LYNN — Jay M. Gonzalez wants to be a governor who looks far beyond the status quo to map out an ambitious agenda for Massachusetts.
To accomplish that goal, the former state Secretary of Administration and Finance must beat fellow Democrat Robert Massie in the Sept. 4 primary and best Gov. Charlie Baker in November.
Gonzalez, 47, told Item editors during an interview Monday that he plans to convince voters to help him accomplish his goals by mapping out a broad-ranging plan for improving the state that, he acknowledges, will cost money.
If elected, Gonzalez said he will immediately ask state revenue officials to give him options to pay for extensive transportation and education improvements. He supports extending the Blue Line to Lynn and said childcare and preschool must be made affordable for Massachusetts families.
“We need to aim higher. It’s about having a more ambitious agenda. Now, more than ever, we need leadership,” Gonzalez said.
The Needham resident served as former Gov. Deval Patrick’s budget chief in 2007 when Massachusetts followed the rest of the nation into a recession. Even with spending cutbacks and a downtrending economy, Gonzalez said he worked with Patrick to come up with plans to accelerate bridge repairs across the state and improve state colleges and universities.
He said Massachusetts can no longer tolerate a “substandard” transportation system and pointed to the Blue Line extension and ferry service as ways to link the city to Boston.
“Lynn is a great example. The Blue Line extension is a project we need to move forward with,” he said.
Baker, in an Item interview in May, said he is focused on fixing the transit system. In order to get federal money to buy a Lynn ferry, he said the state must demonstrate its ability to spend the money appropriately and prove benefits associated with a ferry.
The Baker administration’s current five-year plan for the MBTA includes spending more than $8 billion on capital projects.
“Gov. Baker and Lt. Governor (Karyn) Polito are proud of their bipartisan record that is delivering results for Massachusetts’ communities and families, boosting support for local public schools by a half-billion dollars to historic levels, increasing investments in a more reliable MBTA by more than twofold, and launching a concentrated effort to advance Lynn’s economic and community revitalization. They remain focused on working with their colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance priorities that will keep Massachusetts moving in the right direction,” said Baker/Polito spokesman Terry MacCormack.
Gonzalez acknowledged that Baker has been highlighted in polls as the nation’s most popular governor.
“It’s easy to be popular if you are not doing anything. We have a governor who doesn’t even pretend to want to make progress,” Gonzalez said.
He supports the Safe Communities Act to make sure immigration law enforcement is not a responsibility for local police. As governor, he would “set a tone that is one of love, respect, and dignity” for all Massachusetts residents.
Gonzalez is a former chairman of a state board focused on early education. He said new perspectives and policies are needed on childcare and early education to reverse Massachusetts’ status as the most expensive state for childcare in the country. He pledged to provide every family in the state with a child ranging in age from birth to 5 years old with access to childcare within four years.
He opposes increasing the cap on charter school expansions out of concern charters foster an education system characterized by “winners and losers.”
“We need to ensure every school is great,” he said.
He is also calling for reforms in Massachusetts’ health care and criminal justice policies. The former president and CEO of CeltiCare Health, Gonzalez favors a single-payer health insurance system sponsored by the state with savings realized through cutting insurance administrative costs.
Gonzalez said he served as Patrick’s point person in 2012 on health care reform.
“(Former Lynn state Rep.) Steve Walsh and I were on the phone a lot,” he said.
He favors insurance coverage for medical marijuana and an increased attack on the opioid epidemic that includes establishing “safe injection sites.”
The state corrections system needs more diversion programs for people serving sentences and new strategies to keep them from reoffending.
“I want to be the governor who tries things,” he said.