Thank you Bill, for that warm welcome and for having me today. It's good to be back in the company of the North Shore Chamber.
I want to specially acknowledge our host mayor, Kim Driscoll, as well as the many other mayors, legislators and other elected officials here this morning. Thank you for coming and for your help and support.
I have spoken often over the past several years about how we support public schools and close the achievement gap, how we expand quality, affordable health care and control costs, how we stimulate innovative industries, how we rebuild our roads, rails and bridges. Over and over again, I have stressed the importance of investing in education, innovation and infrastructure, because doing so is a winning strategy. That's all about "how."
As we look ahead, I want to talk about "why." Why make these investments? Why does it matter?
For me, it's all about opportunity. Opportunity is not just what drives so many of you in this room. Opportunity is a driving principle for this country.
America, unlike any other nation on earth, is organized around civic ideals. Not religion or race, not language or geography, like other countries, but transcendent statements of civic purpose. And we have defined those ideals, over time and through struggle, as equality, freedom, fair play and opportunity. That's what America has been about for more people, for a longer time, than any other nation in human history.
Opportunity is what makes all our other civic ideals possible. But opportunity is not inevitable; it doesn't just happen. Each generation of Americans has had to strive and to sacrifice to make opportunity real. Whether it was freeing the slaves or giving women the vote in one era; the GI Bill, rural electrification or the interstate highway system in another; or expanding broadband and early education, and closing the achievement gap today, making opportunity real requires action.
I am persuaded that opportunity also requires growth. An expanding economy needs well-prepared and competitive talent. It needs inventors and investors and innovators. Opportunity without growth is a zero sum gain, just rearranging the pieces on a checkers board. Opportunity through economic growth lifts us all.
Having spent most of my professional life in the private sector, I understand that business creates jobs, not government. I understand that what most businesses want from government is a light touch on regulation and taxes, and I have demonstrated my sensitivity to those concerns. Having eliminated more stale and unnecessary regulation than any of my predecessors, reduced the permitting time for state approvals from two years to an average of 60 days, cut business taxes three times so far, and slowed the growth in health care premiums, Massachusetts is by any reasonable measure a more competitive place to do business today than it was seven years ago.
Another lesson I learned in the private sector is that growth requires investment. And to support business growth -- and the opportunity that depends on it -- government must invest alongside business.
So, in Massachusetts, for the past 7 years, we have pursued a growth strategy predicated on investment in education, innovation and infrastructure.
We invest in education because it's our calling card to the world. With over 300 colleges, universities and research institutions within a 90-minute drive of downtown Boston, education is our most significant resource -- as important to Massachusetts as oil is to Texas and corn is to Iowa. So, we funded the public schools at the highest level in our history, even when the bottom was falling out of the budget. We worked to bring kids off the waitlist into quality early education programs and to make college more affordable. And we engaged our community colleges in the vital work of meeting our workforce needs, leveraging our training dollars.
We invest in innovation because there are a handful of high growth industries that depend on the kind of concentration of brainpower we have. That's what the life sciences initiative is about, our $1 billion, 10-year commitment to strengthen our biotech sector. That's what our clean and alternative energy programs are about, from stewarding RGGI, the nation's first successful cap and trade market, to enabling the 40-fold increase in wind generation and the 90-fold increase in solar. That's why we travel to other states and overseas to promote our financial services and digital gaming and cyber security and Big Data expertise, and why we built -- with five universities and five IT companies -- the fastest high performance computing center east of the Mississippi in downtown Holyoke. And because we are making more of the things we invent, advanced or precision manufacturing is making a strong comeback as well.
And we invest in infrastructure -- the unglamorous work of government -- because it supports everything else. Roads, rails, bridges, broadband, public and affordable housing, lab and library facilities, even health care -- all of these create jobs right now but also serve as a platform for private investment and personal ambition.
Education, innovation and infrastructure. That's our growth strategy. What has that produced?
Massachusetts has climbed out of recession faster than most other states and is growing twice as fast as the national growth rate. Earlier this year we re-gained all the jobs lost in the Great Recession, one of the first states in America to achieve that milestone, and we've continued to add jobs since.
We are first in the nation in student achievement, at or near the top in the world in math and science. We are also first in the nation in economic competitiveness, entrepreneurial activity, health care coverage, veterans' services and energy efficiency.
Massachusetts has emerged as the top international supercluster in the life sciences and biotech, and as a national leader in clean and alternative energy, with double-digit job growth in the latter sector in each of the last few years.
And we've done it responsibly. Our budgets are balanced and on-time, our bond rating is the highest in our history, and we have one of the largest rainy day funds in America.
That's what our growth strategy has meant for the Commonwealth as a whole. What has it meant for the North Shore?
We've completed new allied health facilities at both North Shore and Northern Essex Community Colleges, and will soon cut the ribbon on a new state-of-art library at Salem State.
We are part of the merger of Essex Aggie and North Shore Tech, and built a new Courthouse in Salem that exemplifies energy efficiency and sustainable design principals.
We support a Machinist Training Program at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute and now up 100 students in each class are being trained in the high-tech skills that employers need.
The Life Sciences Center has made grants to support STEM education in Haverhill, Lynn and Middleton.
Through the Mass Growth Capital Corporation, Gloucester Engineering, a manufacturer using a computerized design process, received a $1 million credit guarantee -- which leveraged $20 million in private equity investment. And we've invested millions in companies in Peabody, Lynn, Lynnfield, Newburyport and here in Salem to support similar expansion and job growth.
We rebuilt the bridges at the I-95/128 interchange, constructed new on and off ramps at the Route 35 and Route 62 interchanges in Danvers, bought new buses for the Cape Ann Transit Authority, moved the electric lines to enable shoreline development in Lynn, and broke ground on the new Salem Commuter Rail Station and parking garage.
These are just a few examples. And we're not done yet.
I am pleased to announce today that we are committing another $32.9 million to build the new science labs at Meier Hall at Salem State, facilities that have not been upgraded in 40 years.
I can also announce significant investments to expand and renovate North Shore Community College's Lynn Campus, another step to help prepare the talent we need for the jobs of the 21st century.
Canal Street in Salem, the Riverwalk in Haverhill, and the Annisquam River Bridge in Gloucester are all on deck for next construction season.
And because we have focused on closing the achievement gap, I get to visit the Harrington School in Lynn this afternoon to congratulate yet another school that two weeks ago shed its "underperforming" status, thanks to strong improvement by the students and teachers.
These are several examples of public investment -- of time, money and ideas -- to stimulate private sector growth. But there is still so much more to do, so much faster growth to support, so much more opportunity to create.
To meet more of that need, I proposed in January substantial new investments in education and transportation. The Legislature supported this with far more modest resources. How we use those new resources, and how we leverage new reform authority, present important decisions in the coming years -- not just for the governor and legislators, but also for the people of the Commonwealth.
As we consider the wisest approach, I encourage you to keep these principles in mind.
First, we must continue to reform. Our transportation system in 2007 consisted of projects under construction without a plan to finish them; a Turnpike Authority accountable to no one that had entered financial deals that posed huge fiscal risks; a non-existent capital plan; and, according to independent analysis, a chronically mismanaged T.
So, we eliminated the Mass Turnpike Authority. We reformed the infamous pension rules at the T. We reduced headcount at the Registry by leveraging technology and third party partnerships like AAA. We merged duplicative legal, human resources and IT departments. And we saved over $500 million. We did more projects, and did them faster, with less money.
Reform is no substitute for adequate revenue. But reform must continue alongside investment, and include appropriate experiments with such ideas as public-private partnerships, border tolls and electronic tolling.
Second, we must achieve regional equity. Leaving aside for a moment the fiscal damage it did, I love the outcome of the Big Dig. As a constant traveler on our roads, an occasional flyer out of Logan and a frustrated architect, I think the Big Dig is a marvel and a huge benefit to our Commonwealth. Indeed, Boston is a "proof point" of the value of infrastructure investment, where the Big Dig helped place Boston at the center of the state's recovery.
But the needs left unmet outside of Boston because of the Big Dig in Boston are a profound and economic failing. Catching up on the deferred maintenance of our regional roads, local bridges and commuter rail is critical. Just as important are expansion projects like the Green Line to Medford and the Commuter Rail to Fall River and New Bedford, or DMUs to provide T service to Lynn. If we want to provide what people outside of Boston need to grow opportunity, future governments will have to continue to invest -- in both modernization and service expansions -- outside of Boston as well.
And finally, we must pursue what I will call human equity. As we seek to expand opportunity through economic growth, bear in mind not just the regions we are leaving behind but the people, too.
In a society dedicated to equality, income inequality is getting worse. As we emerge from the global recession, for those already college educated and with transferable skills, the knowledge-based job market is wide open. Those already with money to invest have benefited from the resurgence of the Dow.
But the ability of people to bridge that gap is harder than ever. The poor are no longer just the abject destitute: nearly half the recipients of SNAP benefits in Massachusetts are working people. Just the other day the homeless population living in motels hit an all-time high. Many middle class families where both parents work still can't get ahead, let alone imagine a better life for their children. According to Opportunity Nation, for the first time, today's young adults risk having lower educational attainment rates, on average, than their parents. Only six percent of children born to parents at the bottom make it to the top. And children in many European countries now have greater socio-economic mobility than those in the United States.
For this Commonwealth and this country to be true to her civic ideals, opportunity has to be accessible to all our residents, not just the favored few. And again, opportunity requires action. That means that to be true to our ideals we must make public investments with the lack of opportunity of the left out and left back in mind. We who benefit first from economic growth need to care about those who benefit last, or not at all.
One of the traditions of Massachusetts governors is that you hang the portrait of a former governor over the fireplace in the governor's office, as a source of inspiration, I suppose, or perhaps just as a reminder that you are but one in a long line of others. I'll bet every one of my predecessors wondered at some point, as I do now, whether anything they accomplished would last. We have shown that investing in education, innovation and infrastructure, alongside reform and modernization of government itself, is a way not just to endure recession but also to shape a brighter future. More than anything, I hope what lasts is a broad understanding that growth is a choice. For the sake of the next generation's opportunity, choose wisely.