Massachusetts State of the Commonwealth Address 2000

 

BOSTON, Massachusetts - Jan. 20 - Following is the full text of Gov. Paul Cellucci's 2000 State of the State Address:

Father Hanley, Lieutenant Governor Swift, Chief Justice Marshall, Speaker Finneran, President Birmingham, Congressman Meehan, Mayor Donoghue, my fellow constitutional officers, Republican leaders, distinguished guests, and my fellow citizens of Massachusetts:

It is a great pleasure to address you this evening as we stand here at a unique moment in our history.

I am especially glad to see so many of you assembled here in the heart of the historic City of Lowell. It is fitting that we begin a new century of growth in the foreground of the spires and smokestacks of the last great technological revolution.

Here along the rapids of the Merrimack's Pawtucket Falls, Massachusetts inspired our immigrant forebears to launch a new industrial revolution with their creativity, their honest sweat, and with their courage and sacrifice.

It was here that the American factory system was born among these mills that once stirred to the rhythms of the cog, the spindle, and the wheel, and were a testament to New England's versatility and ingenuity.

The locks and canals that once powered these mills have been replaced by a stream of digitized bits of information that will power a new and exciting engine ahead. Tonight, we renew our determination to take our great state into the future by building a new economy that recognizes fewer boundaries in the expanding global market.

But as we shape that future, the power of our imagination must also be matched by our passion for preserving the unique character of communities that play such an important part in the quality of our everyday lives.

This is an historic occasion. This is the first time in the history of the Commonwealth that a Governor has given a report on the state of our state from outside the high walls of the state capitol. I am here in Lowell because the state of our state isn't about the state of affairs inside the State House. It's about the state of our families here in Lowell and in Lawrence, in South and East Boston, in the Berkshires, on Cape Cod, in Worcester and in the Connecticut River Valley. It is about their prospects for the future, and their quality of life.

And in Lowell, and across Massachusetts, the state of our state is the strongest it has ever been.

Nine years ago, unemployment in the Greater Lowell area was nearly 10 percent. Today it is less than 3 percent.

Nine years ago we had the highest unemployment rate of any industrial state in the nation. Today it is the lowest.

In the last decade, we have created nearly 450,000 new jobs in businesses and in fields that were unheard of even a generation ago.

We are better paid, better cared for, and better off than at any time in our history.

In the last year Jane Swift and I have achieved many of our goals for this state.

We have made our neighborhoods safer by enforcing our laws and supporting the men and women who protect us.

We have kept our promise to our children by increasing state funding for education seven years in a row, and by holding schools accountable for the quality of their education. Here in Lowell, we have committed more than $300 million to new and renovated schools.

Jane Swift and I are investing in our future. The pounding of pile drivers you hear all across Massachusetts is the sound of opportunity knocking as one of the oldest states in the nation becomes one of the newest right before our eyes.

Here in Lowell, we're working with the city to redevelop Lawrence Mills and expand UMass-Lowell. We're fixing Route 3 to make travel more convenient and to help businesses grow. We've added LeLacheur Park, developed the North Canal area and built an impressive new arena to honor a great statesman, Senator Paul Tsongas.

We are rebuilding Lowell, and the rest of Massachusetts, from a new position of strength. A short decade ago our bond rating ranked dead last. Just this month Moody's Investor Services upgraded our bonds again, for the 4th time in eight years which should save taxpayers $100 million in borrowing costs.

But one of the costs of that prosperity is the pressure that it puts on open space. That is why I have made the protection of this precious natural resource a priority. Across this state we have acquired open space at an unprecedented rate, protecting the character and environmental richness of our state, which is our true common wealth.

And as this state continues to move from the old to the new economy, reusing old industrial sites will be critical. Our Brownfields program represents a tremendous opportunity to turn these ugly eyesores into sights for sore eyes in those areas of the state that need creative ways to reach their full potential.

The economic and physical security we enjoy is important. But so is the peace of mind knowing that, when our children are sick or get hurt, there will be a doctor around we can turn to for help.

I know many of you were frightened by the headlines earlier this month when one of this state's leading health care organizations was taken into receivership. From the thousands of anxious phone calls the state received, I know many of you wondered if you were still covered, or could still get medical care. Let me assure you again: there is no reason to be afraid. Nothing has changed. No one has lost coverage or access to medical care, and no one will. The law that I signed last November to protect HMO consumers in times like these, is just one of the ways that we are working to stabilize our health care market.

It will take some time and there are many issues we still need to sort out. The uncertainties in today's health care system are national in scope, and have been aggravated by budget cuts in Washington.

But you have my word on it. While many issues divide the political leadership in our state, on one issue we stand united: the citizens of Massachusetts will continue to have access to quality health care.

Working with the Legislature, we convinced President Clinton and the Congress to restore more than $200 million in Medicare cuts to Massachusetts hospitals.

Together, we also agreed to spend the proceeds from the tobacco settlement exclusively on health care programs. And this year, I will take more than $50 million from the tobacco fund and use it to fill the gap, as targeted relief, for hospitals and health care providers hurt by federal budget cuts.

But I also have a challenge for the Legislature. When it reconvenes, the first order of business Mr. Speaker, Mr. President should be a Patients' Bill of Rights on my desk ASAP that protects every consumer of a health maintenance organization in this state.

We can all be proud of the extraordinary commitment we've made to health care. Last year we helped community health centers keep their doors open for local residents who need them. We expanded prescription drug benefits for the elderly and extended health coverage to another 90,000 children under our MassHealth program.

We've made tremendous strides to expand the number of residents who have access to health care. And working together, we will make sure that Massachusetts remains the health care capital of the world.

I've seen the face of confidence and hope. I still remember payday at my family's auto business in Hudson. That paycheck allowed good, hardworking men and women to put a roof over the heads of their families. It allowed them to care for their parents and their children. It allowed them to send their sons and daughters to school and perhaps college, just like families in Lowell are doing today.

But I also know the face of hardship and despair when businesses lock their doors forever. I know what it is like when proud men and women, accustomed to a paycheck, line up for unemployment checks instead. I also know the frustration they felt when their government answered their calls of distress by raising their taxes higher, then shrugged off their struggles to make ends meet by adding to their burdens.

I saw what happens when a government cares more about its own interest than the public interest.

I saw that ten years ago and I fought it then. I see it happening again and I will fight against it now.

There are some who want to take us back to those days of high taxes and irresponsible spending to repeat the mistakes of the past. I want to take Massachusetts forward, and protect our economy against bad times, because I know what it feels like when people count on you for a paycheck.

You can feel the spirit of renewal and rebirth here in Lowell as this community continues to reinvent itself. But these historic mills are also haunted by the ghosts of past economic devastation, when factories that were the lifeblood of a community grew still forever.

Times are again bright in Massachusetts. But the lesson of the mills here in Lowell is that good times will come to an end if we don't plan for change and act accordingly. And as we look to the future, the cloud that looms on our horizon is the high cost of living in our state.

And that begins with taxes.

Despite our repeated efforts to cut your taxes, Massachusetts still has the highest personal income taxes of any industrial state. We are the fifth most heavily taxed state in the nation. Local, state, and federal taxes consume a larger share of a Massachusetts family's budget than almost anywhere else in the country.

To keep our economy strong and our state competitive, we must cut the income tax to five percent.

Cutting the income tax keeps the cost of government under control. It secures our economic future. And it puts money into the pockets of hard working families.

Time after time, the Legislature has refused to keep its promise to eliminate this tax when good times returned. That's why Jane Swift and I have taken our tax cut to the people with a referendum that will mean $600 a year more for the average family of four.

If the Legislature won't join us and cut your taxes, we'll beat them at the ballot box in November and do it ourselves.

Telecommunications is one of our hottest industries. And the biggest threat to that industry wasn't Y2K, but the dangerous attempts to put a tax on e-commerce over the Internet.

Thanks to our world-class universities and research facilities, Massachusetts is a leader in the electronic marketplace.

Massachusetts is also home to nearly 3,000 software and Internet companies employing 138,000 professionals many of whom work in the Cross Point Towers right here in Lowell.

I do not want Massachusetts to be a hitchhiker on the Information Super Highway. And that is why I will make sure no one throws a tollbooth across this powerful new artery of commerce.

That is also why I believe the national moratorium on taxation of Internet commerce should be made permanent. And why I eliminated the sales tax on Internet access. And why I will lead the fight in Massachusetts, in Washington, and with the nation's governors against taxation of electronic commerce.

Together with Governor Gilmore of Virginia and Governor Owens of Colorado, I will do everything I can to convince Congress not to tax the things we buy and sell on the Internet.

When the meaning of time and place and distance disappear in a growing global market, it makes no sense to put a sales tax on e-commerce.

Massachusetts has always been a place where people could come and with discipline, hard work, and courage build a better life for themselves and their families. The history of this state is the history of people from other lands joining our community, enriching our lives, and helping us build a future of ever-growing prosperity.

Lowell occupies an honored place in that proud legacy. Generations of newcomers from other lands have called this city home. Last November, Rithy Uong, a guidance counselor here at Lowell High School, became the first Southeast Asian elected to the Lowell City Council. That election was another example of how this community opens its arms to the great diversity of this state, which is our greatest strength, and joins hands to build a better community for all our residents.

Last year, Lowell was honored as an All-America City because, here in this city, the American Dream is open to all.

Massachusetts is still a place of opportunity. The challenge before us is to ensure that no one is left behind.

And that starts with education. We have the finest universities in the world developing the ideas that will ignite the new industries of tomorrow. We must also have the finest schools so that our children can work in these new industries when they begin raising families of their own.

And in an economy like ours, so dependent on high technology, our children have to learn math. But they are not. Two years of alarming MCAS scores tell us they're not.

That is why tonight I am announcing a series of new initiatives to improve math instruction in our schools. First, I am directing the Board of Education to establish assessment teams to evaluate those schools that chronically do poorly. Too many children in too many schools are not getting a solid math education, and I want to know why.

Second, in those schools where more than 30 percent of students are failing mathematics, I am directing the Board of Education to test math teachers. The stakes are too high. We must take a hard look at the people who are teaching our children to make sure they know their subject.

The standards we have set are tougher, but they are not arbitrary. We pushed hard for higher standards seven years ago. We owe it to our children to stick by them now.

We also owe it to our families to get housing costs under control. I know how important it has been in my own life to live in the community where I grew up. And I know how important it is for many of you to raise a family in your home communities.

To keep our economy strong we must expand the supply of housing that is affordable for people across a broad range of incomes. We need housing for parents making the transition from welfare to work. We need homes for the police officers, the firefighters, and the teachers who want to live in the community where they work. And we need housing for the young people who want to raise a family in the community where their families raised them. Under our administration we have helped to build or preserve almost 40,000 units of housing for low and moderate-income families.

Here in Lowell on the banks of the Merrimack River we transformed an eyesore into 448 units of housing for low and moderate-income residents. More than 800 people live at River Place Towers, which was recognized last year by the National Apartment Association as the best rehabilitation project in the country.

And by using public measures like low-cost financing and the new state tax credit program I signed into law last year we can continue to leverage the power of the private sector to help us build and preserve even more housing.

One of the biggest barriers we have to building more housing is restrictive zoning that keeps newcomers out. Three decades ago, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to push aside these barriers when we passed a landmark law to attack snob-zoning. This law created a housing goal that each community was asked to meet. And in the spirit of that law I am announcing tonight that I will issue an executive order directing state agencies, whenever they award discretionary grants, to give priority to those communities that are making good faith progress creating new housing.

And to help cities and towns build more housing, while preserving the character of their communities, the executive order will make $9 million available over the next two years for community planning. This money will be used to give planning grants to cities and towns to find ways to make more housing available while also preserving open space.

As a further incentive, Jane Swift and I will recommend in the budget we file next week that we take a portion of the $476 million currently distributed as additional local aid, and reward those cities and towns that go the extra distance to open their doors to new housing and new families.

These are exciting times for Massachusetts times of high hopes, boundless energy, and endless opportunities.

Our ideas once shaped a new nation. Our ideas are shaping a new and more prosperous world. Let us build that prosperity together. Let our prosperity be matched by a fierce determination to use this common wealth to make a community that is stronger, safer, richer, and more just for all our inhabitants with no part of the state passed by, no community forgotten, no person left behind.

Times are changing. And the great thing about Massachusetts is the way we embrace change. The first shots of the American Revolution were fired here. America's Industrial Revolution began here. And in the global revolution of the 21st century, where there are no borders to confine us or barriers to divide us, it will be Massachusetts that again leads the way.

Thank you. God bless you and may God bless the Commonwealth of Massachusetts 

 
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