Govenors Set Innovative Agendas
By Christine Vestal
Just days after delivering an inaugural speech that called for “shared responsibility” in state government, newly elected Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) proposed the establishment of a volunteer corps to work on community projects.
The plan, dubbed Commonwealth Corps, calls for recruiting 1,000 volunteers to work across the state staffing after-school programs, running homeless shelters and cleaning up parks and neighborhoods over the next five years.
While Patrick — the state’s first black chief executive and its first Democratic governor in 16 years — chose to promote volunteerism as his first legislative initiative, other governors nationwide are also seizing the opportunity to propose innovative policy as they deliver their budget, inaugural and state of the state speeches.
With 11 new and 15 re-elected governors and big political shifts in dozens of statehouses, these early pronouncements lay the groundwork for policy shifts in a majority of states.
“With so many new Democratic governors, there is a kind of collective momentum that will make this year different from previous years,” said Alan Rosenthal, a public policy professor at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. The political shift in the governors’ mansions foreshadows a big year for innovation because the chief executive has a way of “focusing and mobilizing political initiatives,” he said.
So far, more than a dozen governors have announced their agendas. Many are seeking property tax reductions, universal health care and hefty investments in roads, education and law enforcement. Nearly all are calling for an end to political bickering and higher ethical standards in state government.
For state by state information, visit www.stateline.org.