PITTSFIELD -- Gov. Deval Patrick will march in today's Fourth of July Parade, but Tuesday, he was all business. He touted the $8 million in Chapter 90 funds for local municipalities announced earlier in the day and addressed certain state issues, including alternative energy, casinos and the importance of universal health care.
"I'm proud of the fact that we have expanded the program since I've been in office," Patrick said of the Chapter 90 funds during an editorial board meeting with the Transcript and The Berkshire Eagle on Tuesday. "I know the funds will be well spent."
He added that his only wish was the budget had moved faster through the state Legislature, coinciding better with the start of the construction season. However, regarding the larger state fiscal 2013 budget, local aid and education spending were his crown jewels.
"What I like about [the budget] is the funds for schools and local aid," Patrick said. "We have set a new benchmark every year and I think that's important. ... It's the best way to make long-term investments."
Turning to the topic of alternative energy, the governor said he believes the proposed Wind Energy Siting Reform Act -- which places the decision of where wind projects can be located in the hands of communities -- will eventually gain ground in the legislature.
"My view is that wind can be and should be among the choices around alternative energy and energy independence," he
Patrick believes the bill will also create a consistent structure for such projects, cutting down the "years of uncertainty" of which many proposed projects have been subject.
"The bill is about local decision-making and clarity of path," he said.
Similarly, Patrick said he believes the question of where casinos will locate within the state ultimately should belong to local decision-making bodies.
"It's not supposed to be a developer ramming something down a community's throat. It should be a process," Patrick said. He added his opposition to casinos in cities, opting for a hotel-resort setting for the potential establishments.
Switching to national politics, specifically the 2009 Affordable Care Act recently upheld by the Supreme Court, Patrick promoted the commonwealth as an example of the law's beneficial reforms. He said 98 percent of the state's population is receiving affordable health care, and "more businesses are offering insurance to employees than ever in history."
Patrick attributed the law's unpopular polling numbers to "bad marketing" by Demo crats and a failure to highlight new coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and 30 million additional health care recipients, along with young adults up to 26 being allowed to stay on their parents insurance plans.
"I think on this, and a host of other issues, Democrats need to grow a backbone and stand up for what we believe: We believe health is a public good," Patrick said. "We have 98 percent of children in the commonwealth with health care. Why wouldn't everyone want that?"
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By the numbers
Of the $8,005,884 in Chapter 90 funds announced for Berkshire County on Tuesday, a total of $1,035,661 is earmarked for Northern Berkshire.
New Ashford: $43,928
North Adams: $452,676