Monday, March 18, 2013
Patrick's New Spending Requests Total $23M

Gov. Deval Patrick began his tenure in the corner office in 2007 by shepherding through the Legislature capital spending bills authorizing billions of dollars in borrowing and the governor on Friday rolled out round two of his investment agenda.

Patrick aides announced the governor filed five bond bills totaling $3.5 billion in spending, as well as a $375 million spending bill that the administration says is needed "immediately" to ensure that information technology projects will not come to a halt.

The proposals also include $40 million to bring broadband infrastructure to western Massachusetts communities without high-speed connections. Coupled with a $19 billion transportation bond bill filed earlier this week, Patrick's new long-term spending requests total nearly $23 billion. The bills land in a legislative arena where lawmakers are contemplating tax hikes needed to support the borrowing bills while mindful of the state's limitations on spending and the fact that Patrick is not running for a third term in November 2014.

Sen. Brian Joyce (D-Milton), the chairman of the Senate Bonding Committee, told the News Service after Patrick filed his $19 billion transportation spending plan this week that he had "serious concerns" about both the level of spending and proposed 10-year life of the bond bill.

"We are concerned about the level of debt that we've encumbered not just this generation with, but future generations of taxpayers," Joyce said. "I just think we need to proceed deliberately and thoughtfully to ensure fiscal prudence."

According to the administration, borrowing authorizations under previously approved bond bills are being depleted and the new borrowing requests are part of Patrick's strategy to grow the economy through public investments in roads, courts, correctional facilities, coastal repair projects, public safety equipment, state hospitals, libraries and public housing.

The administration plans to push for passage of a $567 million housing bond bill, an $869 million information technology and innovation bond bill, a $911 million energy and environmental bond bill, a $928 million general government bond bill, and a $177 million military bond bill. The latter proposal envisions investments at six military bases that support 46,500 direct and indirect jobs, officials said.

Patrick's borrowing bills call for $100 million for information technology projects at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, including replacement of the Registry of Motor Vehicle's automatic license and registration system, which was deployed in 1986. Patrick also wants $85 million for seaports, including funding for the New Bedford Commerce Terminal.

In addition to the bond bills, lawmakers and the Patrick administration this session are expected to entertain plans to finance a major and costly expansion of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.