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The Podium

A troubling legacy

Governor Deval Patrick knows how to deliver a speech. Choose lofty rhetoric, sprinkle in a few random supporting statistics, and deliver it to a friendly State House audience that applauds on cue.

In his eighth and final annual address to the state Legislature recently, Patrick delivered a skillfully worded view of his legacy. He is certainly entitled to do so, but as citizens of Massachusetts, we should not simply accept his point of view as gospel.

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We owe it to ourselves to look closer and examine what Patrick said and did not say. What facts did he choose to use, and which inconvenient truths were omitted? In that analysis, a very different picture emerges of the state of the Commonwealth.

In his two campaigns for office, Patrick made many populist promises that certainly convinced voters to twice elect him. Having bought the bill of goods, it’s only fair that voters see what they got — or did not.

In his first campaign, he promised to lower property taxes, and in his second campaign he said “I have no plan to raise taxes.” Even though he urged local officials to hold the line on property taxes in his Tuesday speech, Patrick never attempted to lower property taxes.

In fact, he reduced state local aid to cities and towns, forcing them to increase property taxes. Under Patrick, property taxes have grown statewide by $2.4 billion.

As governor, he has signed into law $1.5 billion in tax increases, including a $1 billion increase in the sales tax and a $110 million increase in the gas tax, now tied to inflation to ensure it automatically increases. Yet, in his State of the Commonwealth speech, he chose instead to remind the business community that three business taxes were reduced. He left us wondering if he was referring to the ill-fated technology tax that Democrats repealed after an outcry from the technology sector.

While campaigning, he promised to create 100,000 new jobs, but instead 88,000 more people are unemployed in this state than when he first took office. In his State of the Commonwealth, he touted growth in biotech, clean tech and manufacturing jobs. What he did not say is that job growth is too small to reach his 100,000-goal, and his economic policy of focusing on small sectors of the economy has failed. Consider:

- Clean tech accounts for roughly 2 percent of all jobs in the Commonwealth (71,000) and biotech (45,000) about 1.5.

- The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center claims 11.7 percent job growth in 2012, but at that rate, it will take more than a decade to create 100,000 new jobs.

- As for manufacturing, its 248,500 jobs is a healthier 7.6 percent of the workforce, but its numbers have declined 50,000 since Patrick took office.

In his speech, Patrick stated, “We are the only state to guarantee emergency shelter but too many people need it.” Indeed, Patrick pledged in 2008 to eliminate the need to place homeless families in hotels and motels, and even appointed then Lt. Gov. Tim Murray to lead the project. Today, the problem is worse, with the state spending $50 million on emergency shelter, up from $1 million five years ago.

Perhaps most troubling is that Patrick ran on a pledge to improve public confidence in state government, and instead his administration has worsened it. For example:

- His lieutenant governor resigned under a cloud of scandal.

- The state drug lab fiasco resulted in the release of hundreds of prisoners, one charged with murder after leaving prison.

- The Department of Public Health failed to properly inspect a compounding pharmacy responsible for a deadly, nationwide meningitis outbreak.

- Perhaps most disturbing, his child welfare agency failed to notice the disappearance of an at-risk boy who remains missing.

These are just some of the inconvenient truths about Patrick’s tenure. Certainly apologists for the governor will accuse us of being nitpicky and nasty, but the voters deserve to know what they really got from this governor and his Democrat colleagues in the Legislature. The truth isn’t always convenient or easy to talk about in public.

Kirsten Hughes is chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party.
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