Jay Gonzalez, a former Massachusetts Secretary of the Executive Office for Administration and Finance running for governor as a Democrat, shared his vision for state leadership and criticized Governor Charlie Baker’s record at a Tufts Democrats-sponsored event last night.
Addressing about 25 students and community members, Gonzalez argued that Massachusetts can lead the country in progressive reform on the national stage, saying that Baker’s approach to governing is unambitious.
“I have been frustrated by how little our governor has accomplished, but I’ve been much more frustrated by how little he has even tried,” Gonzalez said. “He’s way too satisfied with the status quo. He’s too often sitting on the sidelines when we need him, and it’s not good enough.”
Gonzalez took issue with judging Baker on his approval ratings, which regularly measure near or above 70 percent. He contended that it is easy for Baker to earn wide approval because his approach to governing is cautious. Gonzalez also suggested that most Democratic politicians are not truly satisfied with Baker, and said the lack of tension between the governor and legislative officials owes to Baker’s limited agenda.
Further, Gonzalez is not impressed by Baker’s attempt to brand himself as an effective manager, noting that the state budget is not balanced despite strong economic conditions.
“Governor Baker’s entire case for being governor is that he’s a great manager,” Gonzalez said. “Everything he said he’s going to fix is either no better or worse.”
Gonzalez also said he believes Baker has not done enough to stand up to anti-immigrant posturing and other problematic tendencies at the national level, and said that the governor’s criticism of President Donald Trump’s administration has been weak.
“The people of this state deserve to know their governor is doing everything he possibly can to advocate for our interests and values,” Gonzalez told the Daily in an interview. “Right now, we don’t have that.”
Gonzalez said he can act as an effective steward of the state government by drawing on his management experience, but beyond that, he focused his remarks on ways in which he believes Massachusetts can “aim high.” Gonzalez also took questions from the audience that mostly related to his policy proposals.
All three candidates vying for the Democratic nomination — Gonzalez, Setti Warren and Bob Massie — have indicated their support for single-payer healthcare. Referencing his experience as a health insurance executive, Gonzalez argued that a publicly operated health insurance system would reduce costs and improve outcomes.
Gonzalez acknowledged to the Daily that a transition to single-payer healthcare would be complicated and suggested forming a coalition of healthcare experts to craft a plan. He says the transition could take a year or more.
“I’m not pretending [that] this is going to be now,” Gonzalez said. “I’m committing that we’re going to do it thoughtfully.”
Gonzalez said he supported a higher minimum wage, paid family leave and an income tax hike for those earning more than $1 million per year, all of which will be voted on in ballot questions this November. Also, he said universally affordable childcare and pre-school is one of his top priorities, and he called for new investment in opioid treatment.
Public transportation and affordable housing, according to Gonzalez, are two urgent issues that have the potential to hold the state back. Gonzalez questioned Baker’s “reform before revenue” approach to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), saying that the mass transit system needs investment in both maintenance and expansion.
“To say, as Governor Baker does, [that] ‘we don’t need additional revenue,’ is not honest,” Gonzalez told the Daily. “We need to continue to fix the system we have with a sense of urgency, and be planning for and prioritizing some of these other investments.”
On climate change, Gonzalez also called for faster reform, proposing that Massachusetts become the first state in the country with a carbon pricing system. He framed the transition to renewables as an opportunity for the state to lead globally in the burgeoning clean energy sector of the economy.
Gonzalez noted that his two competitors for the Democratic nomination are not vastly different from him and committed to supporting them if they win the primary. He maintained, however, that his experience in former Governor Deval Patrick’s administration would make him the strongest governor.
“While all three of us are running on pretty ambitious progressive agendas where there are many more similarities than differences,” Gonzalez said, “I am the only candidate in this race with leadership experience in state government [and] getting big things done.”