Of all the races we never thought our endorsement would lead to this. However, fearful that we would repeat our 2006 non-endorsement, we have decided to become a big blog and pick somebody. Our choice, may surprise you. First why we did not pick the other guys.
We lumped Jill Stein and Tim Cahill together in our last full entry to somewhat dismiss them from our endorsements. Dr. Stein offers very good solutions to complex problems, ones that may very well work in a state as wealthy as Massachusetts (the state's wealth belies the economies of Western Mass and rural areas). Still, many of her ideas may only serve to further hurt Massachusetts clout as we lose Congressional seats in a conservatively resurgent Washington. Tim Cahill is the other extreme, attempting to saddle up onto the Tea Party movement. The movement, however powerful in the Republican party, does not exactly command the board in Massachusetts (even Scott Brown knows to keep his distance). Often times his commercials seem little more than an attempt to campaign by biography. Cahill's experience as Treasurer, is equally unimpressive, as the position operates almost entirely within the strict boundaries of state law.
For a long time, Charles Baker seemed like our man, but as time went by, we became increasingly disenchanted with his campaign. His one billion dollar cuts from the state budget are not as clear and distinct as he suggests. What has troubled us far more is Baker's bringing up the income tax cut, yet again. While his attempt to channel voter anger over the legislature's decision to abrogate a duly passed voter referendum is reasonable, the issue is old. The rate did fall, over time to 5.3% from its former 5.85%. Yet Baker continued to harp on that pesky 0.3%.
Baker did express interest in cutting the sales tax, raised to 6.25% in 2009, back to its old 5% while denouncing the 3% efforts. However, his interest took a back seat to the income tax to the detriment of taxpayers and efforts to stop the sales tax cut question. Where this especially troubled us, however, was that the sale tax increase in 2009 has—and thus far will continue to—cost taxpayers as a whole, more than retaining the current 5.3% income tax rate over a flat 5%. Still, Baker pushed the income tax cut, in speeches, in public, and everywhere in between. With a lack of consumption being part of our continuing economic malaise, choosing an income over sales tax cut is simply imprudent. Meanwhile, forces afoot to cut the sales tax dramatically and irresponsibly, are not tempered by a anti-tax candidate who could be actively pushing for a more appropriate cut.
So this leads us to endorse, the incumbent, Governor Deval Patrick. WMassP&I has never been a Patrick fan, but this election is not quite like usual ones. First of all, we have another four way race, with the third party folks pulling off voters on the right and left, but it is going to be either the Democrat or the Republican who is going to win. Second of all, the drapes and Cadillac are out of mind and his lofty promises have long since been washed away by recession, a factor few usually lay at his feet. Patrick's time in office has, if nothing else, represented growth for him as a politician.
To begin, Western Massachusetts has not had a governor with as much interest in Western Massachusetts in a long time. Jane Swift's police helicopter flights home do not count. Attention has been payed to Springfield, and although he changed the leadership, Patrick did not disrupt the progress made under Mitt Romney's original Finance Control Board. The governor finally delivered competition to our auto insurance rates, which brought two call centers, one Liberty Mutual, one Progressive, to Springfield. There are other examples of his concern and investment in Western Mass as well from Holyoke to Amherst and beyond.
Great strides have been made in education and Patrick held the line on increases at the state schools, using stimulus money to save students from draconian hikes on college campuses. Two recession budgets kept school and local aid cuts to a minimum, the first of the two denying any education cuts at all. Patrick has actively sought to use the state's academic institutions and hi-tech firms to put the state at the forefront of green job growth and emerging technologies.
Although his reasons were different from ours, Patrick vetoed DeLeo's Slot-happy casino bill. The governor supports resorts casinos, of which we are not generally supportive. However, he vetoed the bill in the face of massive pressure because it defied his firm belief that slot parlors will only harm the commonwealth's economy. That political courage is rarely seen these days.
We have not always seen eye to eye with the governor. We were opposed to separate local options taxes, although in their current incarnation, they are acceptable. WMassP&I opposed the commuter rail plans for the Worcester/Framingham line and the Beacon Park yards in Allston, because it will only accelerate truck based pollution and Boston industrial decline. We remain opposed to casinos as typically proposed. We want to see more commercial property tax paying businesses and job in Springfield. This blog also looks to see some reform in welfare and non-profit grants.
These differences, however, do not amount to cause to oppose Patrick's reelection. We are not enthused by generalities from his opponents, hoping to ride a wave of discontent. The burden of winning is governing, and this commonwealth needs those who are making a detailed explanation of what they would do, if not actual promises (we all know what happens with those after elections). WMassP&I is confident Gov. Patrick is past that stumbling we saw in 2007 and so he will hit the ground running in 2011 with a detailed understanding of the issues.
Yes, Western Mass Politics & Insight endorses incumbent Deval Patrick for reelection for Governor of Massachusetts.
*Photos by WMassP&I from 2008 State of Commonwealth Address.