Gov. Deval Patrick, previously content to let his No. 2 be his attack dog, assumed the role himself last week when he accused Republican rival Charles Baker of lacking integrity in his campaign.
“He makes a lot of stuff up, I’ve noticed,” Patrick said during the Democrat’s monthly appearance on WTKK-FM. “You got to ask yourself, if there’s this little integrity in the campaign, where’s the integrity going to be in the administration?”
The governor said Baker, the former Weld administration’s budget chief, is wrong when he says Patrick started his administration with a budget surplus. Patrick says Baker’s fellow Republican, Mitt Romney, left him with a structural deficit.
The issue has been the subject of dispute. Romney left office with a balanced budget — as is required by state law — and roughly $2 billion in the state rainy-day fund. Romney has also criticized Patrick for reinstating nearly $400 million in cuts he made just before leaving office in 2007. Patrick says Romney deferred a series of budget responsibilities.
“If that surplus was there, I sure wish somebody would show it to us,” Patrick said. “There was no such thing; there was a structural deficit when we got there, and we’ve had $9 billion in budget gaps we’ve been dealing with because of this economic downturn.”
Patrick also said Baker seems to change his view on global warming “depending on the day and the audience.” During one forum earlier this year, Baker dodged a direct answer when asked if he believed in the phenomenon, saying it is the subject of scientific debate.
A Baker spokesman said Patrick “is attempting to gloss over four years of failure,” including his inability to fulfill several of his key 2006 campaign promises.
Spokesman Rick Gorka added: “The governor failed to cut property taxes, create 100,000 new jobs, add 1,000 new police — and, in fact, he has raised taxes by $2 billion in the worst economic climate since 1976.”
The exchange highlighted an intensifying three-way race for governor this fall.
State Treasurer Timothy Cahill is also running as an independent, but he has been the focus of a withering ad campaign unleashed by the Republican Governors Association. The same ads, which started airing last week, also criticize Patrick. Cahill released an ad on Wednesday of last week that criticized the RGA and its chairman, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.
Baker, meanwhile, has held two news conferences in two weeks in front of the Statehouse, accusing Patrick of failing to keep his promises and deliver on the “change” agenda he promised in 2006.
The two also tangled last Wednesday over a “misstatement” Baker made a day earlier during one of those conferences. The Republican said he supported a legislative amendment, narrowly defeated last week, requiring applicants for state services to provide proof of Massachusetts residency. When asked whether that would include people trying to enter the state-supported Pine Street Inn homeless shelter, Baker replied, “Yeah. I think it should be required for everything.”
His campaign staff later noted the so-called Perry amendment contained an exemption for emergency services, including homeless shelter admission, but Patrick nonetheless issued a statement Wednesday of last week calling such a requirement “inhumane and wrong.”
“Baker’s proposal to require homeless shelters to turn away people, including veterans and even families with children, if they can’t produce proof of residency is inhumane and wrong,” Patrick said. “And his proposal to create a new state bureaucracy to scrutinize people’s ‘lifestyles’ to make sure they are behaving according to his view of how poor people should behave before they can receive state aid is a step way too far.”
Elsewhere during the WTKK interview, which has become Patrick’s most expansive source of public commentary each month, the governor said:
— He’s mystified by a recent decision in which an arbitrator granted Boston firefighters a 19 percent raise, more than they were seeking or the city was offering. The governor also said it was hard to justify that raise when cities and towns are complaining about potential local aid cuts by the state.
— He supports a comprehensive national immigration overhaul, but would not have signed an immigration bill like Arizona’s that requires local and state law enforcement officers to question people about their immigration status if there’s reason to suspect they’re in the country illegally. Patrick said he’s concerned it risks promoting profiling.
— He would be inclined to support a bill allowing restaurants to begin serving alcohol at 10 a.m. on Sundays, instead of at noon. Restaurateurs contend it would boost sales during brunch.