President Barack Obama delivers the State of Union address before a joint session of Congress Tuesday night.
President Barack Obama delivers the State of Union address before a joint session of Congress Tuesday night.

BOSTON -- Local legislators could not have reacted more differently to Gov. Deval Patrick's final State of the State address Tuesday night, as Democrats showered him with glowing grades and Republicans were "unimpressed" yet again with his initiatives, relieved it was his last time giving the speech.

The governor renewed his call for an increase in the state's minimum wage. The proposal was met with a standing ovation in the House chamber, which was filled with state lawmakers and members of the administration.

Patrick also pledged to continue to make government more effective, calling for an overhaul of Massachusetts' unemployment insurance system and vowing to pass legislation making it easier to register to vote.

Afterward, state Sen. Eileen Donoghue, D-Lowell, called Patrick's speech a "great summation of his seven years of achievement."

"I was most impressed with his conclusion, talking about how we're not done," she said. "There's less than a year left for him, but he's not letting up on important projects, like education, transportation and infrastructure, projects that are important to my district and the city of Lowell.

"I'd give his speech an A-plus, and I look forward to continuing to work on all these important projects," she added.

On the other side, state Rep. Marc Lombardo, R-Billerica, did not have any compliments for Patrick.

"I continue to be unimpressed with our governor.


He is not investing in the areas that need it in the commonwealth," Lombardo said. "Local aid is $400 million under the 2008 levels, and he did not address that tonight. It's been a major miss under his administration.

"And when it comes to minimum wage, he's missing the point. The impact on small businesses would be tremendous," Lombardo added. "Think about the impact on Market Basket, with the amount of youth workers that they employ. It would be a tremendous hit."

State Rep. Dennis Rosa, D-Leominster, also said he was excited to "get to work." He said that Patrick's upbeat message made him energized for Wednesday's votes in the House Chamber.

"I can't wait to vote on the transportation bond bill (on Wednesday)," Rosa said. "I can't wait to get people back to work with that... I don't always agree with the governor, but I was impressed with him tonight."

Patrick also said he's working to fix the state's health insurance website and strengthen the Department of Children and Families in the wake of the disappearance of Jeremiah Oliver, a 5-year-old Fitchburg boy who was under state care before he went missing. The boy is feared dead.

State Rep. Sheila Harrington, R-Groton, who also represents Townsend and Ashby, questioned whether more money will fix DCF's problems.

"It still doesn't get to the root of the issue. It was an oversight, a situation where they didn't do what they were required to do," said Harrington, who has listened to testimony as a member of the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight.

"I'm not sure how pouring more money is going to fix things there," she said. "It's just really disheartening and frustrating that the child was only visited twice in a year. I found that to be very disturbing."

Patrick also pointed to education as one area that, despite the state's first-in-the-nation ranking in key test scores, still needs more work to reach every child.

"The education emphasis stuck with me," said state Rep. Tom Golden, D-Lowell. "Early intervention in our schools is extremely important.

"And I liked his point of working together," Golden added. "Tomorrow morning is a renewed breath of fresh air, an attitude that everyone will pull in the same direction."

But not all are on board. State Rep. James Lyons, R-Andover, who represents part of Tewksbury, said it was "more of the same" on Tuesday night. Like Lombardo, he was "not impressed" with Patrick's final speech, pointing to the minimum wage increase push.

"Last year he wanted to raise taxes and now he wants to add regulations and taxes to small businesses," Lyons said. "We just cannot continue to interfere and overtax our small businesses. It's just the absolute wrong direction."

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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