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Berkshire Lawmakers On Gov. Patrick's Final State Of The Commonwealth


Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick delivered his final State of the Commonwealth in Boston last night.

Governor Patrick consistently said the words “let’s keep going” as he reflected on his past seven years in office and promised a push toward the finish line in his last year.

“Creating opportunity, keeping the dream within reach, is the agenda now, just as it has been for the past seven years,” Patrick said. “Frankly, it is the only agenda I have ever had in this job and the only one worth having.”

Democratic State Representative Smitty Pignatelli of the 4th Berkshire District says he would have liked to serve with Patrick in times that didn’t involve a global economic collapse that hit in 2008.

“I think it was the finest speech I’ve ever seen him give and I’ve seen him give many, many speeches,” Pignatelli said. “It was almost a reminder of where we were seven years ago. What life tragedies we went through those first two years and still are recovering from, but yet we are well positioned moving forward. From a selfish standpoint I wish he would run again because it’s that type of political leadership that I personally would love to serve with when times are good.”

Democratic State Senator Ben Downing of Pittsfield says Patrick’s speech reminded people of the progress made in education, energy efficiency and technology without forgetting missteps and that work remains.

“It was not so much the end of Governor Patrick’s term, but maybe the beginning of the end,” Downing said. “Maybe the 0.2 of the 26.2 [mile] marathon that has been the last eight years.”

Patrick says the single most important goal is economic growth and opportunity that extends to all areas of the public. The governor urged businesses to hire and urged lawmakers to raise the minimum wage.

“Raising the minimum wage would bring a little relief to the working poor, many of whom do jobs we could not live without and who, by the way, will recycle that money right back into the economy,” the governor said. “To those who are reluctant to raise the minimum wage, I ask only that, before you resolve to oppose it, consider whether you could live on it.”

Downing says raising the minimum wage is critically important. But the debate over a new rate – and how to reach it — continues.

“If you work a full-time job at minimum wage you shouldn’t live below the poverty line,” Downing said. “If you start at that point, I think there is a lot common ground on how to get there.”

With job creation the primary goal, Downing and Pignatelli agree raising the minimum wage is not the only answer to combating poverty. Pignatelli is hopeful the House can make progress on the minimum wage and agrees with Governor Patrick’s call for an overhaul of the state’s unemployment insurance system.

“The cost of the unemployment insurance, I truly believe that we can do that without reducing anybody’s benefits,” Pignatelli said. “I think we can do a much better job with the unemployment insurance phone system, the unemployment insurance computer system and I would love to see case managers assigned to every single person who signs up for unemployment insurance and helps find them a job.”

Downing says reworking the unemployment insurance system should focus on administrative and technical fixes, not a reduction in benefits.

“I do not think at a time of prolonged unemployment though that we ought to be cutting benefits,” Downing said. “Cutting benefits isn’t reforming or improving a system.”

Governor Patrick also urged people to get involved in their communities and the political process while advocating for easier voting and registration methods.

"We must, and we will this year I believe, enact legislation to make registration easier and voting more convenient,” said Patrick.

The next step for the legislature is reviewing Patrick’s $36.4 billion proposed 2015 fiscal budget and crafting their own.

Click here for the full transcript of Governor Patrick's speech.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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