Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick released his administration’s seventh investment plan Wednesday, the Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) Capital Investment Plan, with investments in innovation, infrastructure and a focus on education in the Commonwealth.
Alex Zaroulis, director of communications for the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, said investments that are concentrated in those areas will spur economic growth across Massachusetts.
“We are working to create opportunity for people all across the Commonwealth, to expand opportunity to every region, and to invest in this generation,” she said.
The highlights of the plan include significant investment in education, specifically in science, math, engineering and technology, economic development, energy and the environment and cultural facilities, according to a Wednesday press release from Patrick’s office.
“The governor has committed to fund more than $2 billion in higher education infrastructure projects over the next decade,” she said. “The spending for FY14 is four times more than in FY07 [Fiscal Year 2007], when the governor took office.”
Robert Connolly, vice president of strategic communication at the University of Massachusetts, said UMass sent a proposal to Patrick on Wednesday asking for a $40 million increase in funding for the 2014 fiscal year.
“He’s [Patrick] very committed to making sure that people of all walks of life, and in all stages in their lives, have access to high quality education,” Connolly said. “There are many big costs, but we educate 72,000 students across the Commonwealth every year, and people agree that we are certainly the key to the state’s social and economic future.”
Patrick’s fiscal plan is also aimed to strengthen the Massachusetts economy through a focus on public infrastructure, new innovation and job creation, according to the release.
“There’s a danger that the U.S. could lose its technological advantage,” said Barton Lipman, chair of the economics department at Boston University. “That’s the thing that’s kept the U.S. relatively strong in the world, is that it’s a leader in technology. If we don’t invest in research, that’s not going to be true in the future, and that would be very bad for the country.”
Lipman said he hopes a stronger focus on research and education will keep the United States economically and technologically advanced.
“In 100 years, if the U.S. turns into a second-rate economy because we lost the technological advantages, that would really be tragic,” he said.
Patrick has also outlined a plan for investments in cultural facilities in Massachusetts. He has committed $15 million dollars for the development of arts and culture in 2014, three times as much as his commitment in 2012, according to the release.
“Arts and culture are such an important part of the Commonwealth, of the experience of anyone visiting or traveling the Commonwealth,” Zaroulis said. “It’s important for us to focus on funding cultural facilities to ensure that all corners of the Commonwealth have the facilities to have arts and dance and cultural centers for people to be able to visit.”
Several residents said they are excited to see the variety of changes Patrick’s fiscal plan will bring to Massachusetts, but they are most looking forward to the improvements in public education.
Julie Barrett, 38, of Brighton, assistant director of Information Technology at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, said after working at the public college for 12 years, she has seen firsthand the difference that public funding can make in a quality education.
“It doesn’t just change that one person’s life,” she said. “It changes what their family can accomplish. I don’t think there’s a more important place to put your funds. It’s one of the key components of a strong economy to be able to educate your people.”
Clint Haymon, 25, of Roxbury, said Patrick’s commitment to education is important because it has shaped the city of Boston.
“Boston is known for its colleges,” he said. “It’s known for its academics, and without it, it would be just any regular place. It wouldn’t have half the things it does. The real estate wouldn’t be the same. The attractions wouldn’t be the same. Life itself in Boston wouldn’t be what it is.”