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Patrick: a UMass theater major?

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Gov. Deval Patrick was a lonely voice calling on UMass trustees not to approve a 4.9 percent fee hike for the coming school year.  Though he seemed  to be playing the part of champion of debt-burdened college students, an alternate view is that the governor was playing to the crowd in a way that might prove politically popular, but isn’t necessarily backed by sound reasoning or a budget  strategy.

The Globe editorial page seemed to advance that view yesterday by coming to the defense of UMass President Robert Caret and the school’s board of trustees, who approved the fee hike on a 15-2 to vote.  The editorial calls Patrick out for insisting that the university do more to eliminate waste and inefficiency before tapping students for more money, saying the governor “has not pointed to specific areas where the university system might make further cuts without undermining education quality.”

In an op-ed in yesterday’s Springfield Republican, Caret says there was “zero enthusiasm” for the fee increase on the part of university leaders.  But the university can’t continue to provide the level of education it does or support initiatives that will spur economic development like the Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke if its budget woes continue, he writes. State funding for UMass during the just completed school year was $30 million lower than a decade ago -- and the system has 12,000 more students today than it did then, Caret says. State spending will account for 43 percent of the UMass budget in the coming year; a decade ago, the state covered 61 percent of the system’s budget.

As Caret outlined in this CommonWealth Conversation interview last summer, his goal is to get the state back to at least supporting 50 percent of the university’s costs. He says today that he’ll happily agree to a freeze on tuition and fees through 2014-15 if that target can be met. Yesterday’s Globe editorial calls it “a specific proposal that deserves analysis by the Legislature and the governor.”  

Caret’s proposal may not prove realistic given the tough budget times.  But neither is just waving off fee increases because they’re unpopular, an approach that seems to be more of a posture than a plan. 

                                                                                                                                                            --MICHAEL JONAS



BEACON HILL

Gov. Deval Patrick raises eyebrows with a rousing speech in Washington.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The new anti-swearing bylaw in Middleboro is on hold until the attorney general’s office determines its constitutionality, which could take as long as five bleeping months.

Haverhill’s City Council votes for a small increase in each councilor’s expense stipend and it looks as if the mayor will approve it, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The Quincy City Council today is taking spending votes that many other communities only dream about -- a budget with a 4 percent increase over last year and an additional bonding bill that would trigger $120 million in early development of the $1.6 billion downtown redevelopment project.

Spending is also in the air in Boston, however, where city leaders are pushing for an increase in the cost-of-living adjustment in the pensions of retired municipal workers.

CASINOS

Suffolk Downs CEO Chip Tuttle took some time to pitch a little woo to East Boston residents for his casino proposal via Keller@Large.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Governing asks: Are cities and states ready for a wave of returning veterans?

ELECTION 2012

Mitt Romney criticized as politically motivated President Obama’s executive order lifting some restrictions on illegal immigrants who were brought to the country as children, but he refused to say whether he would void the order if elected. Romney moves closer to the GOP on Capitol Hill.

Negotiations between US Rep. John Tierney and Republican challenger Richard Tisei  over the use of outside money have collapsed, the Salem News reports.

The Beat the Press panel wonders if it’s a conflict of interest for Gail Huff, who is a working journalist in Washington these days, to actively campaign for her husband, Scott Brown.

Elizabeth Warren is about to face the Cherokee equivalent of an Ampad-style barnstorming.

Newsweek does a cover story on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his shot at being Mitt Romney’s VP. The New York Times looks at the latest installment of Romney’s VP auditions.

Frank Rich digs into negative campaigning. As part of Rich’s spread, former Gov. Michael Dukakis talks Willie Horton, and labels Romney’s Massachusetts record “just pathetic.”

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A couple of new surveys find that retirees, whose savings have taken a beating the last several years, are making riskier investments than people in that age group have historically made.

EDUCATION

Has a bachelor’s degree lost its value? The Christian Science Monitor takes an in-depth look at the phenomenon of students turning to other options.

More from the Globe on the embattled Roxbury Community College -- but still no word from President Terrence Gomes, who continues to watch from sidelines (or his bunker) as his school gets pummeled.

HEALTH CARE

The state’s three big health insurers tell the Globe they will maintain several provisions of the federal health care law even if it is struck down by the Supreme Court.

The Berkshire Eagle remains opposed to a Spectrum Health Systems methadone clinic.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Parklets, parking spaces converted into mini-parks, seem to be catching on, Governing reports.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Brewster Police Department gives a trial run to a shelter dog to see if she can handle  the work of sniffing out narcotics and tracking. Since the price for a trained sniffer dog can run in the thousands of dollars, police departments are beginning to look to shelters to find dogs to that they can train themselves.

Milford and other Metro West police departments have staffing levels that are below regional and national averages.

Former FBI agent John Connolly says Whitey Bulger has information that could spring him from a Florida prison.

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