THE GOVERNOR'S PREAMBLE
GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICKLocal and state government have been dealing with budget challenges here in the commonwealth, as you know and have reported: $9 billion in budget gaps over the last 18 months. But we have closed that budget gap and have delivered three budgets that were responsible, balanced, and on time. That is not something many other states can say. Our AA bond rating has been reaffirmed by Fitch, Moody's, and Standard and Poor's, not only once but twice, the second time today [March 3, 2010], specifically citing our proactive management of this budget through the crisis.
It has been — you don't need me to tell you — we're living through the worst economy in living memory. Everybody's been hurt, and a lot of people hammered by the economy, individuals and families, small businesses, large businesses, governments across the country.
And meanwhile, we have continued to govern. We are first in the nation in student achievement, first in the nation for healthcare coverage for our residents, first in the nation in clean and alternative energy policy — in fact the clean tech sector is the fastest growing sector in the economy right now — none of that by accident.
We have faced up to and fixed some of the most intractable issues and questions and complaints really facing the commonwealth for a long time. We've ended abuse in the state pension system; we have tightened the ethics and lobbying rules; we have simplified the transportation network and shut down the turnpike authority. All of which has saved, in transportation, a quarter of a billion dollars already.
We've introduced competition to auto insurance which has brought down rates on average 10 percent across the commonwealth, saved hundreds of millions of dollars for Massachusetts drivers — 11 new companies and a bunch of new jobs to go with them as well, which is great.
There are civilian flaggers working at state construction sites, which by the way if you mention outside of Massachusetts people say, "What? What's the big deal?" I can show you the scars associated with that, but I think it was the right thing to do.
And then ed [education] reform, which I was able to sign on Martin Luther King day, is the reform of all of them that I'm proudest of, because it finally gives us some tools to get at the achievement gap. And you know what I'm talking about here, this is the persistent drag on the otherwise extraordinary achievements of 17 years of ed reform where we've had, you know, stuck in that gap: poor children and children with special needs or speak English as a second language, more often than not, kids of color. It's an educational and economic problem. It's a moral issue too. And I'm really proud that we have some tools to really get at that.