ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Jay Gonzalez speaks with The Item’s editorial board.
By THOMAS GRILLO
LYNN — Democratic candidate for governor Jay Gonzalez isn’t shy about saying what’s needed to fix the Bay State’s troubled transportation system and underfunded schools: new taxes.
“I support the fair share tax on incomes in excess of $1 million,” he said. “This is the fairest way to raise meaningful new revenue, about $2 billion annually, to be used for transportation and education.”
In a wide ranging interview with The Item’s editorial board Tuesday, Gonzalez, 45, said he’s running to unseat Gov. Charlie Baker because the Republican’s no new taxes pledge is unacceptable.
“Our governor’s core operating principle is no new taxes and we’re going to make it work with what we have,” he said. “I don’t think he’s being honest with people about the fact that it won’t work. We starved the MBTA for way too long and the condition of our roads and bridges is one of the worst in the country and getting worse under this administration.”
Gonzalez, who served as the budget secretary for former Gov. Deval Patrick and resigned last year as president and CEO of CeltiCare Health, could face competition from Democratic Mayor Setti Warren of Newton.
In March, Warren set up a finance committee to explore a run for governor. The panel includes former Treasurer Steven Grossman, former Gov. Michael Dukakis, former Democratic Party chair Phil Johnston, former Boston City Councilor Michael Ross and is chaired by Josh Boger, the former Vertex Pharmaceuticals executive.
Whoever takes on Baker, won’t have it easy. In a WBUR survey earlier this year, Baker was more popular than liberal Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Only 44 percent said Warren deserves reelection, while 51 percent view her favorably.
In contrast, Baker’s favorability rating is 59 percent — 8 points better than Warren. Even more striking is that only 29 percent of poll respondents think someone else should get a chance at the governor’s office, the survey said.
But Gonzalez dismissed the suggestion that Baker will be hard to beat.
“I’m less concerned with the polls and more concerned with what I’m hearing from people around the state that they are very concerned about issues that are holding them back,” he said. “I think it’s very easy to be popular when you don’t do anything, when you don’t take stands on big issues, when your entire approach to the job is about political caution instead of political courage.”
One of the core issues in his run for governor is support for the so-called millionaires’ tax. If approved by voters next year, it would amend the state constitution by imposing a 4 percent surtax on incomes over $1 million. The money would be designated for schools and transportation.
About 20,000 or 0.5 percent of households in the state would be hit by the new tax and it would raise $1.9 billion annually, according to the state Department of Revenue.
Gonzalez said he’s running because he cares about people and wants to make a difference.
“Government plays a really important role in moving us forward to improve people’s lives,” he said. “I think Gov. Baker sees the job differently. He’s been way too satisfied with the status quo, too often sitting on the sidelines when we need him. I’ve been frustrated by how little he’s accomplished, but I’ve been more frustrated by how little he’s even tried.”
Thomas Grillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Material from State House News Service was used in this report.