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The day after House Speaker Robert DeLeo called for scaling back Gov. Deval Patrick’s ambitious tax and spending plan, the governor on Friday defended his goals in a rare legislative committee appearance, while also voicing openness to compromise.
It was the final budget hearing by the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, after a weeks-long tour of the state. Patrick restated the case for increasing spending on transportation and education by nearly $2 billion. That’s along with raising taxes and fees to make it possible.
"Because all the evidence points to the fact that making these investments means jobs and opportunity," he said.
Many lawmakers support the governor's goals, but many also are wary of the price tag. On Thursday, DeLeo bluntly told business leaders that Patrick’s plan would be scaled back.
At the hearing, Patrick responded.
“I have acknowledged from the outset that there is room to debate the means, more than one way to, as they say, skin the cat," Patrick said. "I do think it’s important to start by agreeing on the ends instead of starting with the means and backing ourselves into half a cat.”
But Sen. Marc Pacheco, of Taunton, warned that a voter backlash could cost Democrats their seats — as well as the governor’s office — as what happened when Dukakis-era tax hikes led to tax repeal petitions and a 16-year reign of Republican governors.
“We could very well be heading down that very same road, depending upon how engaged the citizens are and how much they believe in what is going on," Pacheco said. "And sometimes the only way to get that kind of understanding is through a statewide comprehensive dialogue that takes place in the form of a referendum campaign.”
Patrick, who has said repeatedly that he does not plan to run for-re-election, acknowledged that a repeal petition would be likely. But he opposed putting his plan on the ballot now. He said voters are responding to his vision of “generational responsibility.”
"So I hope we will not punt — not that. I hope we won’t put this off," he said.
House versions of the transportation financing plan and overall state budget are expected to be released next month.
This post was updated with the All Things Considered feature version.
This program aired on March 8, 2013.
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