Another election year is upon us, which means it’s time to look at some of the candidates for high office in Massachusetts. This week, I sat down with Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jay Gonzalez, the erstwhile right-hand budget man to former governor Deval Patrick.
Herewith, an introduction to JayGo, who rose from an undersecretary post to serve as state secretary of administration and finance from October 2009 to January 2013, after which he became CEO of CeltiCare Health Plan.
Defining attributes: Smart (Dartmouth, Georgetown Law), substantive, earnest guy who knows the nitty-gritty of state policy.
Animating idea: “My whole campaign is about how we need to be aiming higher.”
: “We actually need a governor
. . . to make progress on issues that are affecting people’s lives on a day-to-day basis.” That means more affordable housing, plus affordable child care and preschool for every child. And more money for transportation. “Our transportation system is the thing I hear the most complaints about every single day. . . . ” Ding: The metaphorical elevator arrives at the ground floor.
Annual cost of the Gonzalez progressive agenda: “I haven’t tallied it all up, but I will acknowledge that . . . it is going to cost a lot more, and we are going to need to raise significant revenue. It is one of the reasons I support the Fair Share tax [an income-tax-surcharge on very high earners]. It is about $2 billion [in] estimated new revenue each year.” How about some accompanying reduction in the sales tax? “Can’t afford it.” A sales tax holiday? “No. It just shifts when people buy stuff.”
Reality check #1: Didn’t the MBTA that the Patrick administration handed to Baker collapse during the winter of 2015? Yes, in “the worst snow storms in the history of Boston.”
“I actually wasn’t involved from November of 2012 on,” when he recused himself because he wanted to seek a job in the healthcare sector. “A lot of what we needed to know to actually get going wasn’t issued yet by the federal government. So no, I don’t take responsibility.”
Any area where he does deserve blame for Patrick administration shortcomings? “Nothing that comes to mind.”
Desk sign I suspect is unlikely to make a corner office cameo during a Gonzalez administration: “The buck stops here.”
Lefty catnip: His support for moving Massachusetts to a single-payer health care system. Details on major matters like hospital rates and financing? To be figured out later.
Areas where he adopts the predictable liberal line and platitudes: Opposition to charter schools and anticompetitive Pacheco law reforms.
Places where he has or likely would take a difficult reform stand: Pension reform, and particularly the MBTA’s former “23 and out.” Plus, the state’s film tax credit, a favorite of the House and the Teamsters, which Gonzalez says he’d likely nix.
Area where he deserves more credit than I’ve given him, but less than he takes: Municipal health reform, a big saver for cities and towns. Gonzalez claims he was “a big part of making it happen” and asks me to check with then-Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation president Michael Widmer, who relentlessly championed that cause.
Widmer: “He wasn’t part of driving the issue, but when it reached the governor’s desk, he played a pivotal role in bringing the parties together.”
Reason he thinks he’s the best of the Democratic hopefuls: He’s believes he’s got momentum — call it JayGoMo — with activists and legislators. Plus: “I’m the only candidate . . . who has leadership experience in state government getting things done.” And because, as a fellow former A&F secretary and health plan executive, he can “in an apples-to-apples kind of way . . . credibly expose his [Baker’s] failings.”