R.D. SAHL: Thank you very much. Good evening everyone. I‟m R.D. Sahl, NECN. And welcome to the Kennedy Library and the latest in the Kennedy Library Forum series, a chance for a studio audience of about 300 people and for you at home, via email and Twitter, to question the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Interesting times for the country and for the state: budget difficulties, lots of topics to talk about tonight. Let‟s meet our guest this evening, Governor Deval Patrick. Governor, good to have you here. [applause]
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Thank you, thank you. Good to be with you. Hi, everybody.
R.D. SAHL: I know you wanted to take a couple of minutes just to talk to the audience before we get into their questions.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: You ready for me?
R.D. SAHL: Go ahead.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Well, first of all, R.D. , I want to thank you for moderating. And I want to thank NECN and the Library for making this forum available. Thank you very much. And I thank everyone for participating, both those of you who are here in the hall and those who are watching from home. I‟m looking forward to the conversation.
Just a couple of points I wanted to make to sort of set the stage for the conversation. We all know we are in a global economic crisis. That crisis has come home to Massachusetts now. Every individual, every family, every not-for-profit agency, every business is facing unprecedented challenges and uncertainty. And the times, also, I think remind us how interconnected we are, how weakness or hardship in one sector of the economy affects other sectors of the economy, how an individual neighbor‟s struggle becomes a neighborhood‟s -- think of the foreclosure issues -- how we rise or we fall together.
What we are trying to do is to face that, to face that using the tools at our disposal here in state government, using the tools that come to us through the Federal Recovery Act, to deal not with statistics but with real people. Because I see that struggle in making ends meet in people. I see the strain on their faces. I see it on some of yours. I see the homeless folks and the folks who are out of work, frankly some of whom I have had to put out of work because of the layoffs in state government, which we could not avoid. I know that behind every single one of those budget cuts is somebody‟s best chance or, in some cases, only chance. And I know that right now the mission of state government, more than ever, has got to be about securing our long-term economic future, our shared future, meaning doing everything we can to create and sustain jobs for Massachusetts people and opportunities for Massachusetts businesses, doing what we can to give everyone a reason to hope. And so our plan, our recovery plan, is about three things. It‟s about bringing some immediate relief to people; it‟s about investing for tomorrow, and also about reforming the way government does business.
In terms of investments, if you‟ve been watching the news or reading the papers, you will know that we have announced hundreds of millions of dollars of new investments thanks to the Federal Recovery Act over the last couple of weeks, hundreds of millions of dollars in education, for example. That‟s on top of the $10 billion dollars we have budgeted in the state budget for public education pre-K through college; $2 billion dollars in Federal Recovery Funds we‟ve dedicated to human services and health care to try to sustain the safety-net for the most vulnerable: poor people, elders, people with disabilities. And come the beginning of the construction season this spring, you will see and we will start activity in rebuilding roads and bridges, installing new renewable energy facilities, expanding the broadband network to underused or under-serviced and un-served areas, doing what we can to create jobs and make a stronger economic foundation and broader opportunity for everybody. This is not easy.
And as we do it, meanwhile, we‟re also trying to take on some issues that have been put off and put away and overlooked for a long, long time. That‟s what pension reform is about, and ethics reform, and transportation reform -- very, very difficult issues, very delicate issues in many respects and complicated. And there is sometimes enormous resistance. But I believe that if we are successful in moving this reform agenda, we will leave, for all of us, a government that every citizen can be confident in and proud of.
And so people ask, and I‟ll just wrap up now, “Why bother?” I do get that question. “Why in the world would you take on all this, trying to do new things, or trying to do old things in a better way, especially now?” And I think that the answer is about how we must always govern for the long-term, for tomorrow, because we will cycle out of this economic downturn. All economies are cyclical. And we have to make the judgments today that make us as strong as possible, to take advantage of the rebound when it comes. And I hope we can talk more about that this evening. So, R.D. , I thank you.
R.D. SAHL: All right, thank you very much Governor. An opening statement that sort of sets the playing field a bit, but again, this is about your questions. So let‟s just open it up to the crowd. We‟ll pick any topic you want and we‟ll see where it takes us. We‟ll start, John Hammond, we have a gentlemen right here. And, again, identify yourself please.
QUESTION: Governor, Jonathon Berg from Melrose.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Jonathan?
QUESTION: I was with you at your first town hall and here we are 25 months later.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: How about it. I don‟t think we had any TV cameras then, did we?
QUESTION: Oh, yes, we did sir. Listen, I‟m here tonight to talk about transportation, public transportation -- a great concern of mine -- and the failure of not just this administration, but past administrations. But now we‟re focusing with this administration to really standup and look at the long-term issue here, and that is $40 billion dollars of bonding done in the middle of the night, which has created a financial and economic crisis in this state. Sir, it is time to be honest with the people of Massachusetts. Before we go forward with any additional revenue, we must have profound reform. And not just the reform that you‟re talking about, reform in terms of how we bond things and how we tell people about it, reform in terms of, for example, providing new money to the MBTA at the same time they are getting a 13.9 percent cost-of-living increase, sir. So these are the types of issues. Because as a commuter and as someone who uses public transition, I‟ve seen over the last three years continued deterioration and, again, a lack of transparency about the funding. So that‟s my concern.
R.D. SAHL: Thank you Mr. Berg, Governor?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Anybody else? I imagine a few people want to talk about transportation reform.
R.D. SAHL: Why don‟t we answer Mr. Berg‟s question first and then bring other people in.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: All right. I‟m going to do that, R.D. [laughter] First of all, do mind if I call you Jonathan?
QUESTION: That‟s fine.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: First of all, in terms of transportation reform, I‟m glad you asked the question because sometimes it seems like the only thing that people want to talk about is the proposed gas tax. There‟s a lot more in our package than the gas tax. I am not interested in new revenue without reforms. And let me talk about the reforms that are in our package and then to your point about bonding, Jonathan.
The reforms we‟re looking for are very simply the following: We have six different transportation agencies with different pieces of the transportation network. I think we need one; I think it needs to be well-coordinated; I think there is duplication that can be eliminated. We estimate that about 300 positions come out by getting that simplification. I think the other thing we get, Jonathan, by the way, is better coordination in the development and the implementation of transportation policy. So that, for example, if you landed at Logan, one card, one fare maybe, gets you on the bus, to the water taxi, to the subway, to the commuter rail, to the parking lot and out of it, and so on. We don‟t have that kind of cohesion in our transportation structure right now.
We are also looking to fix some of the pension issues as we bring these agencies together. There is a rule at the T. It‟s called “The 23 Years and Out Rule,” where you can work for 23 years and at the end of the 23rd year, you can leave and start collecting your pension right then, even if you are 40-years-old. And this is not a dig at the good people who work at the T, it‟s just too rich a benefit for today. And that program, it seems to me, ought to be aligned with the best of the state pension system. There are better funding mechanisms. Bonding is a piece of this in my view.
I‟m not sure I would go so far, Jonathan -- I take your point -- but I‟m not sure I would go so far as to talk about bonding that happens in the middle of the night. But there are a number of bond bills that are laden with earmarks. Not all those projects actually get done. But we can have a much more transparent way of funding our transportation system, and that‟s what that trans fund is about. All of the revenue, all of the resources go into one fund managed centrally. And to the extent we can, particularly as we get stronger, we can do some cross-subsidization of different elements of the transportation network.
Now, even with those and other reforms that are in our package, there‟s not enough savings generated to run the system better. We spend -- I‟m sorry this is taking so long but this is really important -- we spend $1,718 million dollars -- drivers in Massachusetts every year -- on car repairs directly related to the shoddy conditions of our roads. We‟ve got potholes, and it‟s just raggedy. The trains frequently do not run on time and yet ridership is going up. And it takes money and better management -- not just money and not just better management, but both -- in order to deliver the kind of quality services that people want. And we have a tremendous amount of debt, to your point, some of it from Big Dig …
QUESTION: Most of it.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Well, some, okay. Not $40 billion of it, but a lot of it from the Big Dig.
R.D. SAHL: $2.2 billion dollars.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Well, $2.2 on the Turnpike; there‟s more on the T, that has been …
R.D. SAHL: $8 billion.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: All in, I think that‟s right … that has been layered on these agencies, that as a practical matter, makes it hard for us to make other investments in the rest of the system. Now, some of that can be fixed by restructuring that debt when the markets get better, when the bond markets improve. But there is no way around the need for new revenue. And that revenue, I think, has also got to bring with it some regional equity so we‟re putting money into the regional systems, the regional roads outside of the greater Boston area where folks, I think, have rightly felt they‟ve been let down in the past.
R.D. SAHL: Governor, this state has the highest debt load of any in the country, 20 percent of GDP. Will any of these reforms, any of the revenue measures that you‟re talking about do anything about that 20 percent to GDP ratio?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Well, I think to Jonathan‟s point, I think there are opportunities for us to better manage that debt. We need to pay down that debt, there‟s no doubt about it. But we also have an unusually high income level. And if you measure the debt against citizen income, it‟s not that out of whack. Obviously, in time, what you want to do is to pay that down. That improves the bond rating. That improves the affordability of debt in the future.
R.D. SAHL: From the audience?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: I‟m sorry, he‟s supposed to moderate. I keep wanting to point to people.
R.D. SAHL: It says “Governor” under your name, “Moderator” under mine. And Andrea, over here, yes?
QUESTION: Hi, your excellency, Richard Livingston, Milton.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Richard?
QUESTION: First of all, I‟d like to offer my condolences to the loss of a mutual friend, the Honorable Reginald Lindsay.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: What a guy.
QUESTION: And I‟d like to ask you, as Rudyard Kipling would say, when everything else is around you, you keep your head. Would you consider a vacancy on the United States Federal District Court here in Massachusetts if offered by the President?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Would I consider it for what?
QUESTION: If you were offered a judgeship.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: For me? Oh, for goodness sake. Oh, that‟s easy, no, no. I loved Reg Lindsay. He was my law partner and my very good friend. And he was a marvelous human being and an extraordinary judge. And I can‟t imagine trying to fill his shoes.
R.D. SAHL: You‟ve said often during the presidential campaign in response to -- how my times did we ask that question, “Would you go to Washington?” You always said, no, you were going to stay in Massachusetts. Were you ever offered or called by anybody in Barack Obama‟s campaign or by the candidate himself to ask if you were interested? Were you every called?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Okay, so R.D., I told you and I think I told everybody here, you can ask any question you want, I don‟t have to answer any question. [laughter] What‟s the next question?
R.D. SAHL: Should we take that as a yes?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: I‟m still here. I‟m still here. [applause] I think there‟s some kids in the way back.
R.D. SAHL: In back, anybody who can reach the microphone. Thank you, Iris.
QUESTION: Hi, my name is Mariah Smith.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Mariah?
QUESTION: Yes. I am senior at Boston Latin Academy. I‟m here representing the Boston Student Advisory Council and Youth On Board. So my question is your office stated that you have discretionary power over the distribution of money of the stabilization funds. We know you‟re using a formula to distribute this money, but Wellesley is receiving $1.1 million dollars and the Boston Public Schools -- with a huge deficit -- is receiving nothing. So if you have power over this money, why are you using a formula that isn‟t giving money to needy communities like Boston? Will you commit to giving stabilization on money to help preserve Boston‟s education?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Thank you Mariah. Always beware of people who bring
their question in writing [laughter] First of all, the Secretary of Education is here and he can help me if I don‟t get all these facts just right. But I can tell you this: Everybody gets education money through the Recovery Act. They don‟t all get it through the same program. So there is a pocket of money, the stabilization piece, which actually is not totally up to my discretion.
This is a good opportunity for me to put one urban legend to rest. A lot of people seem to think that through the Recovery Act there‟s a great big check that has been written to me personally, and you just have to get me in a good mood and then I will write you a check. Most is actually for very specific things. And in the case of the stabilization money, the first responsibility is to bring school districts up to existing, legal formulas. And we have a legal formula through the so-called Foundation Budget. And that‟s the first thing we had to do. Boston is getting money through something called Title 1 – that, by the way, a lot of other communities are not getting. They got $40 million last year, and Title 1 has been increased through the Recovery Act by more than 60 percent. What we don‟t know today is what the actual dollar amount is. But we expect to know in the next couple of weeks, next few weeks. And so in addition, there is something called IDEA, which is money for special ed. Every community gets that, again, by law. We announced that down in Brockton High School last week.
So there‟s more than one channel. Do you understand what I‟m saying? There‟s more than one program by which the education money is made available. The first amount that we announced said $168 million dollars was to bring people up to this foundation formula, which the Federal restrictions required us to do. Boston gets a piece, by the way, that a bunch of other cities do not in Title 1. And it‟s also through the Recovery Act. And by the end of it all, through these different channels, I know everybody will get more now.
R.D. SAHL: Governor, we also have an email on this topic.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Well, hang on. Let me just finish …
R.D. SAHL: Elisha Zip(?) in Dorchester, also the same concern about Boston. She says, “This is an emergency and emergency measures are needed. Don‟t leave us out in the cold. We are more than shovel-ready.”
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Well, she‟s right. But, again, just to be clear, this isn‟t money that I get to disperse as I see fit in most cases.
R.D. SAHL: Do we have an idea how much more, beyond the $168 million dollars, is coming for education in Massachusetts?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Yes.
R.D. SAHL: How it‟s going to be distributed and when? Distributed over fiscal year ‟09? What‟s left over this fiscal year and heading into the next one?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: I can answer some of that. And the reason I can‟t answer all of it is because all of the rules haven‟t been written yet in Washington. There‟s another $168 million dollars in Title 1, is that right? I think it‟s about $165 million, something like that, in Title 1, that‟s additional, that‟s on top of the regular Title 1 allocation which is about $230 million dollars. And that goes overwhelming to Boston, by the way, but to a number of other cities including those who did not get money in that $168 I announced.
R.D. SAHL: All of those people you heard from at your office, and we heard from as well.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Yeah, yeah, no, no. It‟s fair. I mean, there‟s one way to do this which is just to say, “Okay, here‟s the whole money. Here‟s the whole pot from all the different sources and make one big announcement.” And instead what we thought we would do is try to make announcements as the rules were written and as we knew what the allocations would be. We don‟t yet know what the Title 1 actual dollar amount will be community by community. We will shortly. Washington is struggling to keep up with our collective interest in getting the money out as fast as possible. And as I say, we‟ll know shortly. And Mariah, you and your colleagues at -- did you say Boston Latin? -- will have a stake in the game too.
R.D. SAHL: Any other education questions? Yes, ma‟am. Up here. We‟ll let John get to you. You can go ahead and start asking, that‟s fine.
QUESTION: Hi. My name Anya Bowen(?) and I attend Boston Latin School. I‟m in the ninth grade, and I live in Roslindale. My question is, you mentioned earlier about planning ahead for the future and getting rid of debt and planning ahead, I was just wondering if there‟re any plans you have to help college students coming out of college pay off their college debt? Because they‟re starting off in the job industry and they don‟t …
GOVERNOR PATRICK: In the whole?
QUESTION: Yeah, as a whole.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Yeah, believe me, I know more about this than you might think from my own experience. I can tell you about a couple ways in which the Recovery Act will help. One is something called The Pell Grant, which is a Federal financial aid program. The amount for that has been increased significantly at over $5,000 dollars it is now. Is that right, Secretary? Increased by $500 dollars, and I think the total amount is now over $5,000 dollars. One of the …
QUESTION: I think it‟s still about $5,300 dollars. I think that‟s the number.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: And we‟ve taken some other steps to encourage the public colleges and universities to do a better job at informing incoming students and students who were there about financial aid opportunities that are available. What‟s that program called, starts with an F? FAFSA. You‟re at Boston Latin now? Okay. Are you on your way to college? Oh, you did say that. Well, you are planning ahead, aren‟t you? All right.
Well, you're exactly what we‟re looking for. And then the $162 million dollars that we announced yesterday for public colleges and universities closes the gap, or most of the gap, in the cuts we had to make in this fiscal year, and will allow or enable those schools not to raise the fees as high as they were anticipating doing in the coming year. So those are a couple of the ways that we‟re trying to …
R.D. SAHL: Related question from Twitter, if we can bring it back up again. JD
Vallarow(?) tweets, “How do you anticipate the economy will digest the number of educated, well-qualified, unemployed? Ditch digging is not enough.”
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Ditch digging is not enough, but the clean-tech industry, the IT industry, the life sciences industry, all three of which we have placed a tremendous emphasis on with some success here in the Commonwealth need exactly the kind of employees that this Tweeter, this person who sent a tweet -- did I say it right? -- a tweeter is asking about. You know, the clean-tech sector is growing 20 percent a year even in these times, 20 percent year over year. There are a whole range of job opportunities …
R.D. SAHL: But some of these new high-tech industries, the life science is a good example, are not what you would called labor intensive?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Well, we need jobs at all levels of the economy R.D. We need people who can dig ditches. We need plumbers. We need nurses. We need PhDs as well, and researchers. And, by the way, in some of those jobs, like in the life sciences, for example, you don‟t have to have necessarily an advanced degree. You need some training in order to be a lab tech. And until the bottom began to fall out last fall, they couldn‟t keep lab tests. And so one of the things we were trying to do is to get the community colleges to offer those kinds of courses over a one or two year period, so that we could enrich the labor pool for those opportunities. This is back to Anya‟s point about the longterm. Not all of this is about what is happening right now. It‟s about what kind of economy we‟re trying to build for when the turnaround comes.
R.D. SAHL: But don‟t the stimulus funds themselves dictate tactics now as opposed to what happens longer term? This money has to be spent in the next two fiscal years.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: That‟s right. And some of that is road building. I mean, I think he meant in sort of a disparaging way, but ditch digging has honor to it as well. But that $42 million dollars we mentioned earlier is very much about expanding the cleantech sector and also getting the benefit of renewable energy and efficiency strategies. The money in education is about retaining teachers today and also building a more educated workforce in the future. So the fact is we have to pay attention to here and now and the tomorrow. But with all of the stress that all of us are dealing with in the here and now, it would be a disaster to take our eye off of tomorrow because this will cycle, and we had better be ready. And I think we will be.
R.D. SAHL: Let‟s go to email for a question. And it will pop up here in a moment as we head toward the half hour. From Christine Poth in Boston: The Foundation Formula -- back to the education funds -- must be flawed to let this happen. Isn‟t the Federal Stimulus funding flexible, Governor? And why didn‟t you use a different system for distribution based on more need? As you can see from the questions, for people this formula doesn‟t make sense to them. To them it‟s a matter of equity. Why did Wellesley, Belmont get something? Why didn‟t my school system get any?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Well, I mean, I can try this one more time. First of all, you don‟t get to use the Federal bill to change local law. What the Federal bill asks us to do is comply with local law. There‟s no problem, and no argument for me that the formula is flawed, maybe not fundamentally, but flawed …
R.D. SAHL: Well, I think Christine Poth would be satisfied to hear you say tonight, “You are not forgotten; there is money coming your way.”
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Well, let me try it again, because maybe Christine wasn‟t listening when I responded to Mariah‟s question. You are not forgotten; money is coming your way. It is not all coming through the same program within the Act. It‟s coming through various channels. But nobody will be left out. And no one has been.
R.D. SAHL: I need to take a break here at the half hour. We will be back with Governor Deval Patrick, your questions and your emails and Twitter questions as well. This is the Kennedy Library Forum. We‟ll be back in two minutes.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Thank you, R.D. [applause]
R.D. SAHL: Welcome back to the Kennedy Library Forum. Our guest this evening for a town hall meeting, Governor Deval Patrick. And we‟re taking questions from a live studio audience, roughly 300 people. We‟re taking email and Twitter questions as well. Let‟s go bato our audience. Right ck here, sir.
QUESTION: Hi, I‟m Dave Atkins from Westwood, and I‟m a technology person who was laid off on New Years Eve. I have a question. I‟ve blogged about this on my blog extensively, and a lot of people have come up to me and they really want to know when can we improve the amount of time it takes for the unemployment office to handle claims? What can we do to improve that and also to ensure that health care benefits are available through the medical security program? People wait 30 to 40 minutes when they can get through to the hold queue on the phone line.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Dave, that‟s a good day.
QUESTION: That‟s a good day. A lot of times you can‟t get through at all because your social security is not right or something. And I‟ve blogged about it, and I know a lot of people are interested in getting answers to those questions. And we‟re not asking for additional benefits, we just want the system to work.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: I understand. Thank you for the question. Help is on the way. One of the sort of bitter ironies of what we‟ve been dealing with is as we have had to cut staff and services, we have also had to cut staff in the places where people go to get services because of the terrible times. And with the Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development is here, in the Recovery Act there is money specifically for hiring at the career centers, the one-stop career centers. When do you anticipate people going in? Over the next month would you say?
SUZANNE BUMP: No, probably in two months.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Two months? And say a little for Dave and the folks who are asking about this. This is Suzanne Bump, who is the Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development. Sorry to put you on the spot, Suzanne.
SUZANNE BUMP: Hi, that‟s quite all right, Governor.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: But just say a little bit more about some of the stuff we‟ve been trying to do in the meanwhile to get the wait time reduced.
SUZANNE BUMP: Sure. We have a lot about this, as you can imagine. And since November, we have doubled the size of the claims taking staff. We are on our way to tripling the size of the staff. We are dealing right now with about 11,000 claims being filed a week and an infrastructure that is barely adequate to sustain that. We are getting additional assistance through the Stimulus Act, not only to help with our claims taking function, but also to put more folks in the career centers who can help with job search and resume writing and career planning, skills assessment, and the like so that we can deliver more services.
And there‟s also going to be a significant inflow of training dollars, so that particularly if you‟re low-income, or if you are a youth up to the age of 24, or if you are a recently laidoff worker, there will be extra money available so that you can get education or training to prepare you for the kinds opportunities that are in the job market now, because there are employers who are hiring even in this down economy. So we have substantial resources that we‟re going to be able to bring forward. And then, fortunately, it sounds like we‟re going to be able to use them for quite a while in those career centers.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Dave, you know, one other thing I would just say -- just to give you an order of magnitude -- we have lost in the Commonwealth about 82 to 83,000 jobs in the last 12 months; 77,000 of those jobs were in the last six months. It‟s just been a tsunami.
QUESTION: I know. It‟s a huge problem. And, in fact, one of the things that could improve it a lot is making the process online more, to allow the initial claim to be filed online.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: What about that? Why not?
SUZANNE BUMP: Our system is 25-years-old. The Governor, actually when he came in, one of the first things he did was provide funding to replace our whole unemployment insurance claims-taking computer system. But it is a build out that takes three or four years, and we are only halfway through that process. There are a lot of things that you can do online with regard to your claim: check the status of it, go in and do a number of other things. But what you can‟t do is file the initial claim online.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: So let me ask you Dave, you were in the tech field?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Maybe you could give us some ideas about that.
QUESTION: Oh, yeah. Well, my blog on Dave Writes, I‟ve listed a wholes series of recommendations. Another big one is to make the medical security program application automatic when you file a claim. It took me eight weeks or so -- I‟m nearing the end of COBRA having to make a choice -- and that whole time we‟re not sending our kids to the doctor because we were thinking maybe we could avoid having to pay for cover. And yet there‟s this great program, the medical security program, for many people.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: It doesn‟t mean a thing if you can‟t access it.
R.D. SAHL: Governor, let me segue because Dave‟s health question here is a very important one. We have this healthcare reform program in Massachusetts now, which is in fact getting national attention as President Obama and his administration take a look at this. But we also know that the financial wall that was predicted has suddenly shown up in this program. What was it, yesterday? $22 million dollars specifically earmarked for the Commonwealth Care portion of this, the subsidized portion of it? Is healthcare reform in Massachusetts in trouble financially? Is it failing?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: No, no, it‟s not. In fact, it‟s a wild success.
R.D. SAHL: 97% coverage?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: 97% coverage.
R.D. SAHL: Sustainable?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: It is sustainable. Now it‟s not going to be sustainable if we don‟t get at the cost containment issues. And there‟s some good work happening on that right now, and I‟ll give you a couple of examples. Some of it is around payment reform. And Secretary Bigby, if you want to jump in please do, because she‟s in the lead on much of this. Some of it is around payment reform. You know, we have a system where you pay for the number of visits to the doctor instead of for outcomes. So it doesn‟t really drive the kind of behavior that we want in the medical system. Some of it is around health IT.
R.D. SAHL: Medical records, computerized medical records?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Computerized medical records. Dave will be interested in this as a techie. We started down this path a couple of years ago. We can speed up our plans because of money in the Recovery Act around that. Some of it is job owning, by the way. We had all of the insurers in, I can‟t remember when it was, January? Maybe it was before January. And just to talk to them, to say, “Look, we can‟t sustain these premium increases year over year. You‟ve got to figure out how to help us contain this.” And they came back with zero increases this year. So I think there‟s more work to do. There‟s a Health Care Cost and Quality Council that‟s working on this. Their hearing‟s coming up.
The Attorney General has gotten involved as well as the insurance commissioner, which is important. I think we‟ll have some systemic solutions later this year. But this is something we have to sustain because it saves us in the long-run.
R.D. SAHL: At the heart of Massachusetts health care reform is the individual mandate. You have to have health insurance. Is that the model for national health care reform?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: I don‟t know. I mean, I had real misgivings about it as a candidate when I first started watching it happen. I think our system overall has worked really, really well. But, I mean, I‟m proud of our system, but I don‟t know whether it‟s a model for the nation. We had an advantage going in, in the sense that we had a relatively small proportion of our population who are uninsured. I think it was about a half a million, maybe 700,000 people, right, when we started this? Okay, 534,000 people. You know, you compare that to California, they have millions of people who are uninsured. I think there are lessons here in terms of how to take a hybrid. It‟s about public and private involvement, it‟s about individual responsibility, business responsibility. But the great story about Massachusetts, I believe, in health care -- and I will stop with this. I know you …
R.D. SAHL: We have an email question from Carol in Beverly.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Well, let me just say the great thing before you read it. And that is that instead of waiting for the perfect solution or thinking we had to have only two choices, the perfect solution or no solution we all, we tried something and we‟re adjusting as we go.
R.D. SAHL: Understood. All right, Carol in Beverly emails us, “I‟m the mother of a 26year-old, severely disabled daughter who requires 24/7 care. Currently, the state approves 42 hours of her care and denies 126 hours. How many hours will be cut? Will she still receive Mass Health? Will her SSI disability check be lowered?” SSI, I believe, is a Federal program?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Right. I can tell, first of all, Carol, in Beverly: Mass Health will not be … She will receive Mass Health. We have not done what has been done in the past when there‟s been downturn, which is to cap enrollment or put people off the program. That‟s one of the reasons as a commitment we have made. And some of the money we announced yesterday is actually directly relevant to Carol, I think. But Secretary Bigby, Doctor Bigby is the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Please add.
DR JUDYANN BIGBY: So every resident in Massachusetts who gets SSI through the Federal Stimulus will actually get $250 dollars extra through the stimulus bill -- and it is a Federal program, you‟re right R.D. -- and people will see an increase in their check, not a decrease.
R.D. SAHL: Okay.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Judy, about the hours?
R.D. SAHL: The number of hours: 42 hours of care approved by the State now …
DR JUDYANN BIGBY: I‟d have to know what program.
R.D. SAHL: The emailer did not say.
DR JUDYANN BIGNY: But if it‟s a 24/7, we have tried to maintain that program completely.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: So what‟s an email address where Carol could email to get specific responses to her questions about her daughter?
DR JUDY ANN BIGBY: JudyAnn.Bigby@state.ma.us.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Okay. You put it out there.
R.D. SAHL: Carol, email us at NECN and we‟ll refer you to Secretary Bigby. Let‟s go back to our audience. Andrea on this side over here.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Hi.
QUESTION: Hi, my name is Morese from Brockton.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Hi, Morese.
QUESTION: I‟m going back to the stimulus payment. I‟m worried about extracurricular programs like the arts and music, which I‟m in culinary arts, which could get cut off. So do you see funding targeting of those types of programs? Do you see any funds going towards our programs so they don‟t get cut off or anything like that?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: You mean like the band or the chorus?
QUESTION: Yeah, basically that and culinary arts, which I‟m in mostly, and arts and all the other stuff.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: So I have to give some background on Morese, whom I met last week at Brockton High School. I had this unbelievable visit. Thank you, again, to you and your buddies who were are here, really, really amazing. [applause] And when we walked through -- and the principal is here -- when we walked through, we had the chance to visit the concert choir and the band. And they performed. And they were marvelous.
Most of the program decisions around the arts are made at the local level. So the State provides funds; in some cases, the Federal government provides funds directly like Title 1, which we were talking about earlier with Mariah. And the city or town provides funds through property taxes or what have you. And then the local school officials make a decision about what to fund and what not to. In almost every case, there‟s not enough money. So don‟t let me give you the wrong impression, but in Brockton, they have made a commitment. And the superintendent talked about it and you did as well, principal. They have made a commitment to keep the arts programs because they appreciate that as a part of educating the whole child. And they‟re exactly right, and I commend you. So keep practicing. Okay.
R.D. SAHL: I‟m a little surprised we haven‟t had a question tonight about the proposed gasoline tax increase or the tolls. We have an email to that effect.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: It‟s a shame our time is up. [laughter]
R.D. SAHL: You didn‟t think you were going to get out of here tonight without this, did you? From Dee, who travels to and from the Cape five to six days a week. She says, “A number of the revenue producing plans will unfairly penalize me because the State doesn‟t want to raise turnpike tolls, higher gas prices, ” -- this is true, and I think she also is referring to higher gasoline sales taxes -- “plus a proposed fee to cross the Sagamore Bridge. What‟s so sacred about not increasing the Mass Pike tolls?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Well, first of all, nothing is sacred about not increasing the Mass Pike tolls.
R.D. SAHL: But you just signed on to a deal to delay.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Don‟t you want me to finish my answer?
R.D. SAHL: Go ahead.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Okay. Nothing is sacred about raising the Mass Turnpike tolls. The tolling on the Pike was originally set out in a schedule with the Big Dig debt, the bonds were done for the Big Dig debt. And it‟s been put off. It was a regular schedule of gradual increases. And it was put off and put off and put off. And that‟s why the Turnpike Authority, you know, they‟re out of time.
R.D. SAHL: And out of money.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: … and out of money, that‟s the other part of it. And that‟s why the proposed increase is so sharp. The gas tax doesn‟t avoid any future toll increases. Indeed, the gas tax is not even mainly a 19 cents about the toll increases. It helps with that. But all of our transportation infrastructure is starved for revenue, all of it.
R.D. SAHL: Is 19 cents enough?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Well, look, 19 cents is a lot to ask of people, especially right now. I understand that. We sent four bucks a gallon to OPEC last summer and got nothing for it. And we‟re talking about 19 cents and better roads and safer bridges and transit that works. And I don‟t know about the Sagamore Bridge idea, that‟s not mine. But there are people who have proposed 25 cents, 29 cents.
R.D. SAHL: 29 cents.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: If you were to actually add up all of the needs -- and we did this as a part of our analyses -- it would take 73 cents. Now, that‟s not unheard of in Europe, but we‟re not ready for that and that‟s just too much to ask. So we made some choices to get back down to 19. And there‟s nothing magic about 19. But to Dee‟s point, it‟s not about the turnpike alone, it‟s about all of our transportation infrastructure and putting it on a stable financial basis.
R.D. SAHL: The legislature is not wild about 19 cents a gallon.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: How do you know that?
R.D. SAHL: That‟s what we hear. That‟s what we read. We talk to people. We interview them. Can you do this without a double-digit in the gasoline tax?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: You know, it‟s a fair question. I told you I wasn‟t going to answer every question. Let me answer it this way.
R.D. SAHL: Well, I‟m sure going to try to make you answer every question.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: I know, I know. But, look, let me be clear. You know, and I know that there is a negotiation that has to happen. And I want to have that negotiation with the legislature, due respect. I don‟t want to do it in this forum. But we are going to have to do it. And people are thinking in the legislature -- and also in the general public -- about what combination of solutions is going to deal with this long-term challenge we have. I think the one thing that we all have to take away from this is that we can‟t put this off any longer. We are going to have to face this and face it together. And I don‟t have a corner on all the best ideas. We put our best thinking out there, and now we want to engage with the legislature and the general public to try to figure out what combination of good ideas …
R.D. SAHL: Polling out today says voters are 2 to 1 against increasing the gasoline tax.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: And you know what? You ask people -- and I have, because we‟ve done these town halls all over the place -- they say they hate the gas tax. And then in the next breath they say, “How come we can‟t have the buses run later and have a new route over here? And how come this bridge has been shut for ten years because it‟s structurally deficient,” and on and on and on. What we have to do -- all of us, not in government, but all of us -- is start connecting the dots. If we want services and we want safety and we want efficiency on our roads and on our bridges and our Mass Transit and buses and so on, we are going to have to figure out how to pay for it and stop kicking this can down the road for somebody else.
R.D. SAHL: I don‟t mean to keep kicking the can here, but I do have one other, just one other follow-up question to this. A moment ago you used the word “combination” in looking for a solution to this. Are you suggesting that in this negotiation with the legislature that it could be a combination of an increased gasoline tax and toll hikes?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Mm-Hm [laughter] I‟m saying that I know there‟s a negotiation coming. I know that the Senate President and the Speaker appreciate that we have to address the revenue piece of this. We‟re going to do reforms in the next week I think, back to Jonathan‟s question, and then come to the revenue. And you know what my bogie is? I think that a gas tax is right and fair, particularly one that has built in it some regional equity so we spend 75 percent of the gas tax in the region where it‟s collected. But I think that there‟s going to be some trading, and we‟ll have to get to that.
R.D. SAHL: Okay. Let‟s go back to the audience. Iris, there you are. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Good evening, Mary Gretchen(?) from Cohasset. Governor, pardon me if this information has been made pubic and I am not aware of this. I was wondering if you could explain why the position for Senator Marian Walsh was created after it was vacant? What is that position? And I know it was said that she was being compensated $150,000 dollars a year and she was previously making $75,000. And it‟s not meant to be a dig about a particular job but just a way of doing business.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Yeah, great. Mary?
QUESTION: Yes, and pardon me if it‟s been made available and I don‟t know about it.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: No, no. No problem, no problem. I imagine, Mary, you‟re the only one in here who wants to ask this question, right? Nobody else is interested in this question. Does everybody know what we‟re talking about first of all? So you don‟t? Okay. So, first of all, this is a good and capable person whom we have asked to do a very important job. I‟m not talking about 12 years ago; I‟m talking about the here and now. How many of you in this room think that Marian Walsh was asked to do make-work job? A make-work, I mean, like it wasn‟t a real job. Okay, let me go back. HEFA is the agency. HEFA is responsible for bonding and lending for not-for-profits, hospitals, colleges, schools, social services agencies. We are asking HEFA, because of the times, to do a lot more. It‟s very hard for those institutions to get the financing they need in the private market. We are also asking them to do more with less. We‟re going to merge HEFA with another quasi-independent agency called Mass Development. Her assignment is to go over there and do that. That has nothing to do with 12 years ago; that has to do with the here and now.
Now, people were upset because they believed that she was getting a freebie, she wasn‟t ready for it. You know, this is a person with a law degree, a lot of government experience, an independence of judgment, which I think is particularly important right now. She also understands the not-for-profit sector. I believe she can do the job. And I am asking people to give her a fair chance to do the job, and then criticize her if she doesn‟t. Now the compensation was another flashpoint. It was $175 that HEFA said. By the way, that‟s not out-of-line in the quasi-public agencies, but it‟s a big step in the view of everybody else, especially now. And it was an occasion, I think, for us to step back and look at the whole structure of how people are compensated, not just at HEFA but in all the quasi-publics. We have asked Dean Stephen Crosby from the McCormack School at UMass Boston to examine that with us. And Senator Walsh, I believe to her great credit, has agreed to take a lower salary, $55,000 dollars lower when she starts. Ironically she‟s going to have some people reporting to her who make more than she, but it kind of makes the point, right, about whether these ranges are appropriate and transparent and competitive right now. So I understand. I understand why people were upset. And I wish I had a way of kind of getting the explanation into a slogan or a sound byte. I‟m not very good at that. But I think in terms of her performance, let‟s give her a chance to do the job and then judge her on the job that she does. But it‟s a very important job right now.
R.D. SAHL: Governor, you say you understand, and yet the perception -- based on public reaction that we have seen on our air and in the newspapers -- is that you didn‟t understand and that you had a tin ear about this issue in these times.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: That‟s what she said. Wasn‟t that you? I‟m sorry, I don‟t mean to pick on you. I don‟t mean to pick on you.
R.D. SAHL: Well, you campaigned in 2006 as the outsider, not the Beacon Hill candidate. It was time to change the culture on Beacon Hill. You said it all the time on the campaign trail in 2006. Now, this far into your term, are you now part of Beacon Hill? Are you wrapped up in it? Have you been co-opted?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: No, I don‟t think so R.D. I mean, I think the question is fair. I think it‟s a fair question of me. But I do feel that it‟s a little unfair to a capable and good person.
R.D. SAHL: I am not talking about this Senator, I‟m addressing it to you.
GOVERNOR PATRICK: I‟m trying to respond to you question. I said the question was fair to me. But I think it‟s a little unfair to judge a good and capable person before she does the job. And the job is meaningful; the job is a job that we need done. And, by the way, I don‟t think that people are disqualified from jobs just because they know me or have supported me.
R.D. SAHL: Would you have hired someone at Texaco or Coca Cola through this kind of a process?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Sure. If I though they were capable of doing the assignment, you bet your life. And, by the way, if we had done a $50,000 nationwide search, I would have been criticized for that too at a time like this. This is something we need to move on right now. She‟s ready, she can do it. You will judge her, the press will judge her, the public will judge her and I will judge her on her ability to do it. I will just say, I‟m sorry.
R.D. SAHL: We have about two minutes left. Very quick, we have about two minutes left. Let‟s try and get in at least one more question from the audience here. Go ahead. Wait for the microphone. Very quick, very quick, let‟s see how quickly we can get through them. Go ahead quickly.
QUESTION: Hello, Governor. I‟m Misha Hadaway(?)
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Nisha or Misha?
QUESTION: Misha with an „M‟.
R.D. SAHL: We have two minutes left in the program.
QUESTION: I‟m a current student, MSW student at Simmons College, and I‟m a member of NASW, and I am going to graduate in less than two months. I am absolutely terrified to be entering the workforce with all the layoffs and budget cuts. What can you tell me to settle my nerves and reassure me that when I actually find my dream job, a social work position in Massachusetts, that I will make enough money not only to pay back my loans, but support myself comfortably? And will you support the Social Work Reinvestment Initiative?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: The Social Work Reinvestment Initiative? I‟m not sure I know what that is. Is that a bill?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Well, you should let me read the bill before I support it, before I tell you whether I support it. But, look, we need what you do. We need the service you bring, we need the compassion you bring. Can I guarantee that there will be enough in state revenue to assure you that you can pay off your loans and do everything else? No. I wish I could. And are we going to do everything we can in order to sustain those needs for that clientele? You bet your life. And we‟ve talked about some of what we‟re trying to do tonight.
R.D. SAHL: Thirty seconds left. Governor, I want to ask two very quick ones. We have no more time. You‟ll have to get with the Governor later. We have 30 seconds left. Can we solve this revenue and budget shortfall problem without a broad-based tax increase?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Well, we better because I‟m not going to support either a sales or an incoming taxing.
R.D. SAHL: No income tax or no sales tax increase? A commitment tonight?
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Right. Right.
R.D. SAHL: Our thanks to all of you for joining us at the Kennedy Library Forum, and our thanks to Governor Deval Patrick. Thanks to all of you at home and good night. Thank you. [applause]
GOVERNOR PATRICK: Thank you, everybody. Thanks to the young people. Thank you very much. All right, this is great. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Thank you.