Mass. lieutenant governor candidates on the issues

Candidates for lt. gov.

The Globe asked the three Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor questions about the issues.
Deborah Goldberg
Former Chairman of Board of Selectmen in Brookline
Timothy P. Murray
Three terms as Mayor of Worcester
Andrea Silbert
Co-founder and former CEO of the Center for Women & Enterprise
Q. Do you support an immediate rollback of the state income tax rate? Why or why not?
I believe that we must give the residents of Massachusetts what they voted for in 2000. However, I do not believe that we can handcuff the state’s fi nances with an immediate rollback. By increasing the state’s revenues, through long-term sustainable economic growth we will be able to afford the income tax rollback. No. Getting to 5 percent is a worthy long-term goal, but rather than an immediate income tax rollback we need to direct more local aid to cities and towns to stabilize property taxes and restore services. We should use some of the state’s surplus revenue to establish a rainy day fund earmarked solely for local aid to cities and towns. The fund would serve as a fi nancial insurance policy for municipalities to help smooth out the impact of the dips in the state’s economy. This local aid fund would be tapped during years of slow growth or recession. I believe that if we roll back the income tax rate now while not restoring local aid, we will see increased property taxes to pay for schools and basic services. For that reason, I am against an immediate rollback of the income tax and would prefer property tax relief. Also, as a former financial analyst, I understand that our state revenues are not stable because we are still down 150,000 jobs since 2001. Income taxes from wages are the primary and most dependable revenue source in the state budget.
Q. With housing prices out of reach for many families, how would you pressure cities and towns to allow more multi-family housing to be built?
The cost of living in Massachusetts is just one of the reasons that we are losing population and jobs year after year. Homes that are affordable are crucial to allowing our children and grandchildren to stay and work in Massachusetts. In my own community I was able to help save over 500 units of affordable senior housing from being sold at market rate. Communities need a partner in the State House that can advocate for funding to address the long-term costs of multifamily housing, such as strains on their schools and infrastructure. Two ways the state can help promote more affordable housing are to get serious about commuter rail improvements and brownfi elds reclamation. Expanding and improving commuter rail service can link the state’s major employment centers to communities where housing and the cost of living are more reasonable. Similarly, reclaiming old industrial mill buildings and converting them into housing opportunities is a proven way to expand the stock of affordable and moderately priced housing in our cities. The state also needs to direct more local aid to cities and towns to ease the burden of the property tax. I strongly support smart growth, encouraging transitoriented and high-density housing, locating new homes near public transit and in our city and town centers, rather than clearing more green space for development. Because many families like my own can better afford homes further out from their places of work, I support improving and expanding mass transit and commuter rail service to places like New Bedford, Fall River, Springfield, and Bourne, so that families can live in communities with more affordable housing and commute to their jobs.
Q. Is it time the state raise the minimum passing score on the MCAS? Why or why not?
I believe in high standards, standards for our teachers, our students, and our leadership. However, I disagree with the MCAS serving as the sole benchmark for graduation. The current administration has slashed local aid and Chapter 70 funding to public schools, and yet they raised the stakes of the exam. I disagree with that equation, but support using the test as one form of assessment. The proposal to increase MCAS scores recently adopted by the state is reasonable, so long as we put up the commensurate resources. We should never shy away from high standards in our schools. At the same time, we can’t expect to achieve those standards by slashing programs that we know help children at the margins learn and succeed. I do not feel that we should be raising the minimum passing score for the MCAS until we do more to help the students who are not passing the test to receive the additional tutoring and remedial education they need to catch up. One of my priorities is diminishing the ‘’achievement gap’’ where many of the children from low-income and disadvantaged communities are struggling.
Q. A coalition opposed to gay marriage is trying to put a ban on the 2008 ballot. How involved would you be in lobbying for or against the measure?
This issue was resolved by the Massachusetts Supreme Court, and we cannot leave civil rights issues up to ballot measures. If elected, I would work hard to see that the Legislature defeats the measure and then focuses on the real concerns of the state: our economy growing at half the rate of the rest of the country, a steady loss of population and jobs, our underfunded cities and towns, and the rising cost of living here in Massachusetts. I support marriage equality for all people. I would vigorously oppose any measure to take away a person’s right to marry. I oppose the proposed gay marriage ban in the strongest terms possible and would be very active in lobbying legislators to defeat it. I am fortunate to be married to a wonderful man, Craig Caldwell, and I believe everyone should have the same right to marry the person he or she loves. I am the only candidate in my race who has consistently opposed the Legislature having an up-or-down vote on the amendment. I just don’t believe civil rights should be put up for a vote.
Q. Some school systems are hitting a state cap that limits the number of students that can enroll in charter schools. Do you support or oppose raising the cap on charter schools?
I do not support raising the cap on charter schools, because we have so much invested in our public schools that we must look to improve them from within. The Pilot Schools initiative - which is an effective, proven, and successful model - does just that. In fact, Los Angeles has studied school choice throughout the country and plans to mirror Boston’s efforts in their own public school system. Before I would support any expansion of charter schools, I would like to see the programs that have been devastated in our traditional public schools under Romney-Healey restored. Also, we need to take the examples of stunning success that exist today in many traditional public schools across Massachusetts and give all school districts the resources they need to replicate those successes. I support raising the cap on charter public schools. Parents and children are speaking with their feet on this issue. The Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester has a waiting list of 2,000 children. There is a huge demand for schools that are using innovative techniques. We need to take the lessons from the successful charter public schools and bring them to the district public schools.