Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governors visited western Massachusetts Wednesday.
Gubernatorial candidate Juliette Kayyem and candidate for Lieutenant Governor Steve Kerrigan, hopefuls in a crowded primary field, spoke to members of the Berkshire Brigades, which represents the county’s Democrats. Kayyem, who worked as a homeland security advisor for Governor Deval Patrick and President Barack Obama, says she offers a new type of leadership.
“People like me who have different skills, I know government but maybe politics is new to me, can actually provide a vision and a way of moving forward that is different and that people actually want to hear,” said Kayyem.
Both candidates focused on the state’s economy and budget. Kayyem continues her push for creating an economic plan that prepares the state for the future, which she says is a big focus working in homeland security.
“We increase the minimum wage,” she said. “We know that. We do paid sick leave. We know that. We know that that is good for the economy. What we also have to do is provide the investments, the attractive business environment that is going to lure the businesses and industries that will come here and stay here for next 20, 30 or 40 years. That’s how I think about the obligation of a governor.”
Kayyem says whoever takes over for Deval Patrick, who is not seeking reelection, faces a lack of revenue state leaders were counting on from the recently rejected casino proposal in Palmer and the repealed technology tax, which was estimated to bring in $100 million a year.
“What does the budget look like?” Kayyem explained. “What are realistic and not realistic sources of revenue? Where can we get better in terms of government planning and government use of taxpayer dollars? That’s why I push for criminal justice reform. It’s not about crime. It’s actually about spending $80,000 a year on people who have done non-violent crimes. You can think about ways in which we’re wasting money and that the system could get leaner.”
Kerrigan has served many roles in the Democratic Party on both the state and national stages, including as a political director for late Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. If elected, he says he wants the next governor to give him the task of a top-down review of every aspect of state spending to ensure efficiency.
“There is $10 to $15 to $20 billion in what I call stranded costs, in tax incentives and in tax programs that encourage businesses to grow in Massachusetts and that are given out to help them,” Kerrigan said. “There’s very little bookkeeping on whether or not they’ve been effective or whether or not they’ve actually done what they’re supposed to do. Yet, they keep getting them year in and year out and year in and year out. Those dollars can be used a lot more effectively. So rather than us constantly fighting over a small, little bit of the budget, I think there’s dollars in there that we can recoup through clawback provisions with tax incentives that we can then put to work to make sure our economy is strong, our schools are the best in the world, our roads and bridges are great and our transportation system is second to none. There’s a lot of work to be done in there before we go to the taxpayers and ask them for another nickel.”
Kayyem advocated for a budget review on day one if elected.
“That’s why I was happy that Charlie Baker did not take a ‘no-tax pledge,’ Kayyem said. “I think we’re going to have to start talking about figuring out a new tax system that is fair for everyone and gives the state revenue so that it can invest in the future not just in today.”
Kayyem joins the state’s Attorney General Martha Coakley and Treasurer Steve Grossman along with Joseph Avellone and Donald Berwick seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014. Charlie Baker, the 2010 nominee who lost to Patrick, is the only declared Republican candidate so far. Kerrigan joins Michael Lake in seeking the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor. Former Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray flirted with a run for governor, but decided against it in January. In June, Murray resigned as Patrick’s number two to lead the Worcester County Regional Chamber of Commerce.