Most important line of the speech

"As your governor, I have broad responsibility for what goes right or wrong, but far less authority than I need to influence the course of either."

What he's saying here is that he intends -- soon -- to introduce pieces of legislation, either seperately or with the budget, to significantly change the way our state government functions.

Some of these will be reorganizations of his agencies (perhaps along the lines of what business re-organizers call eliminating silos). But the most important, and controversial, will be the state/municipality relationship. And I predict this will be the big political debate of Massachusetts 2007.

Massachusetts is a tough state to govern -- or rather, a tough commonwealth. That's not just some anachronistic term, it's how this state is organized differently than most: as an affiliation of 351 independent cities and towns. There is essentially no county government, and the governor has no authority to tell Ayer to use community policing, or tell Plymouth how to negotiate with its teachers' union, or tell Athol how many low-income units to build, or tell Malden which land to re-zone for commercial use, or tell Boylston how to invest its pension fund.

I have no inside info on this, but my guess is that Patrick will propose the use of some sorts of "conditional" local aid -- some as carrots, some as sticks. That's how the federal government gets states to, for instance, keep a certain speed limit. So, towns that exceed X% affordable housing, might get an extra $X per household in local aid. Fall below X cops per resident, lose $X per resident. That sort of thing.

This idea would face enormous resistance, and would require a huge sales job by Deval Patrick -- putting his credibility at risk should he lose. I think he's ready to fight for it. We'll see.


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