Gov. Deval Patrick is calling on lawmakers to strengthen the state's community colleges, lower health care costs, and revise the state's criminal sentencing laws to focus on violent offenders.
In his annual State of the State address Monday night, Patrick said Massachusetts is doing better than most states, but still not well enough. Here's a deeper look at his priorities:
Patrick is calling for unifying the state's 15 community colleges under a single budget and giving the state Board of Higher Education more oversight of the schools.
Under the proposal, the 15 separate line items in the state budget would be replaced by a single line item for the community colleges. The board would allocate funds to individual schools based on factors such as enrollment and student performance.
The board would also help craft a unified curriculum and develop guidelines for selecting college presidents.
Patrick says he'll propose a $10 million increase in funding for the colleges if the reorganization goes forward.
Health Care Costs
Patrick is calling on lawmakers to pass a sweeping overhaul of the health care payment system in Massachusetts. He said Massachusetts has to end to the "fee-for-service" model that rewards doctors and hospitals for the amount of care they deliver instead of the quality.
Patrick said the system needs to be changed to reward doctors and other health care providers for coordinating patient care and focusing on keeping patients healthy instead of treating each illness.
Patrick said the state also needs to overhaul its medical malpractice laws.
State lawmakers have already said that health care cost containment is a top issue for the new year. They say bringing costs under control is critical to maintaining the state's landmark 2006 health care law.
Patrick is calling for tougher penalties for the state's most violent criminals while asking lawmakers to make non-violent drug offenders eligible for parole sooner.
Patrick is proposing lengthening the time before a violent felon convicted for a third crime would be eligible for parole.
He said he'd also support a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for anyone whose third felony is murder or a similarly heinous crime.
But Patrick said the state needs better options for non-violent drug offenders, pointing to the rising spending on prisons. He said simply warehousing offenders is a costly policy failure.
He said the state needs to focus on education, job training and drug treatment programs to help offenders after their release.
This article was originally published on January 23, 2012.
This program aired on January 23, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.