Launching 2d term, Patrick says state must act on tough choices
Urges work to recast health care, add jobs
Declaring that the “American dream’’ is at stake, Governor Deval Patrick called on Massachusetts residents and their leaders yesterday to emulate sacrifices by previous generations and make the tough decisions necessary to leave the state in better shape for their children.
Patrick, speaking to a packed House chamber at the State House after being sworn in for a second term, said leaders of the public and private sectors should stop putting off hard choices and get to work on overhauling the health care system, creating jobs, improving public education, and ending the scourge of youth violence in urban areas.
“We must demand more of ourselves than rhetoric that divides us and leadership that kicks every tough decision down the road,’’ Patrick said. “We must demand more, not just of our public leaders, but also of our private ones — and of ourselves as individual citizens.’’
Patrick delivered his forceful address with urgency, but offered few specifics. The most concrete promise was his vow to file legislation in coming weeks to change the way patient care is paid for, an attempt to curb runaway health care costs that will certainly spark a long, heated debate.
Yesterday’s ceremonies stood in sharp contrast to those four years ago, when Patrick, a political newcomer and the first African-American to become Massachusetts governor, broke with tradition and took the oath in front of the State House before thousands of jubilant supporters. That year, Patrick delivered a soaring speech laced with optimism and promises of bringing fundamental change to state government.
This year, with stubbornly high unemployment and a large shortfall looming for the next budget year, the mood was more sober. The crowds were far smaller, and the event was oriented, both physically and rhetorically, toward Beacon Hill’s political and government classes. Dignitaries and national media on hand four years ago were absent. Even the state’s two US senators, Democrat John F. Kerry and Republican Scott Brown, did not attend.
After a bruising first term and a political comeback that culminated in his reelection, Patrick presented himself as a veteran political figure who wants to — and knows how to — finish what he started. He used a good portion of his remarks to highlight his first-term accomplishments, trumpeting student test scores, improved access to health care, and positive job news.
“None of this is happening by accident,’’ he said.
The Democratic House and Senate leaders praised the address and promised to work on the governor’s agenda. But Republicans faulted him for not directly addressing the state’s serious budget shortfall, estimated at $1.5 billion for the fiscal year that begins in July.
“It was an outstanding oratorical performance,’’ said Senator Bruce E. Tarr of Gloucester, a Republican and the minority leader. “What was not said is that we have some very real problems with the state budget and we need to do a number of things to help employers stay competitive.’’
With state officials, legislators, and supporters often interrupting with applause, Patrick mixed calls for unity and cooperation with assertions about overcoming political resistance to his goals.
“I challenge us all to turn to each other, not on each other,’’ he said. “Let us bring our passion not to scoring political points but to find real solutions.’’
But he also said, “I will give everything I have to move this agenda forward.’’ And, in a clear reference to leaders in the health care industry, he said “let me be clear’’ twice before saying: “The time for talk is over. The time for action has arrived.’’
Those words seemed to set the stage for a major debate over Patrick’s push for a so-called global payment system in health care, which would put doctors and hospitals on an annual budget for each patient’s care, replacing the current fee-for-service approach.
Patrick also said it was essential to restore public confidence in the state parole system, which is under scrutiny following last week’s slaying of a Woburn police officer by a parolee and the scandal-plagued Probation Department.
One of Patrick’s major themes was the obligation of current generations, which he said had inherited so much from those before them, from world-class universities and health care institutions to the interstate highway system.
“Every one of us owes a debt to the future payable only by making the kinds of choices today that build a better, stronger Commonwealth for tomorrow,’’ the governor said.
Patrick, 54, made history yesterday as the first Massachusetts governor to be sworn in by a woman. The president of the state Senate traditionally swears in a governor, and Therese Murray, Democrat of Plymouth, is the first woman to hold that post.
As he did four years ago, Patrick took the oath on the Mendi Bible, which was presented to John Quincy Adams by the African captives he helped free in the Amistad Supreme Court case in 1841. Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray was also sworn in for a second term.
The crowd was strikingly diverse for a State House event. Among those greeting Patrick were soldiers in uniform, clergy in collars, and Buddhist monks from Chelmsford. The latter wore red and saffron robes, presented the governor with a golden statue of Buddha, and then encircled him and sang a prayer in Pali, an ancient Indian language, as the governor smiled.
After Patrick’s speech, people lined up for photos with him, but their mood was more subdued than it was four years ago, with many talking of the political battles and brutal economy that shaped Patrick’s first term.
“People are still excited about him becoming a second-term governor,’’ said Karen Russell of Quincy, who got her photo taken with Patrick. But four years ago, she said, “there was a lot more excitement in the air.’’
“The first time, there was more hype from the people, especially from the black neighborhoods,’’ said Kathy Gabriel, a supporter from Dorchester. “We were more excited to elect the first black governor. As for the ceremony, it doesn’t have the effect it had four years ago.’’
Still, for many, there was real excitement in seeing the governor up close, striding down a red carpet on his way into the House chamber.
“I’m so proud he made it through all the struggles and he conquered it all,’’ said Abbey Cook, a 40-year-old nonprofit employee from Mattapan, who leaned over a rope line to snap a photo of Patrick.
Besides the governor, who began the day at an interfaith service and planned to end it at a ball at the Boston Public Library, another big draw at the inauguration was a 4-by-6-foot, 800-pound cake that looked exactly like the State House, gold dome and all, and was big enough to feed 1,000 people. Montilio’s in Brockton donated it for the occasion.