BOSTON (AP) – Gov. Deval Patrick belted out an Irish folk song he dubbed the “Gas Tax Lament” as jokes about dealing with the struggling economy took center stage Sunday at South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day breakfast.

The annual political event drew more than 800 people to the Boston Exhibition and Convention Center. And Patrick’s proposed fix for transportation funding – including his 19 cent-per-gallon gas tax – was a popular topic.

Patrick, a Democrat, sang to rousing applause as he took aim at Republican predecessors William Weld, Paul Cellucci and Mitt Romney, referencing the struggling Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and the costs of the Big Dig.

“We’re facing a meltdown at the MBTA, and the roads and the bridges are showing decay. ‘Cuz when Weld and Cellucci and Mitt ran the store, they ran up the Big Dig debt more and more,” Patrick sang.

Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, gave the governor a preview of how lawmakers would vote on his gas tax as well as proposed increases in tolls and taxes on candy and liquor. All were shot down in voice votes from the audience.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, presented the governor with a miniature slot machine – what he called a family heirloom – in hopes the governor would renew efforts to bring slots and gaming to the state.

The event was Patrick’s first public appearance since returning from vacation in Jamaica. That prompted the host of the breakfast, Sen. Jack Hart, D-Boston, to joke the governor had changed his slogan from “Together We Can” to “Don’t worry, be happy.”

Meanwhile, Boston Mayor Tom Menino, who is known for mumbling his words, came prepared to take a few hits, bringing a “flub jug” in which he said he’d put a quarter for every word he misstated – but he charged $1 for every joke at his expense. He said the money would go toward the city’s deficit but wound up garbling the word “deficit,” prompting shouts from the crowd for him to put up a quarter.

The Democratic mayor used the breakfast to hint that he would run for re-election, comparing himself to returning New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who missed almost all of last season after tearing knee ligaments and reportedly married Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen last month.

“Who would have thought that Tom Brady and I have so much in common?” he said. “We both have beautiful wives, we’re both recovering from knee surgery and we’re both planning on leading our teams for years to come.”

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