
than 1,800 state employees who are funded through bonds.

• Funds FY08 retiree health benefits liability (OPEB) and makes a down
payment on the FY09 liability by investing proceeds from 1990s tobacco

Massachusetts is, in many ways, broken. Well maybe not broken, but we’re
limping along on the shoulder. This is not the time for the Legislature to
grandstand for power. This is the time of people working together seeking
common sense solutions for our problems.

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

1 comment:

Marky Mark said...

Thanks, Mike. I value your opinion and updates on local politics, since I cannot follow them as much as an informed citizen should.

My gut tells me that Deval will be as bad as Mitt or worse. I was really rooting for Healey. But what do I know?

But let's see how it goes.