Murphy Prepares State for Year 2000

`Blueprint 2000' Project

Lieutenant Governor Evelyn F. Murphy is developing a plan to anticipate and reduce problems that could develop in Massachusetts by the year 2000.

Dubbed as "Blueprint 2000," the plan is the lieutenant governor's main task for this year. The project concentrates on education, human services, employment and the environment.

Blueprint 2000 is no "cure-all" for the state's problems, said Murphy's policy director, Christopher Scott, "but we can offer recommendations to solve them--we want to avoid trade-offs between health care and education."

"The year 2000 is only 13 years away--not a long time," Murphy said in a prepared statement. "Now, it is the time to consider directly and deliberately the quality of life we will pass on to the people."

Murphy's press secretary Carrie Kimball, said the state, with its $11 billion budget, resembles a corporation in some ways. "If you took Massachusetts and turned it into a private corporation it would be in the top 10 Fortune 500 companies," Kimball said. Such a large enterprise, she said, "must have a strategic planning office designated to map the future of the state."

Blueprint 2000 is still in early planning stages. The programs it designs are scheduled to be carried out in January 1989. Right now the project is gathering information from the 351 cities and towns of Massachusetts, and has yet to draw formal conclusions about the state's needs.

After the Blueprint 2000 staff analyze the information, advisory groups will meet with community members to plan for specific measures. The plan will take two years to be completed, from 1989 to 1990, and Scott said work on it is proceeding according to schedule.

Murphy's project, the first one of its kind in Massachusetts, is based on similar efforts in about five other states. Its main models are a comprehensive plan approved in Kentucky, which provides for protection of resources, and the Texas plan, which consists chiefly of a strong employment program, said Kimball.

The Blueprint 2000 project will take over many of the functions of the State Planning and Development Committee, which folded several years ago because of budget cuts.

Kimball said the plan receives money from the state and federal government, independent foundations and private corporations such as AT&T.

The lieutenant governor announced the project at her inauguration speech in January of 1987, and has been working continuously on it since by holding meetings with town officers, businesses and community groups said Sharon Hartly, a staffer at the governor's office.

Murphy has spent the past nine months listening to municipal officials' concerns at open hearings. Scott said local response has been very positive and attendance at these meetings are high.

The project will address problems in education, in the public schools state and private higher education, and specialized education.

Problems to be addressed include high school dropout rates and an expected increase in the student population.

"In the late 1970 s there was a sharp decrease in the number of school-age children--so many schools were closed and converted into condominums," Kimball said. "But we now face a major increase in the number of school-age children in the next decade," she said.

Another pressing issue is the need to care for the elderly. According to demographic and census reports, the number of elderly persons in the state will increase by almost 40 percent in the next twenty years.

"The elderly population will explode in the year 2000, but there is something we can do now to improve housing and elderly care facilities," Kimball. "We cannot ignore the elderly because it will be a very, very serious problem in [the year] 2000."

Employment will also be a major goal for the plan because statistics show the number of tax-paying adults will not change much, while the youth and elderly populations will increase. Kimball said this means that the state will have to provide more services with the same amount of revenue.

The project will also examine environmental issues and questions such as discrimination and desegregation.

Scott said he does not anticipate any hitches in the project. While the plan does call on businesses to finance programs such as day care and to follow environmental regulations, he said businesses have generally been cooperative and support many of the proposals.

"Companies are always guarded about any government regulation that has cost implications, and as in anything else, some are willing and some are not," he said.