Patrick speech highlights jobs, education, civic engagement

Associated Press | 4/16/2009, 10:54 a.m.

Gov. Deval Patrick, delivering his first State of the State address last Thursday evening, said the key to reviving the state’s economy is strengthening education, creating more jobs and inspiring the public to become more engaged in civic life.

He used his own rags-to-riches life story to drive home the point — and make the case for a handful of contentious initiatives, including his call for the creation of three resort casinos in Massachusetts.

He also threw down a challenge to lawmakers with whom he has occasionally clashed to help push through his agenda — from a $1 billion, 10-year life science initiative to a five-year plan to virtually eliminate homelessness in Massachusetts.

“The people don’t expect us to agree on everything, but they do expect us to engage. They expect us to work together toward the best solution. They expect action, and they deserve it,” Patrick told an audience of lawmakers, state and local officials and family members. “I ask you to join with me in partnership.”

Patrick, who has described himself as an impatient governor, also spoke about what he called the cost of inaction on key programs like early education, renewable energy initiatives and repairs to roads and bridges.

In the speech, Patrick also announced the creation of a nonpartisan Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors chaired by Cathy Minehan, the former president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. The council will include economists and leaders from local, national and international commerce.

Patrick launched the address telling the story of his own journey from a poor neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago to a Milton prep school to Harvard University — a life that he said mirrored the quintessential American story of hard work and opportunity.

“One generation and the circumstances of my life and family were profoundly transformed. That story is not unlike many of yours in this room or elsewhere in this Commonwealth,” Patrick said.

“For most of us, that story was made possible by a good education, great opportunities to work and develop our skills, and adults who involved themselves in our lives in key moments and ways,” he added. “That is our agenda: schools, jobs and civic engagement.”

The themes echo elements of the $28.2 billion state budget proposal Patrick unveiled last Wednesday.

The budget included hoped-for dollars from Patrick’s plan to open three casinos in Massachusetts — which he said would create 20,000 permanent jobs. Patrick has said he also hopes to create jobs in the clean energy and life sciences areas.

In addition, Patrick’s budget includes an increase in education aid for cities and towns.

Patrick used the speech to press reluctant lawmakers gathered to hear the address on the casino plan and his call for the state to close so-called business tax loopholes.

Patrick wants to use $124 million in casino licensing fees to help close a shortfall in lottery aid to cities and towns. His budget plan also relies on nearly $300 million in revenue from the business loophole closings.