Dem. candidates’ debate: Questions and Answers

The debate was live on 22News and

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Three Democratic candidates for governor met for a debate at the 22News Broadcast Center in Chicopee on Wednesday, August 27. They answered questions from four members of a local media panel, some of which included questions you submitted to 22News via our Report It feature.

Here are the responses to those questions:

Question 1:
What plans, if any, do you have to reduce local property taxes or the state’s sales tax. Would you take a “no new taxes” pledge?

GROSSMAN: The next governor needs to invest in our infrastructure. Says he won’t take revenue off the table, but will make sure tax code is fairer for middle and lower income residents of the state.

BERWICK: Says he will invest in infrastructure. Healthcare reform and reducing waste will create jobs. Single-payer healthcare is needed, and he is the only candidate backing that. Says he will close tax loopholes. He says he is in favor of fair taxation; people with more income should pay a higher rate.

COAKLEY: Leading up to the recession, Wall Street took our money and gambled and lost it. Says that state has to play a bigger role and be a better partner to make sure cities and towns have the resources they need. Not interested in looking at real estate taxes at this time, but will review to see that communities have what they need.

Question 2:
If Massachusetts voters decide to repeal the state’s casino law, would you seek legislative action to allow MGM’s proposed Springfield casino to move forward anyway? How would you deal with lost revenue if the repeal happens?

BERWICK: Says he is the only candidate against casinos. Casinos kill jobs, add gambling addiction, and increase crime. Says the state already underfunds mental health service, and casinos must be opposed. States ultimately lose revenues from casinos because they have to spend more money on mental health care and public safety.

COAKLEY: Casinos would not be the first place she would go for economic development, but personally wouldn’t vote for the repeal. Worked with legislature to make sure they constructed gaming commission. Against internet gaming. Would like to see what happens with repeal, and wants to see if they can accommodate the wishes of the voters of Springfield.

GROSSMAN: Supports casinos in Massachusetts because they could fund important things like universal Pre-K. Will vote to keep it on ballot, but would not support or file legislation to keep a casino anywhere in Massachusetts if the people voted against it; government would have to support will of people.

Question 3:
The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families has been under scrutiny following death of Jeremiah Oliver and other high-profile cases. Which specific changes that have been made so far do you approve of, what would you do differently, and how would you pay for the changes you propose to make?

COAKLEY: We need to do better in how DCF makes the calls about the placement of children when there are questions of abuse. Says that there should be a special unit of the DCF that deals only with questions of abuse.

GROSSMAN: Good that social workers now have iPads and that there is an increased number of social workers. But says social workers are handling too many cases, and way too much funding to the department has been cut. This is unacceptable. There needs to be more research and better oversight and management.

BERWICK: DCF needs the remedies Gov. Patrick has proposed, and more. There needs to be better systems and a better effort at giving workers pride in what they do. There needs to be better communication between state agencies. State needs an executive that sets a new direction, not politicizing systems and choices.

Question 4:
There appears to be little oversight over how EBT cards are used. How do we address welfare fraud to ensure tax money is being spent properly?

GROSSMAN: Wants to make sure we have best technology to rein-in waste, fraud, and abuse. We are now better off due to recent improvements. But, he says, we are a compassionate society, and with 800,000 people on food stamps, there are thousands who desperately need support. Anyone who needs help should get it.

BERWICK: Has no patience with fraud and abuse, he made new efforts to catch fraud when he was the administrator of Medicare. We do have 230,000 kids with food insecurity and families that were suffering. We need to look at the bigger picture than welfare fraud, however. We need to look at influence of lobbyists, look at influence of big money such as in the Partners Healthcare deal.

COAKLEY: Is the responsibility of the state to make sure taxpayer money is being spent properly. Says she had experience with this kind of search for accountability when dealing with Big Dig. Has prosecuted convenience store owners for EBT fraud, and will continue to crack down on abusers.

Question 5:
Homeless families were supposed to get out of hotels by the end of June. Now, that deadline has come and gone, and 2,000 families are still in hotels. How much longer will families have to live there?

BERWICK: Homelessness is a huge problem in Massachusetts; 19,000 people are chronically homeless in this state. The state has cut its housing voucher program when we most need it, and that needs to change. It costs much more to keep families in hotels, and as governor, he will commit to 20,000 housing vouchers.

COAKLEY: What began as a short-term solution hasn’t been a good one. Housing the homeless in hotels isn’t a good way to deal with the problem short-term or long-term. The state needs to deal with the root causes, and see that families get back on their feet. We should deal with substance abuse and mental health issues, and see that homeless families find a safe place to live in the short run. Hotels are not a cost-effective solution.

GROSSMAN: We should talk about jobs; there are close to 200,000 people in Massachusetts who are unemployed. We need to create jobs. Says he was pleased with recent minimum wage hike, but even at $11/hr. it isn’t enough. There needs to be more high-quality affordable housing. So far, state government hasn’t found a way to adequately fill the gap caused by federal cuts to voucher program.

Question 6:
Gov. Patrick supports temporarily housing migrant youth in Massachusetts. He also supports the DREAM Act, and initially opposed the federal Secure Communities program. As governor, how will you approach immigration-related issues.

COAKLEY: Says she hoped there would be a federal solution to immigration situation. She has supported the DREAM Act, supports in-state tuition for undocumented students. She had previously opposed drivers licenses for undocumented, but is looking at issue again.

GROSSMAN: Says Coakley hasn’t supported drivers licenses for undocumented residents. It is unsafe for all of us to have unlicensed drivers on our roads. Coakley has supported secure communities, he doesn’t. Deportations have torn families apart. Supports DREAM Act because it’s the right thing to do.

BERWICK: Says he just heard more bickering back and forth. The state needs a commitment to social justice and equality. There is no such thing as an “illegal person.” Immigrants need access to licenses and in-state tuition, and we need TRUST Act. Massachusetts needs new leadership, and a governor that takes a stand in favor of human rights and doesn’t just look at polls.

Question 7:
Springfield just had its 10th homicide of 2014. C-3 policing is supported by new commissioner, is that something you support? What would you do to reduce crime in the state?

GROSSMAN: A lesson we learned from Ferguson was that when the community doesn’t have a strong voice, bad things happen. The community needs to trust the police or crimes will go unsolved. Says he disagrees with Coakley on gun issue completely, and wants to limit gun sales.

BERWICK: Again we heard more of the same; says he is sure Coakley doesn’t want guns on our streets. Springfield is in distress due to violence and economic downturn. Springfield does not need casinos to add to public safety issues. We need to look at the root causes of crime, such as injustice, inequality, and residual racism.

COAKLEY: Says she worked in law enforcement for a long period of time. When we cut back on law enforcement funding and funding that goes toward community, crime goes up. Says she agrees that there needs to be communication between the police and the communities they serve. Supports the gun bill that just went through the legislature.

Question 8:
Do you support Kinder Morgan’s proposed natural gas pipeline across Massachusetts, or would you use your power as governor to stop some of their permits?

BERWICK: Says he is against it, and was the first candidate to oppose it. We can have a great future, and eventually the chance to be the first carbon-neutral state. We need to build our clean energy industry, which will grow our economy; we need to invest on wind power. As governor, he will have a plan to minimize overall use of natural gas.

COAKLEY: Acknowledges that we need “bridge” fuels to ensure we have cost-effective energy, but opposes this specific proposal. We need to follow Gov. Patrick’s lead and look at the future of energy in Mass, and ensure we hit our goals.

GROSSMAN: Says he has expressed deep concern about this project. We’re losing 30% of our natural gas due to our aging infrastructure. This is the wrong plan, cannot and will not support this. We are about to lose some of our power, however, and we need to replace that. Would support more wind, solar, and hydroelectric power from Canada. We will keep using natural gas, but will be a bridge fuel.

Question 9:
Would you support a high-speed commuter rail link from western Massachusetts to Boston? Other than the I-91 viaduct project, what transportation projects would you support here in WMass?

COAKLEY: We have not had regional equity in the investments we have made in infrastructure. Proposes half a billion dollars in investment over the next 10 years to improve infrastructure. We have let our roads and bridges go across the Commonwealth, and that needs to change.

GROSSMAN: Supports high-speed rail link from Springfield to Boston, cited example of commuter rail traffic between Worcester and Boston. Twenty trains go back and forth to Worcester every day, resulting in thousands of jobs; this can work in Springfield. In the nearer-term, the Knowledge Corridor link with Connecticut and Vermont will also be of great benefit to Springfield, Holyoke, and other WMass communities.

BERWICK: Supports Knowledge Corridor improvements, and looks with great interest in an east-west connection. Says we do need to closely look at regional transit; cited example of Greenfield where transit shuts down after a certain time at night. Says the problem with transportation is politicians talking and promising, but not delivering.

Question 10:
Opiate addiction has been in increased focus in recent years. What will you do to deal with this crisis down the road?

GROSSMAN: Opiate addiction is a problem that has touched nearly everyone in some way. As governor, he will halt all new prison construction. Says we have been incarcerating large numbers of members of people, particularly from the African American and Latino communities. We need to treat opioid crisis as a healthcare crisis; not a criminal justice crisis.

BERWICK: Says he will seek a 50% reduction in substance abuse and suicide in five years; this can be done. We have made unacceptable cuts to important treatment programs. Casinos will increase gambling addiction, which is just as bad as drug abuse.

COAKLEY: It is heartbreaking to hear from parents who have been dealing with their children’s addiction. We need to look at ways to keep people out of trouble, but if they do, we need to be able to help them.

Question 11:
Separate political questions for each candidate

For Berwick: Why should Democrats that don’t support you think that you aren’t a spoiler?

BERWICK: Says he is in this race to win. He have a strong organization, and is the most progressive candidate. People want progressive change, and are sick of politics as usual. Says he is the only candidate that hasn’t lost a statewide election, and has set of skills from outside political sphere.

For Coakley: Following criticisms of a settlement she made as attorney general from her former assistant Maura Healey, and after several statewide races, why shouldn’t people question your political acumen?

COAKLEY: Says she stands on her judgment in case that Maura Healey criticized. Says she has stood on her judgement on standing up to Wall Street, standing up to DOMA, and against big utilities that overcharged their customers. She has explained why she did what she did in high-profile and controversial questions.

For Grossman: Why haven’t you been able to make race closer?

GROSSMAN: Thinks it’s notable that Maura Healey questioned how money from a children’s hospital ended up in the hands of lobbyists, and says it was a legitimate issue to bring up. Says his polling numbers are increasing dramatically because he is a proven job creator, which is what the state needs.

Question 12:
In the next governor’s term, it is likely that legalizing recreational marijuana will become a ballot question. Would you support legalization?

COAKLEY: Says she does not support full legalization at this time. She wants to see what happens in Washington and Colorado. She agrees people who need medical marijuana should have access to it, but there should be tighter controls.

GROSSMAN: Also thinks we should wait and see what happened in Washington and Colorado. The Medical Marijuana process in Massachusetts has been a fiasco. Says the state has vetted candidates AFTER they were allowed to move forward in the process, which makes no sense.

BERWICK: Says that we need to have access to medical marijuana, and that he knows that as a physician. He would wait to see what happens in Colorado and Washington. Says that the state doesn’t need a politician, it needs a proven manager.

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