ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Newton Mayor Setti Warren talks with the editors at The Item.
By BRIDGET TURCOTTE
Newton Mayor Setti Warren, who will likely be a Democratic candidate in the 2018 governor’s race, on Wednesday said a millionaire’s tax can help pay for needed state education, transportation and housing initiatives.
The veteran, who campaigned for Hillary Clinton, said fellow Democrats are afraid to call for more revenue.
“We’re not making investments that matter,” Warren said. “We have economic growth but people are struggling. There is a case to be made that we can do better.”
Warren outlined his views in an interview with the Item editorial board. He said he will make a final decision on running for governor in four to five months.
“I want to sit down with people before I saw I’m doing this,” he said, adding, “I am very serious about this candidacy. Before I make any final announcement or decision, I want to talk to people.”
His focus is on improving education, housing and transportation in the state with funding from a Massachusetts Tax for Education and Transport proposed for the November ballot, which he will support and advocate for.
The measure, known commonly as a millionaire’s tax, would create an additional 4 percent tax on residents whose incomes exceed $1 million, or $21,000 per week. It has the potential to generate $2 billion each year in state revenue, Warren said.
“You have to make the case for revenue in a transparent way,” Warren said. “This is about asking people who are doing really well to make an investment in the state.”
Warren grew up in the Newton home where he now raises his own family. He said he’s prepared to turn to the residents of his own community, which has the second highest number of millionaires in the state.
His resume includes serving as a special assistant to the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs for former President Bill Clinton, the New England director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and deputy state director for Sen. John Kerry.
As mayor, Warren said he focused on energy consumption efforts and on transit-oriented development. Warren said he faced financial challenges during his first term in 2009 and spent time cleaning up the city’s finances and eliminating an annual structural deficit of $40 million. He established a previously non-existent rainy day fund of $20 million.
During his tenure, several tax overrides allowed for two new schools to be built, a third nearing completion and a new fire station.
Warren first became interested in the Newton mayoral position in 2007 but was unexpectedly deployed to Iraq, where he completed a yearlong tour of duty as a Naval Intelligence Specialist before being elected in 2009. He was reelected in 2013 but announced in late 2016 that he would not run for a third term.
Instead, he wants to run for governor. Gov. Charlie Baker, a Swampscott resident, has not announced his run for reelection in 2018. Democrat Jay Gonzalez, who oversaw Massachusetts’ operating budget under former Gov. Deval Patrick, is the only person to formally announce a campaign.
Baker’s popularity as a governor will make the race a “tough endeavor,” Warren acknowledged.
“But having the experiences I’ve had as mayor, the experiences I’ve had in the military, I think will help me,” Warren said. “Being on a base, there are people of all genders with different political opinions from all regions of the country. We had to get along and had to work together to complete the mission.”
Warren hopes to improve Chapter 70 school funding for public schools and generate money to provide additional enrichment programs, early education and post secondary education. During a time when higher paid jobs require a higher skill level, investments need to be made to make community and state college affordable, he said.
He called the existing transportation system “a complete and utter failure” and expressed a need for better regional transportation, including a ferry service in Lynn.
He supports raising the minimum wage to $15, expanding paid family leave and reforming the criminal justice system to include treatment of drug abuse and mental health.
Bridget Turcotte can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.