BOSTON (WWLP) – Candidate for governor Maura Healey on Sunday denied she’s abandoning some of her boldness to avoid making a campaign misstep and promised to help create a “whole climate corridor” in Massachusetts to help the world move away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.
During an interview on WCVB’s “On The Record” program, Healey also declined to say if she supported removing a 1986 voter law that is leading to nearly $3 billion in tax refunds this fall, and also would not say whether she would encourage more migrants fleeing conditions in their home countries to come to Massachusetts.
Healey, a Democrat who is winding down her second term as attorney general, suggested solutions to issues stemming from more migrants arriving in the United States need to be tackled in Washington.
“I mean Congress needs to act, and we need comprehensive immigration reform that will solve a lot of these problems,” she said.
She said immigrants can play a role in filling workforce shortages that employers are feeling across the state.
“I talk to employers all over the state. And we need a workforce, we need workers, no doubt, for a range of industries. And one way we’re going to get there is by comprehensive, national immigration reform,” she said.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last month helped engineer the transportation of about 50 Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, blaming the Biden administration for a surge of illegal immigration and asserting that he was directing the migrants to a “sanctuary jurisdiction” where they would be “able to go to greener pastures.”
Healey called the move a “political stunt” and speculated that it was tied to DeSantis’ presidential hopes.
On the topic of energy and climate change, Massachusetts has a law designed to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and co-host Ed Harding asked if that was soon enough or if Massachusetts should do better.
Healey didn’t say whether 2050 was soon enough and said the state “has been really aggressive” and “we need to continue to be aggressive in this space.”
She said a lot of technology enabling the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is being developed in Massachusetts, creating an opportunity to create a “whole climate corridor” here.
“We ought to take advantage of that,” she said. “We ought to use that to harness manufacturing to create great, great jobs and there are so many jobs that are available in this space. It’s the now, it’s the future and Massachusetts should take advantage of it. And as governor, I promise I will be really competitive on this.”
On taxes, Healey reaffirmed her support for a constitutional amendment authorizing a 4 percent surtax on annual household income above $1 million, a change that could generate $1.3 billion a year in new revenue.
“This is a really targeted measure that’s going to affect less than one percent of the population here in Massachusetts,” she said.
Healey also said “we need tax relief” and referenced her support for the nearly $3 billion in refunds Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration is readying under the 1986 tax cap law that requires taxpayers to share when tax surpluses reach a certain level – state tax collections rose more than 20 percent last fiscal year.
Like Baker, Healey urged the Legislature to also move forward with a tax relief package they approved earlier this year that affects seniors renters, low-income residents, and the estate tax.
“That needs to happen and again I hope that we see the Legislature move on that quickly,” Healey said.
Income surtax opponents warn that while it is intended to generate new revenue exclusively for education and transportation, the Legislature could also reduce spending in those areas that are tied to existing revenues.
When co-host Janet Wu pressed Healey to commit to spending surtax revenue on transportation and education “in addition” to other revenues for those purposes, Healey said, “I don’t really understand the debate there Janet. I mean, my office and I had to look at this. And it’s pretty clear under the law that, the voters act and pass Question 1, that money would go towards infrastructure, transportation, and education.”
“In addition to what’s being spent right now?” Wu responded.
“In addition,” Healey said. “That’s right.”
Some Democrats have sharply criticized the 1986 law (Chapter 62F) that’s leading to the historic tax refunds, which will flow in the largest numbers to some of the state’s highest earners.
Wu asked Healey if that voter law should be removed or stay in place. “I’m not sure about that,” Healey said. “I mean, ultimately, it’d be up to the Legislature to decide.”
Asked if popular Republican Gov. Charlie Baker would be “the model” for the type of governor Healey would be, the attorney general said she had “high regard and respect for the way that Governor Baker has led.”
“Obviously, the next governor will have to put her own mark on government and the administration,” she said. “But I’ll tell you, I’m going to continue with what’s working and look to fix what isn’t.”
On proposals to expand the Supreme Court, Healey twice did not answer when asked if she supported that move, which is favored by critics of the current right-leaning court, before being asked a third time. “I don’t think that’s a solution,” she said, regarding court expansion.
“That court has become so politicized and it’s really sad as a lawyer to see that,” she said. Healey warned that “there are going to be some really problematic decisions that are going to come in the next year” and urged people to vote in U.S. Senate races since court nominees need Senate confirmation, and in governor’s races since the court is pushing debates over “people’s rights and freedoms” to the states.
Wu capped the interview by asking Healey, who leads Republican opponent Geoff Diehl in the polls, whether she has abandoned her boldness as attorney general in order to avoid missteps that could lose her votes.
“No,” said Healey, a former pro basketball player. “I was an athlete and as any athlete, the last thing you do is play it safe.” She later added, “Yeah, you just gotta play. You always play like you’re 17 points behind and the surest way to lose any sport and any game is to play it safe. You just have to be who you are.”