Massachusetts Treasurer Steve Grossman was in Pittsfield Wednesday as he ramps up his campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor.
Covering a wide range of topics, Grossman spoke with about 20 people at the Democratic Berkshires Brigades in downtown Pittsfield. If elected, the treasurer says he aims to create 50,000 manufacturing jobs over five years, especially in places like Pittsfield.
“Manufacturing used to be one of the backbones of Pittsfield and North Adams,” Grossman said. “GE went away, Sprague Electric went away and manufacturing went away. It’s coming back. It’s coming back because of the quality of American workmanship and the hard work and energy that Massachusetts workers invest in manufacturing. We can train our next generation of young people for jobs that are going to pay $75,000 a year and up.”
Saying the commonwealth needs to grow its way out of tough financial times, the Democrat is advocating for increased funding in public education, specifically in the arts. He realizes these areas are usually some of the first programs cut under financial restrictions, as the state used to spend $27 million for cultural programs in 1988 and now it dishes out $9 million. Regardless, he says he will double the state’s investments in the arts to $18 million over four years if elected governor.
“If you teach a child to pick up a flute or a paintbrush, they’re much less likely to pick up a gun or a syringe,” said Grossman.
Grossman also focused on social issues like raising the state’s current minimum wage of $8 an hour and mandating earned sick time for workers, two issues currently being addressed by ballot initiatives.
“A million people woke up this morning and didn’t have an hour of earned sick time,” he said. “They go to work sick because they’re afraid of getting fired.”
Grossman says he understands health care takes up a large portion of the state’s budget, but is optimistic about costs decreasing.
“If you can do community care in a community setting in a first-rate institution and not send people to Boston at the drop of a hat for services that cost a lot more money, that’s going to help put a lid on health care costs,” said Grossman.
The Democrat said he would continue many of outgoing Governor Deval Patrick’s policies. He spoke about making sure every school classroom is digitally ready for the 21st century by providing broadband internet access, which is spotty in areas of the Berkshires. To pay for the funding increases, Grossman is looking towards the Main Street Fairness Act, yet to be passed by Congress. If enacted, he says it will give the state $250 million annually by forcing internet companies that don’t have a brick and mortar location in Massachusetts to pay the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax, which they currently do not. So how did his audience react? Here’s Stephen Radin.
“I think we need to hear from all the prospective candidates and see what kinds of ideas they have before I can make any kind of a decision,” Radin said. “But, he’s certainly on the plus column for me.”
Frank Farkas says he thinks gubernatorial candidates are starting to take notice of the western part of the state because its votes can make for a Democratic blowout.
“They take for granted that the majority of people are going to be voting democratic,” Farkas said. “What they shouldn’t take for granted is how large those margins are going to be. Especially in a heavily democratic area, they can become complacent.”
Grossman joins state Attorney General Martha Coakley in a field of six announced Democratic candidates. Charlie Baker is the only declared Republican candidate so far. A survey of more than 400 voters from the Western New England University Polling Institute matched Coakley and Grossman up against Baker in hypothetical races. The results show Coakley would get 54 percent of the vote and Baker 34 percent. In a match-up of Grossman and Baker, 25 percent of voters are undecided, but Grossman edges out Baker 43 percent to 30 percent. Governor Patrick is not running for reelection.