Valley Patriot Questions Tsongas,
Governor Patrick on Spending
By: Tom Duggan – January, 2010
Deval Patrick: As the senator said, we have had to close a multi-billion dollar budget gap in the last few years, nine billion dollars, actually over the last 18 months and we have done that responsibly and by being true to our values. We have delivered, now, 3 budgets that were balanced responsibly and on time, which is not something that many other states can say. If you think that is just an abstract bragging point, let me tell you that the credit agencies, all three of them, have re-affirmed the commonwealth’s double A bond rating and stable outlook, specifically sighting our pro-active management, in partnership with the legislature of this budget crisis, which means that we continue to afford the bond of borrowing that we are doing to invest in ourselves. To rebuild our roads, bridges, expand, restore the public college and university campuses.
To invest in public, affordable housing and to expand broadband. It is enormously important and it connects. This would not be possible without the partnership of the legislature and the leadership of Senator Pangiotokas and it would not have been possible without the resources and partnership of the congress lead by congresswoman Niki Tsongus and I thank you, Niki. Sometimes, people think of the recovery act as just an abstraction.
They say “Where are the results?” “Who’s affected?” I ask you to look at the folks here behind me. The firefighters, the police officers, the construction workers, the teachers, the nurses at places like Lowell Community Health Center that got a 9.4 million dollar grant just last week. Ask them whether the Recovery Act matters. Ask them whether is an abstraction. I’m telling you that we are dealing with a crisis unlike anything we have seen in 80 years in this country. The global economic collapse and without the Recovery Act, these good people and the services they provide to us, all of us, in all of our communities, would be up a creek. So, there is value in this Recovery Act, there is tangible help that has come from the Recovery Act and we are grateful for it. I, also, wanted to say that here in state government to the extent that we have had responsibility for distributing funds, there is a sort of urban legend we talk about all of the time. If the Recovery Act represented a blank check, payable to me, and you just have to get me in a good mood and then, we will disburse it. (People laughing) In fact, it comes through very specific programs with a tremendous amount of controls, oversight and transparency which is important and I want to acknowledge Jeffrey Simon who is our Recovery Act Czar who helps to make sure that our reporting is thorough and accurate and the oversight is rigorous. We have had some choices to make and we have tried to make those choices in the nature of that “old adage” that says that if you give a man a fish, they eat for a day, if you teach them to fish, they eat for a lifetime and so we have, wherever we can, try to invest in ways that leverage private investment as well. Beyond the paving job for a given road, as important and valuable as that job is, that road opens up a developer’s ability to create new housing, or new commercial space, ultimately. We are looking for those leverage opportunities that we have found and I am please to say that we will be ahead of schedule in committing all Federal Transportation money that has been made available to us through the Recovery Act. So, again special, special thanks go out to Congresswoman Tsongas and all of the members of the Congressional Delegation and to the administration for making these enormously important resources available to us at a critical time and, again, this is not an abstraction, these are real jobs and real values, brought to real families who are trying to find a way forward in times of enormous challenges to all of us. I am proud to be with you and I look forward to continuing to work closely with all of you, thank you.
After Governor Patrick’s statements he entertained questions from the press. Here is the exchange between Valley Patriot reporter Tom Duggan, Governor Patrick and Congresswoman Tsongas.
Tom Duggan: “When you ran for election, talked so much about the deficit and spending of the government, are you concerned when this money… that is borrowed, comes due, that we are going to be back in the same position that we were before this money was disbursed?”
Congresswoman Niki Tsongas: “Well, … little did we anticipate the extraordinary challenge to our economy, [which] became so apparent last fall, a year ago this fall.
Every economist virtually, that I spoke with and I reached out to many because we had a major challenge on our hands, they said that we had to take a lesson from the great depression and said that if the government did not act, the situation could become much worse and over time, the way I have come to describe it is that: our economy was here (doing a graph with her hands) we were falling to here, with our recovery package we brought ourselves to here … the work is between getting to here and here (pointing to the top) and if we had done nothing, we would have gone down to here (pointing to the bottom).
And, coming fromLowell,Massachusetts, you see what happens when government doesn’t react to a different climb in industry, in this particular community, but generally a tremendous downfall in our country.
If we do nothing, the climb back is much steeper and takes many more years. So, an economist supported that approach and as a result, we passed a recovery package and that is what we’ve been talking about to date. It’s a one-time, very extraordinary expenditure of funds in order to save our economy and get us back on the path.
Obviously, going forward we have work to do. We have to address the deficit and the debt. We are committed to doing that, but the timing around that still remains important because of our recovery is still fragile and if we do it too soon, we could compound the challenges going forward.
So, obviously yes, I am a strong supporter of something called “Pay as you go”. As we spend certain funds we have to be sure we have a way to either pay for it or by cutting elsewhere or raising our revenue to offset it, but this is a one-time challenge that we have a responsibility to address.”
Tom Duggan: “But, it is borrowed money, right Governor?”
Governor Deval Patrick: “First of all, ditto. It is borrowed money … but I’ll tell you, if you think about the circumstance that we’ve been in, if there had not been a recovery act, we were looking at a full blown recession, … excuse me, depression.
With the banking industry facing a total collapse and dragging the rest of the economy into the hole with it, a difference between a year ago and now is that we are not talking about whether we will recover, we are talking about what kind of recovery and how fast it will be.
So, I think it was a very wise investment in ourselves and our future. I think there is more of that kind of work that we are looking forward to working with the Congress on as we go forward.”
Tom Duggan: “When this money runs out, will the cities and towns have to pay to continue the spending that is being done now, or is there someway to phase that back?”
Congresswoman Niki Tsongas: “The goal was, as the drop in revenues were taking place at the state and local level, the recovery package already started its work and eventually, the revenues will start to rise again.
Will they rise again to the level they were prior to all of this, that is still unknown, but the revenues will start to come back and hopefully will avoid the most aggressive kind of cuts that might have been necessary.”
Governor Deval Patrick: “As a growth, for all of us, the solution to the situation that we are in, the recovery act provides a cliff, because the money does run out on a date certain. And I’d leave out something if I didn’t say we will work with the congress to get more of a “slope” than “cliff” right now and I also think that the hope was that the economy would recover even faster than it has.
I think in the long run, we will be good and we will be strong and in many respects, we will be stronger than we were as a commonwealth before this recession began. It’s because of a whole host of reforms that this crisis has caused us to have to confront and to implement.”
Tom Duggan: “Given thatLawrence is in the position that it’s in and in the last 20 years, billions of dollars have been pumped intoLawrence and it hasn’t really done much good, what good do you see in pumping more money intoLawrence to try to make it better when that hasn’t worked for 15 to 20 years?”
Governor Deval Patrick: “Well, first of all, I don’t accept the premise of your question, since a lot of that money …
Tom Duggan: “I like when you challenge me.”
Governor Deval Patrick: “But a lot of that money is education money and, you know, educating a child is not a waste of money or time, um, I will say that what we are looking at in Lawrence is not an infusion of capital, it’s getting at some reforms that are sure that they get on sounder fiscal footing and management and that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.”
Tom Duggan: “With very little oversight into the money that has already gone into Lawrence, even long before you came on board, the more money that, now, gets pumped in from this point forward, is there going to be more oversight, is there going to be more accountability on the local city counsel, mayor, etc.?”
Governor Deval Patrick: “That is exactly the point. What we’ve been talking about with the state delegation and with the mayor elect, one of the system’s fiscal and financial management and controls an oversight that have to be in place to ensure that this does not happen again.”
Tom Duggan: “Can you just admit who you supported between Willie Lantigua and Marcos Devers in the last State Rep Race since you endorsed both of them? You can admit it now, it’s over, the elections over. I just need to know.”
(Laughter and Oh my gods in the crowd)…
Governor Deval Patrick: “Gotta go, See ya! See ya!”
Transcribed by Dawn Brantmuller