Week Ending October 22, 2010
As the election for Governor entered its final two weeks, the candidates seized on a series of job and budget reports to try and make their case to voters. According to a Patrick administration jobs report, Massachusetts lost 21,000 jobs in September and 3,000 in August. However the unemployment rate in the state fell from 8.8% to 8.4%. Republican Charles Baker and Independent Tim Cahill both pointed to the job loss numbers as a failure on the part of the administration, with nearly 300,000 residents out of work. Baker called the job losses in September the third worst in the country, behind only California and New York. In contrast, Governor Patrick drew attention to the drop in unemployment, the steepest drop since 1976, which he said was an indication that Massachusetts is emerging from the nationwide recession ahead of other states.
In addition to the employment statistics, Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzales announced this week that Massachusetts ended FY2010 with a $163 million surplus. According to Gonzales, the surplus resulted from the administration’s budget management and came despite tax collection growth of only 1.5% compared to the prior fiscal year. Because of the surplus, Gonzales confirmed that $50 million which was originally designated to be spent out of the stabilization fund will now remain in the rainy day fund. House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading) and other Republicans were quick to point out that the state only achieved this surplus through the use of one-time revenues, local aid cuts and assessing $1 billion in new taxes during FY2010. Republican candidate for Governor Charlie Baker called on Governor Patrick to return the surplus to Massachusetts taxpayers. The surplus for FY2010 comes as the state also announced that tax collections were up for the first half of October, up $89 million from the same period one year ago. Income tax collections were up 17.7%, sales tax receipts were up 7.4% and estimated income tax payments were up 20%.
A new poll by Western New England College was released this afternoon on the Governor’s race. The poll shows Gov. Patrick with a 44-36 lead over Republican Candidate Charlie Baker. It surveyed 400 likely voters and has a 5% margin of error. It also showed Independent Tim Cahill with 8% of the vote and 5% percent of voters preferring another candidate. 5% of those polled were undecided. The poll’s timing, with two weeks remaining before the election, led some analysts to label the race Deval Patrick’s to lose. His mid to upper single digit lead is consistent with a Rasmussen report released earlier this week. Rasmussen Reports currently has the Massachusetts Governor’s race as “leans Democratic.”
John Nunnari, Assoc AIA