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Gov.Patrick Proposes Changes For Community Colleges

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick

By Paul Tuthill


Boston, MA – Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick laid out a brief but ambitious agenda during his annual State of the Commonwealth address Monday night. His focus is on job creation, healthcare costs and public safety. WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports..

Patrick's speech, the sixth such one he's delivered since taking office, was generally upbeat in tone. He shined a light on the positive noting that Massachusetts school children test higher than almost anyone else, and the state's economy continues to rebound , now ranked fifth in the country in job creation.
Patrick, speaking to a joint session of the Massachusetts Legislature, in a packed house chamber at the statehouse, said there was no gridlock on Beacon Hill. Without mentioning specific legislation, the governor praised the legislators for taking tough votes and said they would be asked to do so again.
The lone new major initiative promoted by Patrick in his speech is a sweeping overhaul of the state's community colleges. Patrick wants to merge the 15campuses into a unified system and emphasis workforce development. He said the plan is key to helping the state's 240 thousand unemployed people get training to fill an estimated 120 thousand job openings
Patrick said he would propose an additional 10 million dollars for community colleges in the next state budget and channel more workforce development money through the community colleges.
Warning that steadily rising health care costs threaten job creation, Patrick called on the legislature to pass the bill he filed 11 months ago to change the way healthcare is paid for. It would scrap the traditional fee for services system for one that would put healthcare providers on a budget for patient care.
Patrick also called on the legislature to pass a crime bill that includes previously proposed reforms in sentencing and parole. Patrick wants to deny parole to hardened violent criminals after they are convicted for a third heinous offense
Patrick coupled his support for the controversial so-called " three strikes" provision with a call to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for non violent first time drug offenders. He said that crime strategy has been a costly mistake.
Patrick spoke with community college presidents prior to announcing his proposal to centralize the community college system. William Messner, the president of Holyoke Community College questions how the change would improve workforce development.
The Republican minority leader in the house, Representative Bradley Jones, called the governor's speech light in addressing the public's top priority, jobs and the economy.