EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 16, 2013

Patrick calls for surge in education spending

By Matt Murphy
State House News Service

---- — BOSTON — When he addresses the state tonight, Gov. Deval Patrick will outline an ambitious and likely controversial plan to raise as much as $1.57 billion in new revenue next year.

During a visit to a school in Roxbury yesterday, Patrick called for a $550 million investment in education in fiscal 2014 that would ramp up to $1 billion in new spending by 2017.

The plan calls for the state to deliver on its promise of universal access to early education by eliminating wait lists for infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers, and making Chapter 70 funding available for the first time to districts for pre-school for four-year-olds.

The governor also called for more expanded learning time, a $226 million increase in Chapter 70 education aid in his fiscal 2014 budget, and a $152 million increase in funding for community colleges, the University of Massachusetts, and college student grants.

“Investing in our children at a young age pays huge dividends for them and for our community as a whole. To those who say we cannot afford that, I challenge you to show me which one of these four-year-olds we should leave behind,” Patrick said, raising voice in the school auditorium as he delivered a message to the would-be detractors of his revenue push.

The governor’s plans for education, which span early childhood education to college, arrived a day after Patrick made his pitch for $1.02 billion in new revenue to pay for the maintenance and expansion of the state’s highways, bridges and public transit systems.

“The money’s going to come from new revenue. We’re going to put our proposal forward in the State of the Commonwealth and we’re going to make the case for investing in our growth and in our own future. It’s a proven strategy. It has gotten us a long way over the last couple years. We can go a lot further,” Patrick told reporters yesterday.

Patrick declined to elaborate on his revenue proposal, only acknowledging that “revenue” means tax and fee increases to pay for programs he believes will “accelerate” economic growth. “We got to stop being afraid of that conversation and start talking about the choices that we have to make in order to ensure that we are building a stronger future,” Patrick said.

Meanwhile, unsatisfied by the prospect of a $1 billion transportation investment and buoyed by the idea that legislative leaders are open to new revenue proposals, Democratic lawmakers and liberal activists are leading a new push to raise $2 billion through increases in the state’s income tax.

The proposal would increase the income tax from 5.25 percent to 5.95 percent, and increase capital gains and other investment taxes from 5.25 percent to 8.95 percent, according to campaign co-chairman Harris Gruman, who is executive director of the SEIU Massachusetts State Council. Middle-income seniors would keep the 5.25 percent rate for investment income, and anyone who has a median income or below would receive new deductions to keep their rate the same, according to the campaign organizers.

“The subject of tax is always a sensitive one. I think it’s important to point out that An Act to Invest doubles the personal exemption so it reduces the burden on middle-income families. I think that’s an important part of this proposal,” Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, told the News Service. “I would just say as far as the people’s reaction, I just finished up town hall meetings throughout my district, and the priorities were investing in local aid, transportation, health care and the environment.”

Eldridge said that because House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray have said they are “open” to new revenue proposals, “I think this is the session to consider that.”