CLT UPDATE
Sunday, May 13, 2007

Here we go again, another MTF-backed spending splurge


In the most sweeping policy announcement of his new administration, Governor Deval Patrick proposed yesterday $1 billion in funding for scientific research, a package designed to cement the state's reputation as a global powerhouse of medicine and biotechnology.

The 10-year initiative, which has won the endorsement of legislative leaders, would fund academic research and start-up companies, as well as create a stem cell bank at the University of Massachusetts for newly created lines of embryonic stem cells, a controversial arena of research currently barred from federal funding....

Despite its already high debt level, Massachusetts should be able to foot the bill for this 10-year investment, according to Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation, a government watchdog group.

"At $100 million a year, it's not a huge amount of money," Widmer said. "But that's $100 million that can't be spent elsewhere. It's a question of priorities. From my perspective, this is an economic bet. The jury is still out."

Some said that Patrick's plan interferes with the free market.

"This is a completely inappropriate direction to be taking," said David Tuerck, director of the Beacon Hill Institute, a conservative think tank. "It's an industrial policy where the governor gets in the business of picking winners and losers and trying to do what private capital markets are . . . already doing quite well."

House minority leader Bradley Jones, Republican of North Reading, wondered why Patrick would propose such an expensive plan at the same time he is grappling with a budget that is out of balance.

The Boston Globe
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Patrick offers $1b biotech program


Working with all sectors of the industry, we have developed the Massachusetts Life Science Initiative. This 10-year, $1 billion investment marks a new partnership between state government, industry, academic medical centers, and public and private higher education, and will accelerate statewide life sciences growth into high gear. We want to support this industry on the path from inspiration to commercialization, from ideas to cures.

That begins with support for new ideas and innovation.

The Boston Globe
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
The promise of biotech
By Deval L. Patrick and Therese Murray


We couldn’t help but notice an odd juxtaposition of stories in yesterday’s news cycle.

First, photos on the front page of the quite-literally crumbling Storrow Drive tunnel, with details of long-delayed repairs and the horrifying conditions of the Bay State’s roads and bridges.

Then by afternoon, an announcement from Gov. Deval Patrick of plans to invest $1 billion over the next 10 years . . . largely in the private life sciences sector.

Might Patrick have the role of government just slightly reversed? ...

But many of the taxpayer dollars that Patrick has in mind would go out in the form of grants to private or academic researchers. The administration, with the support of top lawmakers, insists that is crucial to compete with other states.

We would remind them that countless private entities, with access to capital and a keen eye for a good investment, might be willing to do the very same thing.

But there is no equivalent private outfit that is going to step up and write a $200 million check to fix Storrow Drive.

A Boston Herald editorial
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
First the potholes, then the Petri dish


Senate President Therese Murray wants to divert a portion of the state's surplus each year to pay for life science research, new technology projects, and housing in an effort to help create and keep jobs in Massachusetts.

In the Senate budget plan, to be unveiled Wednesday, Murray will propose changing a state law that sends all excess cash to reserves so that it reroutes up to $75 million each year to four state funds that invest in technology and housing....

Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-funded watchdog group, called the plan a creative way to invest in key areas.

"The positive, and it's an important positive, is that the money would be earmarked only if the state were running a surplus. That is in contrast to the budgets making their way through the State House . . . which are drawing on reserves -- spending money in essence that we don't have," he said. "There's a good balance between earmarking some funds, but only when they're available, and doing it in a measured way so you're not taking all the potential reserves and ignoring the obligation to build up money for an inevitable recession."

The Boston Globe
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Murray wants to invest surplus


“Let me just say, it’s so nice to finally have a partner in the Corner Office who really gets it,” [Senate President Therese Murray] said, prompting applause and broad grins from the luminaries crowded around her, Gov. Deval Patrick, and House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, former Romney business development aide Ranch Kimball nearby.

The occasion for Murray’s enthusiasm was the week’s headline news, Patrick leading the state in devoting $1 billion, half of it borrowed, to cranking up the local biotechnology industry....

At the same time, the $1 billion, 10-year scope of Patrick’s announcement left causes that have gone without funding asking: Where’s ours?

And, with all corners of government pleading that the state’s fisc – as Patrick is fond of terming the financial state of affairs – is stretched between insufficient revenues and urgent spending demands, even supporters of the biotech proposal wonder where the money will come from in a state with a groaning operating budget and a bond cap that various interests think should be raised. The latest spending request led insiders to wonder, how much more?

The first question was answered in part Thursday, for some folks anyway, when the Big Three lined up again, this time to discuss Patrick’s agreement that the Shannon Grant, $11 million in anti-gang grants hugely popular among urban activists, would be included in an $88.9 million “supp” budget – “They moved me,” he said of the elected officials who had lobbied him for the program....

State House News Service
Weekly Roundup -- Week of May 7, 2007


Even a committed liberal had to laugh at a recent Globe headline: "Patrick campaigns for new income sources for towns."

As everyone knows, "new income sources" are new taxes. Camouflaging the T-word doesn't change the truth....

It is what it is: a new tax. Some people will oppose it, period. But some people will consider the option, if it is honestly portrayed.

So, don't jerk the voters around with euphemisms. People are smart enough to see through them. Build the case with facts. Sell it with candor....

"He is the first governor in over a decade who has the courage and the vision to advocate for revenues," said Newton Mayor David Cohen, also choosing a word other than "tax" to describe Patrick's proposal.

The Boston Globe
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Governor, there's no need to disguise the T-word
By Joan Vennochi


Chip Ford's CLT Commentary

It's amazing how predictable the future sometimes is, isn't it -- from the perspective of a taxpayer-serf?

"Time will heal all wounds," the saying goes, to which our elected pols mostly all subscribe.  And for the most part, they're right.  Too many voters forget the pols' past promises.

We've watched this week as "Deval Without Details" continues with his carpet-bombing with promises without substance.  The masses for the most part are swooning, as has come to be expected of moonbats and too many others.  A billion here, a few hundred million there -- hey, it's only money:  It's only promises!

But some of his incredibly expensive spending ideas are gaining traction.

While we're still awaiting his campaign promise to be kept for "property tax relief," as Proposition 2˝ overrides reach record levels across the state with no relief in sight but his plan for more "local option" taxes, he's running up the state budget and liabilities by billions more of our dollars.  Nice of him, isn't it?  A grand gesture.  What a guy!

Remember the "promise" of 1989/90 that the income tax hike from 5 to 6.25 percent would only be only "temporary, for but 18 months" -- the tax hike voters in 2000 mandated be restored to 5 percent by 2003?  It was "frozen" by the Legislature in 2002, if you recall, at 5.3 percent -- until certain triggers it established were met.  Even Michael Widmer and his so-called Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, at that time championed that slap in the face of voters.  He favored triggers -- but is now also energetically moving the goal post.

Still, then-Senate President Tom Birmingham's income tax personal exemption increase, reduced in 1999 hopefully to head-off our 2000 ballot rollback but then also frozen in 2002, would have to take effect first, before our tax rollback would kick back in.  If you recall, back then Birmingham was the state senate president, before Robert Travaglini -- who was senate president before current Therese Murray -- and so it goes.

Since then too, iron-fisted House Speaker Tom Finneran has been deposed, convicted as a felon in federal court, and is now a radio talk-show host.  It was Speaker Finneran's House which added the caveat that, before we saw the remainder of the voters' mandated tax rollback to 5 percent -- or any tax relief -- first we had to choke the state's "rainy day fund" to capacity with our cash.  Each time that fund reached close to gagging, the goal would be moved further downfield.  It now holds over $2 billion of our tax surplus, and that is being spent-down here and there at the whims of the Legislature, but is still filling up more.  Nice little billion dollar slush fund, no?

See CLT Update:  May 25, 2006, "State Senate unanimously backhands taxpayers, voters"

Now comes another billion of our bucks to spend on Patrick's "biotech" spending proposal -- which Fat-Cat Big-Business lobbyist Michael Widmer is of course all in favor of.  Think that'll fill the "rainy-day" slush fund any sooner so us average taxpayers will ever "trigger" our rollback?

Will we mere voters, citizens, taxpayers, ever see our ballot mandate honored, will the income tax rate ever return to its historic 5 percent -- or will we see the rate climb again, heh, heh "temporarily"?

It now depends on whether the voters wake up and make a difference.

In the meantime, Beacon Hill -- all of its parts -- is picking up inertia, steadily racing to spend us into the next fiscal crisis -- as fast as they can get away with it, tripping over each other.  And obviously All-Democrat-All-The-Time makes it much easier.

Maybe call the real estate broker and tell them to stand by, perhaps prepare for the moving van before the rush?

Chip Ford

 


The Boston Globe
Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Patrick offers $1b biotech program
Plan would boost research, industry
By Andrea Estes and Stephen Heuser


In the most sweeping policy announcement of his new administration, Governor Deval Patrick proposed yesterday $1 billion in funding for scientific research, a package designed to cement the state's reputation as a global powerhouse of medicine and biotechnology.

The 10-year initiative, which has won the endorsement of legislative leaders, would fund academic research and start-up companies, as well as create a stem cell bank at the University of Massachusetts for newly created lines of embryonic stem cells, a controversial arena of research currently barred from federal funding.

"We want Massachusetts to provide the global platform for bringing your innovations from the drawing board to the market, from inspiration to commercialization, from ideas to cures," said Patrick, who unveiled the package at an international biotech conference in Boston. "Researchers all over the world will be using stem cells that are truly made in Massachusetts."

The policy represents a marked shift in philosophy from the Romney administration, which injected language into a 2005 stem cell bill that would have barred scientists from using embryonic stem cells cloned for research purposes. The Legislature rebuffed Romney and passed a bill endors ing stem cell research, but provided no direct funding.

Patrick was joined on the platform by Senate President Therese Murray, who wore a yellow bracelet in memory of family members who have died of cancer, and House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi. Both pledged support for the proposal.

Aides said the administration will file legislation to begin laying groundwork for financing and administering the new program later this year. Over 10 years, the state would issue $500 million in bonds to pay for capital investments at public institutions and other facilities. It would also spend $25 million a year on direct research grants and offer $25 million annually in tax credits to biotech companies that promise to create jobs in Massachusetts.

The administration, however, has not determined how much money would be dedicated to different areas of research or how much would be available to the private sector.

According to Jay Gonzales, the state's assistant secretary for capital finance, the money would be funneled through a reconstituted version of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, which was set up last year to distribute $10 million in life-science funding. Under Patrick's plan, the center's five-member board would be enlarged to handle its increased responsibilities. It was unclear last night whether any of the $10 million has yet been distributed.

The University of Massachusetts stands to collect more than $100 million from the Patrick plan. Jack Wilson, UMass president, said he expects the stem cell bank, which would be housed at the UMass Medical School in Worcester, to cost $66 million. The first of its kind in the country, it would allow researchers from across the country to work on each others' stem cell lines. Eight hospitals and universities, including Harvard, have agreed to send their stem cell lines there.

"It's almost a lending library," said Wilson, referring to the stem cell bank. "This is a triumph for the governor to have gotten all these proprietary players to the table -- industry, private universities, public universities -- where we put aside our differences. . . . This is what really distinguishes this proposal from anything else in the United States."

Another $38 million would go toward a research center to make useful drugs from RNA interference, or RNAi, a new laboratory technique that scientists can use to turn off specific genes. UMass professor Craig Mello shared a Nobel Prize in medicine last year for helping to discover RNAi in 1998. Less than a decade later, drugs based on this technology are being tested in humans.

In recent years, other states have invested significant taxpayer money in drawing medical research, including California's $3 billion stem cell bond issue and Florida's $1 billion campaign to persuade prestigious research institutes to locate campuses there.

While Patrick's overall package is smaller than California $3 billion voter initiative, the California experience may contain a lesson. The plan was attacked by opponents, and the money was long held up in court and only recently began to be distributed.

The Massachusetts plan has a broader approach, focusing on RNAi as well as stem cell research and other new technologies, although Patrick's plan did not enumerate which ones.

Despite its already high debt level, Massachusetts should be able to foot the bill for this 10-year investment, according to Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation, a government watchdog group.

"At $100 million a year, it's not a huge amount of money," Widmer said. "But that's $100 million that can't be spent elsewhere. It's a question of priorities. From my perspective, this is an economic bet. The jury is still out."

Some said that Patrick's plan interferes with the free market.

"This is a completely inappropriate direction to be taking," said David Tuerck, director of the Beacon Hill Institute, a conservative think tank. "It's an industrial policy where the governor gets in the business of picking winners and losers and trying to do what private capital markets are . . . already doing quite well."

House minority leader Bradley Jones, Republican of North Reading, wondered why Patrick would propose such an expensive plan at the same time he is grappling with a budget that is out of balance.


The Boston Globe
Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The promise of biotech
By Deval L. Patrick and Therese Murray


For decades Massachusetts has been fertile ground for the life sciences. Our unique concentration of extraordinary universities, teaching hospitals, research facilities, venture capital, and talent, spurred by a tradition of entrepreneurialism, provides a strong foundation for the growth in the biotech industry. These strengths have brought thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in life science investments to Massachusetts.

For us, that success is more than a commercial matter. Each family can speak poignantly about a family member or friend with a disease or debilitating illness. You cannot be in the company of someone you love, powerless to help them, without appreciating the vital importance of stem cell research and other biomedical breakthroughs. In many ways, the health of this industry and the health of our society are closely linked.

But we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. Competitor states and foreign nations are investing billions to attract our researchers, institutions, and industries. The University of Wisconsin-Madison outspends both Harvard and MIT in research and development. India and China, to say nothing of states such as California, are actively working to attract signature companies away from Massachusetts. At the same time, federal funding through the National Institutes of Health, of which Massachusetts typically receives a large share, is flat and likely to diminish. Politics, especially around stem cell research, impaired the innovation and calculated risk-taking that make breakthroughs possible. It is essential that the Commonwealth step up to maintain and extend our global leadership in the life sciences.

We are doing just that. Working with all sectors of the industry, we have developed the Massachusetts Life Science Initiative. This 10-year, $1 billion investment marks a new partnership between state government, industry, academic medical centers, and public and private higher education, and will accelerate statewide life sciences growth into high gear. We want to support this industry on the path from inspiration to commercialization, from ideas to cures.

That begins with support for new ideas and innovation. The rate of innovation in Massachusetts in recent years has been triple that of the national average and we have no intention of letting it slip. So, we will close gaps left by depleted NIH funding, and invest in promising developments like the nanotechnology center at UMass-Lowell and a new RNAi facility at UMass Medical in Worcester. To bring the best and brightest to those facilities and others, we will offer life science grants to young, promising researchers who may not yet have drawn the notice of federal funders.

Playing to our world leadership in stem cell research, we will also create a Massachusetts Stem Cell Bank to be housed at the University of Massachusetts. Once completed, the bank will hold the largest collection of stem cell lines in the world and make our rapidly growing catalog widely available to researchers. Already a group of competitive institutions have agreed to contribute to the Stem Cell Bank, underscoring the spirit of collaboration so distinctive about our biotech supercluster.

The state will also develop Innovation Centers to provide industry and the academic community access to cutting-edge facilities and technology. These centers will serve as regional economic engines throughout the Commonwealth, as new companies and jobs open up in the cities and towns around them.

We will supply Innovation Centers and private facilities alike with the equipment necessary to advance research without unnecessary restrictions. Today millions of dollars of equipment sits idle in labs because the federal government has prohibited its use on stem cell research. We want our researchers focused on innovation and cures, not ideology and politics.

Finally, when an idea is ready to become reality, we will help guide it to the marketplace. Breakthroughs are often lost in investment gaps typical of the movement from early academic research to industry development. We will designate grants to translate discoveries into applications and support partnerships to move new ideas along. We will also work to help life science projects in Massachusetts win federal assistance. Job growth here in the industry is fueled, in part, by federal support, and our companies lead the nation in these awards per capita. Every new job created in the life sciences results in two additional jobs in support services for suppliers, vendors, and construction. What's good for the life sciences and biotech is good for Massachusetts.

Our Massachusetts Life Science Initiative will strengthen our competitiveness, not just in the United States, but in the world. State government has the opportunity to be an active partner in helping grow ideas into cures, bring new jobs to Massachusetts, and secure our global leadership in this important industry.

Deval L. Patrick is governor of Massachusetts. Therese Murray is president of the Massachusetts Senate.


The Boston Herald
Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A Boston Herald editorial
First the potholes, then the Petri dish


We couldn’t help but notice an odd juxtaposition of stories in yesterday’s news cycle.

First, photos on the front page of the quite-literally crumbling Storrow Drive tunnel, with details of long-delayed repairs and the horrifying conditions of the Bay State’s roads and bridges.

Then by afternoon, an announcement from Gov. Deval Patrick of plans to invest $1 billion over the next 10 years . . . largely in the private life sciences sector.

Might Patrick have the role of government just slightly reversed?

This is not to say that government has no role to play in the high-stakes game of wooing the biotech industry to our shores. On the contrary, we’re delighted he is playing the role of salesman during this week’s BIO conference, laying out what we have to offer by way of, say, tax incentives or streamlined permitting.

And a chunk of the proposed $1 billion would go to our public higher education system, where targeted investment in the life sciences is indeed smart business.

But many of the taxpayer dollars that Patrick has in mind would go out in the form of grants to private or academic researchers. The administration, with the support of top lawmakers, insists that is crucial to compete with other states.

We would remind them that countless private entities, with access to capital and a keen eye for a good investment, might be willing to do the very same thing.

But there is no equivalent private outfit that is going to step up and write a $200 million check to fix Storrow Drive.

The role of state government here is not as venture capitalist. It is in creating the best conditions for private investment, including such seemingly mundane tasks as maintaining the infrastructure on which the burgeoning biotech industry must build.


The Boston Globe
Sunday, May 13, 2007

Murray wants to invest surplus
Looks to fund jobs, housing, research
By Andrea Estes


Senate President Therese Murray wants to divert a portion of the state's surplus each year to pay for life science research, new technology projects, and housing in an effort to help create and keep jobs in Massachusetts.

In the Senate budget plan, to be unveiled Wednesday, Murray will propose changing a state law that sends all excess cash to reserves so that it reroutes up to $75 million each year to four state funds that invest in technology and housing.

"We've heard over and over again that the obstacle to job growth in Massachusetts is the lack of affordable housing, and we've also heard about the need for investment in our biotech industry," Murray told the Globe. "We're second in the nation with our state fund balance. Let's take a portion and invest it in the economy rather than have it sit there earning a small amount of interest."

The first batch of money could be distributed as early as November if the state ends this fiscal year, June 30, with a large enough surplus, Senate staff members said. It is unclear, based on revenues to date, whether the year will end with a surplus, a Murray aide said.

Under the law, which Murray calls the "Senate Job Growth Initiative," the first $50 million of surplus each year would go into the state's rainy-day fund, which currently has a $2.1 billion balance.

After that, up to $25 million would go to the Emerging Technology Fund, which provides loans and guarantees to technology-based manufacturers ; up to $25 million would go to the Life Sciences Investment Trust Fund, which provides grants for research and commercialization of new biotech products; and up to $12.5 million each would go to the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which helps communities develop affordable housing, and the Smart Growth Housing Trust Fund, which rewards communities that foster denser housing near transportation facilities .

The law would expire in five years, unless the Legislature votes to continue it.

The measure, Murray said, would pay for a portion of Governor Deval Patrick's $1 billion life sciences initiative, which was unveiled last week.

Patrick's 10-year initiative, which Murray and House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi both endorsed, would fund research, start companies, and create a Massachusetts stem cell bank -- a repository of newly created lines of embryonic stem cells.

To finance the plan, state officials would have to borrow $500 million over 10 years to cover capital investments and equipment costs. They would also distribute $25 million in tax credits and invest $25 million annually in the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.

The Senate initiative would cover that last element, by channeling money into the Life Sciences Investment Trust Fund, which the center oversees. According to state officials, the state has run a surplus large enough to fund the entire $75 million initiative in seven of the past 10 years. If the state ends the year with more than $50 million, but less than $125 million, the investments in the four funds would be pro rated.

Kyle Sullivan, Patrick spokesman, praised Murray, saying she was acting "to fund the new life science initiative and other important programs that will have a positive impact on our economy and help us achieve the goal of 100,000 new jobs in the state over the next four years."

"We look forward to working with the Senate president and the speaker to make this a reality," he said

Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-funded watchdog group, called the plan a creative way to invest in key areas.

"The positive, and it's an important positive, is that the money would be earmarked only if the state were running a surplus. That is in contrast to the budgets making their way through the State House . . . which are drawing on reserves -- spending money in essence that we don't have," he said. "There's a good balance between earmarking some funds, but only when they're available, and doing it in a measured way so you're not taking all the potential reserves and ignoring the obligation to build up money for an inevitable recession."

Housing advocates also praised the initiative, but said the dollar amounts represent only a fraction of what is needed to meet the state's extraordinary demand for reasonably priced housing.

"It's a good start, " said Lawrence DiCara, one of four leaders of the Commonwealth Housing Task Force. "The more assurance the state can give that funding will be there, the more likely communities can construct housing and get out of the horrible conundrum: Lots of people who bought houses 20 or 25 years ago are effectively rich, but their kids have to move to North Carolina or Texas because they can't afford to buy a one-bedroom condo here."

Geoffrey Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, said many communities are afraid to move ahead with so-called smart-growth developments because they are concerned that the payments they get will not cover the additional expense of providing education and other municipal services to the new residents.

The state is obligated to pay additional local aid to communities that agree to create zoning districts that allow for the developments, Beckwith said, but communities fear that funding from the Smart Growth Housing Trust Fund, which pays for that aid, might dry up.

Barry Bluestone, executive director of Northeastern University's Center for Urban and Regional Policy, said the extra local aid was originally paid for through the sale of surplus public property, but a more predictable revenue source is needed. "This is substantial enough for the next year," he said, referring to the money contained in the Senate proposal. "But we may need more later."


State House News Service
Weekly Roundup -- Week of May 7, 2007
By Jim O’Sullivan


There were several nudges and elbows exchanged smilingly Tuesday when Senate President Therese Murray used praise for the current governor to veil, thinly, a swipe at the recent past chief executive, former Gov. Mitt Romney, for whom Murray’s distaste is not secret.

“Let me just say, it’s so nice to finally have a partner in the Corner Office who really gets it,” Murray said, prompting applause and broad grins from the luminaries crowded around her, Gov. Deval Patrick, and House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, former Romney business development aide Ranch Kimball nearby.

The occasion for Murray’s enthusiasm was the week’s headline news, Patrick leading the state in devoting $1 billion, half of it borrowed, to cranking up the local biotechnology industry. With little vocal in-state opposition to embryonic stem cell research, there was little criticism for an initiative that pivoted around promises that consistently poll at least as well as the sci-fi-loving former governor: more jobs and more cures.

It was an upbeat week for Patrick, who used the well-covered BIO 2007 convention to hype his biotech hopes, and a related radio appearance to zing the lawmakers he’d stood with the day before. “I think that the pace of decision-making in the Legislature is a little slower than I would like,” he said on WRKO Wednesday, acknowledging recent accelerations.

At the same time, the $1 billion, 10-year scope of Patrick’s announcement left causes that have gone without funding asking: Where’s ours?

And, with all corners of government pleading that the state’s fisc – as Patrick is fond of terming the financial state of affairs – is stretched between insufficient revenues and urgent spending demands, even supporters of the biotech proposal wonder where the money will come from in a state with a groaning operating budget and a bond cap that various interests think should be raised. The latest spending request led insiders to wonder, how much more?

The first question was answered in part Thursday, for some folks anyway, when the Big Three lined up again, this time to discuss Patrick’s agreement that the Shannon Grant, $11 million in anti-gang grants hugely popular among urban activists, would be included in an $88.9 million “supp” budget – “They moved me,” he said of the elected officials who had lobbied him for the program.

The answer to the second may prove more elusive in the short term. Patrick steamed into office with a bundle of pricey campaign promises, some of which have languished by the wayside as lawmakers wagged their heads in opposition. At the same time, $1 billion for biotech was not one of his campaign vows (it was Chris Gabrieli’s), and it garnered effusive approval from his partners and friends in the Legislature. Further, the governor seems more like the candidate who won 56 percent of the vote when he’s talking about ways to spend money rather than ways to raise money.

Which makes him, exactly, no different from other politicians.

The biotech wager – and Tuesday’s Convention Center press conference was rich with gambling jargon – comes at the short-term expense of other spending initiatives; whither the sweeteners, for instance, dangled before the financial services or manufacturing industries?

The instant answer to that question offered by backers of the $1 billion obligation – most vocally DiMasi – was that biotech, already accounting for one in seven Bay State jobs, is a cure in and of itself, as much a linchpin of the state’s economic future as, like Patrick himself pointed out Wednesday on ’RKO, whaling, textiles, and shoe-making were of its past. Just as harbors served as economic engines and rivers powered mills in the past, so too will universities serve as anchors and brainpower fuel labs, the thinking goes.

Biotech, then, has arrived among education and cops in the pantheon of state priorities that nary a Beacon Hill voice opposes. On the stage with Patrick Tuesday were not just the Democratic leadership, but Nobel Prize winner Dr. Craig Mello and GOP state Sen. Bruce Tarr, co-chair of the Republican policy conference.

STORY OF THE WEEK: A unified front behind a billion-dollar biotechnology initiative.


The Boston Globe
Sunday, May 13, 2007

Governor, there's no need to disguise the T-word
By Joan Vennochi


Even a committed liberal had to laugh at a recent Globe headline: "Patrick campaigns for new income sources for towns."

As everyone knows, "new income sources" are new taxes. Camouflaging the T-word doesn't change the truth.

Republican governors resort to their own word games; they call new income sources "user fees."

But the tax-and-spend stereotype still haunts Democrats, so a higher standard of skepticism is applied to their pleas for new tax revenue.

Patrick is Massachusetts's first Democratic governor in 16 years. He is pushing legislation to allow communities to add a hotel tax of up to 5 percent and a restaurant tax of up to 2 percent. Communities that choose to levy the hotel and meals taxes would be required to dedicate at least a quarter of the revenue to reducing residential tax bills.

It is what it is: a new tax. Some people will oppose it, period. But some people will consider the option, if it is honestly portrayed.

So, don't jerk the voters around with euphemisms. People are smart enough to see through them. Build the case with facts. Sell it with candor.

The Patrick administration got off to a slow start, due to the new governor's well-documented political missteps. Derailed by the resulting media furor, he never made a strong, public case for his budget proposal. That made it easy for the House of Representatives to ignore Patrick's plan and come forward with its own. A Senate budget proposal is due out soon.

This past week, Patrick launched a belated campaign for key parts of his tax plan, which is called the Municipal Partnership Act.

"There are all sorts of forces at work . . . on Beacon Hill," Patrick said at a press conference in Framingham. "I want to make sure people understand what's at stake."

Candidate Patrick spoke eloquently about exactly what is at stake: "your broken roads . . . your broken schools." But as governor, he has yet to connect the campaign rhetoric to a plan the public is clamoring to embrace.

He is trying to do so now, by firing up the grassroots that helped elect him. But even with true believers, Patrick is cautious about coming right out and saying his plan will raise some taxes.

A Friday press release announced his effort "to reduce communities' reliance on property tax" by promoting his own plan on his website, devalpatrick.com. The website defines the Municipal Partnership Act as "relief for homeowners through innovative solutions." It discusses the need for "Local Meals and Hotel Revenue Legislation to provide new resources to our cities and towns." The obvious intention is to discuss the proposed local-option tax, minus the T-word.

Patrick faces a tough sales job on Beacon Hill, where House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi came out strongly against his tax proposals. At the same time, the measure has broad support from mayors and local officials across the state. They should be strong, visible, and brave allies on Beacon Hill.

"He is the first governor in over a decade who has the courage and the vision to advocate for revenues," said Newton Mayor David Cohen, also choosing a word other than "tax" to describe Patrick's proposal. "He is the first governor to publicly link the need for revenues for the kind of services that have wide popular support -- good education, well-maintained roads, enough policy and firefighters to protect public safety."

If Cohen is correct and those are services his constituents truly want, they should be willing to consider local-option taxes to pay for them.

"It is about taxes," said Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, who also serves as president of the Massachusetts Mayors Association. "It's about how to redistribute taxes. It's about relieving the burden on the property tax."

However, this represents a small step toward the long-range goal of shifting the tax burden from homeowners. Patrick and his supporters need to be honest about that, too.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said he still believes that the local option tax proposal "can fly."

"I think you have to respect Speaker DiMasi and his opinion," Menino said. "You have to work with him and give him the information we have."

In that case, playing straight instead of cute is Patrick's best hope.

After all, DiMasi already knows a shorter way to spell "new income source":  T-A-X.


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