Speeches highlight big differences between Baker, Gonzalez

Very different visions on taxes, health care, the MBTA

IN THEIR PRIMARY NIGHT acceptance speeches, Gov. Charlie Baker and his Democratic challenger Jay Gonzalez laid out very different visions of the future.

Baker talked of fiscal discipline, opposition to tax increases, an economy that is booming, and schools that are the best in the nation. He didn’t mention President Trump or announce any bold new plans.

Baker essentially promised more of the same, vowing to tackle the tough problems facing state government without raising taxes. “We need to respect the taxpayer by continuing to make state government work smarter and better — and by standing up to the urge by many on Beacon Hill to just raise taxes,” he said.

Gonzalez staked out very different ground. He said Baker’s opposition to many of Trump’s policies was not enough. “Look, I get it,” he said. “It’s a relief to have a governor who seems nice and isn’t a crazy, right-wing extremist. With Donald Trump setting the bar so low, nice and not crazy seems pretty good. But it’s not good enough. Not for us. Not for Massachusetts.”

Gonzalez promised to aim high and make a “meaningful difference” in people’s lives by giving every family access to high-quality, affordable childcare and preschool by the end of his first term. He also promised to fully fund public schools, invest in the state’s transportation system, fire the MBTA’s private commuter rail operator, and implement a single-payer health system. “This is a former health insurance CEO telling you we need to get rid of health insurance companies,” he said.

He also promised to do more on climate change and affordable housing and press for “debt-free college” and stronger gun laws.

He put no price tag on his initiatives and didn’t explain how he would pay for all of it.

The speeches have been edited to remove the many thank yous at the beginning and the exclamation points that Gonzalez used repeatedly in his speech.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s speech

When Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and I began this journey five years ago, we said we’d make Massachusetts a place of hope, opportunity, and possibility.

We said we’d focus on creating jobs, improving our schools, and building strong communities.

We said we’d restore fiscal discipline, oppose tax increases, and make state government work better.

And we promised we’d work with anyone regardless of their party or ideology — to move Massachusetts forward.

Today, four years later, our state is on the rise. Our economy is booming. Our schools are best in the nation. And hope and possibility is blooming in every corner of the Commonwealth.

On so many issues, we lead.

Our economy has added 180,000 new jobs since we took office, and we’ve had more people working than at any time in our state’s history.

Our schools have the lowest dropout rate we’ve ever had and the highest graduation rate, and our kids ranked first in math and English nationally for the sixth year in a row.

We eliminated a $1 billion structural budget deficit – cleaned up the chaos we inherited at Medicaid and the Health Connector – invested over $500 million in our public schools, righted the ship at the Department of Children and Families – and added over $500 million to our Rainy Day Fund. Without raising taxes. In fact, we doubled the Earned Income Tax Credit for 450,000 working families.

Today, the MBTA is investing four times more money in its core infrastructure than it was before we took office and we’ve spent more than $700 million in local road and bridge funding and invested another $2.8 billion on road re-surfacing and improvement projects.

We’ve made good on our promise to share tax revenue with local governments, we’ve expanded our spending on economic and housing development, and thanks to the hard work of Lt. Gov. Polito, we’ve created strong bonds and a best practice partnership with all 351 cities and towns.

We’re procuring the largest amount of renewable energy in our history, a move that will reduce energy costs… while strengthening the state’s clean energy economy.

We overhauled Bridgewater State Hospital – removing a 30-year stain on the state’s humanitarian reputation.

We refused to accept that the more than 1,500 homeless families who were reduced to living in over 40 motels when we took office was okay. Today, there are just 36 families living in one motel, and we are not done yet.

And, our strategy for battling the opioid epidemic is a national model – and after years of double digit increases, we are one of only 7 states that saw overdose deaths drop in 2017.

While we’ve made great progress, there is more to be done – to help expand opportunity for all our citizens.

We’ve increased investments in early childhood education by more than $80 million – the largest increase in more than a decade – to give more kids a chance to start school ready to learn.

We’ve changed the game for many vocational technical school students by investing $50 million directly in high demand areas and connecting students to affordable post-secondary options.

But we have work to do to close gaps for English language learners, and low income & special needs students.

And we need to expand our early college programs, expand investments in college scholarships, and extend programs that reduce the cost of higher education.

Our transportation infrastructure is absolutely critical to our economy and the quality of life for our citizens. We need to finish the work we’ve started in cleaning up the mess we inherited at the MBTA – so we can deliver the reliable, dependable, 21st century public transportation system our people deserve. We have a plan to invest $8 billion over the next five years in our public transportation infrastructure. That’s $5 billion more than the previous administration spent during their final five years.

We also need to address the affordable housing shortage. We have a plan to encourage the construction of 135,000 new units of housing over the next six years because you can’t live, work, or raise a family in Massachusetts if you can’t afford a home here.

And our work on the opioid crisis is far from over. With the passage of two major laws over the past four years, we now have the ability to turn long-term treatment and recovery into a viable option for everyone dealing with an opioid addiction. When it comes to opioids, we need to do more than bend the trend in Massachusetts – we need to end the trend.

Finally, we need to respect the taxpayer by continuing to make state government work smarter and better — and by standing up to the urge by many on Beacon Hill to just raise taxes.

Whatever the issue— opioids, schools, jobs, transportation or housing—we need to keep putting progress before politics.

At a time when our country is having trouble finding common ground on so many issues, we in Massachusetts are the exception. That’s not an accident. Karyn and I believe in bipartisanship. We believe that people in public life can — and should — debate the issues respectfully, and seek common ground whenever possible.

And our approach is working. We’ve made real progress on energy, economic development, criminal justice, education, health care, transportation, and veterans issues. Our economy is booming. Our schools are the very best. Our communities are thriving.

And our political discourse is robust and honest because we believe a good idea is a good idea – wherever it comes from.

So let’s keep moving in the right direction, to continue to grow our economy, to keep our schools the best in the nation, to keep our communities strong and moving forward, and to ensure our state – in the midst of all the dysfunction – remains a powerful example of what can be accomplished when people listen to each other, and are willing to tackle the tough issues together.

Election Day – November 6 – is right around the corner. The lieutenant governor and I have been honored and humbled to serve the people of this amazing state for the past four years. We look forward to working with all of you to build on the work we’ve started, and to make this great state shine for the next four years. Thank you. God Bless you. And God Bless the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Jay Gonzalez’s speech

Nineteen months ago, we launched this campaign with nothing more than a few committed people, a sincere desire to make a difference in people’s lives, and a belief that we could. Well, thanks to you, we have come a long way, my friends. And we are not done yet. Thanks to you, I have the absolute privilege of being your Democratic candidate for governor. We won because we believed in our cause, we worked hard, and we supported each other along the way.

Throughout my life, I’ve seen many others overcome challenges the exact same way. Starting with my parents. During college, my mom went on a foreign exchange program to Spain. Nine months later she came back married to my 19-year old Spanish father and pregnant with me. It was tough for them at first. My mom dropped out of college to take care of me. My dad didn’t speak English, and he’d never been to college. But they believed and worked hard. They raised three sons. My mom became a public school teacher and member of the teacher’s union. My dad worked his way from laying bricks in a city sewer system to becoming a successful small businessman and a proud American citizen. They were just “little guys” who believed.

And because of their example, I believed too. I set my sights high, and, with hard work and the help of many, I’ve done ok. I have a wonderful family. I got to lead a health insurance company that gave low-income people access to health care. And I served as a cabinet secretary for governor Deval Patrick – another little guy whose life story proves the American dream exists, and who never lost sight of all those continuing to reach for it.

But the values I learned from my parents are not unique to my family. They’re our values, American values. We have always believed in the little guy. We’ve always fought for the little guy. We’ve always understood that the little guy is us. And we have always believed we can overcome any challenge if we put our mind to it and work for it. Sadly, we don’t see these values in our elected leaders today. Many of us are angry and appalled at the direction of our nation. It has consumed us. We have poured our energy and activism into resisting. Because of that, we’re paying less attention to our leadership here at home. And we’ve lowered our expectations.

Look, I get it. It’s a relief to have a governor who seems nice and isn’t a crazy, right-wing extremist. With Donald Trump setting the bar so low, nice and not crazy seems pretty good. But it’s not good enough. Not for us. Not for Massachusetts. Now is not the time for us to lower our expectations. It’s time to raise them. The only place we’re going to make progress on the challenges holding regular people back is at the state level. Now more than ever, we need real leadership right here in Massachusetts.

We need a governor who will see the way the world should be and take us to that place. Let’s aim high. Let’s be us. No one has reached higher, worked harder and accomplished more together than the incredible people of Massachusetts. Think about it. We started the Revolutionary War. We were the first to establish a public school and a public park. The first to recognize one’s right to marry whomever you love. The first to make universal health insurance coverage a reality. The list goes on and on and on. This is who we are. We have always been a leader.

It’s time for us to lead again. When I’m your governor, we will aim high, and we will make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. We’ll give every child and family access to high-quality, affordable childcare and preschool by the end of my first term. And we’ll fully fund our public schools so that every child – every single child – has access to a great public education.

We’ll have a transportation system across this entire state that people can actually depend on to get to work on time. We’ll make the investments we need to make, and I’ll fire Keolis, the private operator of the commuter rail system. We’ll be more aggressive in fighting the opioid crisis. We’ll deliver a single payer health care system that’s simpler, cheaper, and does a better job keeping people healthy. This is a former health insurance CEO telling you we need to get rid of health insurance companies.

We’ll be a leader in taking on climate change. We’ll aim high for more affordable housing. Debt-free college. Stronger gun laws. Expanded opportunities for women and communities of color. Taking on sexual assault and harassment. And, most important, we’ll aim high when it comes to how we treat people.

We need a governor who will fight back against Donald Trump’s hateful and divisive rhetoric; aggressively counter his assault on basic protections and civil rights; and actually show up to stand with the LGBTQ community and women and immigrants and students raising their voices to be heard.

I will be that governor. I will stand up for every single person in this state. I will see you and hear you and respect you. And while I will operate from the head, I will lead from the heart. If that’s the type of governor you want, then I’m asking for your help throughout this campaign and for your vote in November.

Here is my commitment to you: This will be an honest, positive campaign. It will be a grassroots effort that relies on regular people engaging with their friends and colleagues and neighbors. It will not be a campaign fueled by dark money and wealthy special interests. And when the votes are counted on November 6, you will be able to hold your head high and be proud to have been a part of this campaign –proud of what the campaign stood for and proud of how we conducted ourselves. And I believe you will also be proud of the result. I know what we’re up against, an incumbent with millions of dollars of dark money, the wealthy special interests and corporate establishment on his side. All the political pundits declaring this race over before it has even started. But as we’ve seen in races across the country,incumbency and money and special interests and pundits don’t decide elections. We do. We decide.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

I know that I’m the “little guy” in this race, literally and figuratively. But I also know that time and time again, little guys overcome overwhelming odds when their cause is just, they aim high, work hard, and support each other along the way. That’s the lesson my parents taught me. They were just little guys who believed. It’s the lesson I’ve learned from people on the campaign trail and throughout my life who’ve overcome extraordinary challenges. Little guys who believed. It’s the lesson we’ve learned from the people of Massachusetts over and over again, from the colonists to the suffragists to the same sex marriage advocates. They all faced much steeper odds than we do. Yet they did not let anyone tell them they could not succeed. They believed.

Right now, we officially launch our general election campaign. And, with your help, I am 100 percent confident we will win this election. We will aim high. We will make Massachusetts a leader again. And we will make a meaningful difference for all the little guys out there.