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10 Reasons to Vote for Martha Coakley (from a Don Berwick Supporter)
I was a strong supporter of Don Berwick, and Martha Coakley was my last choice in the Democratic Primary. She is painfully vague on some important questions, but I’ve found enough in her and Charlie Baker’s websites, in their answers to questionnaires, and in their responses to interview questions, to feel confident in making a strong recommendation that voting for Martha Coakley is what we have to do on Election Day.
Here, then, are Ten Reasons to Vote for Martha Coakley for Governor:
#1. Charlie Baker’s No Tax Pledge renders the rest of his campaign commitments as empty rhetoric. Although Charlie Baker appears to have more specific proposals for addressing the Commonwealth’s challenges, he has made a no-new- taxes pledge and picked a Tea Party Republican as his running mate. If there’s one thing that anyone who’s running on his record as a CEO should know, it’s that implementing good ideas takes resources.
Charlie Baker talks about creating an annual fund of $100 million for infrastructure repair … at the same time as he opposes indexing the gas tax. He commits to increasing Local Aid; he talks about increasing State Budget spending on environmental programs, including more land acquisition , working with coastal cities and towns to develop and implement strategies for addressing rising sea level and storm-related concerns; he promises increased resources for treatment for addiction; he talks about expanding rehabilitative services for incarcerated persons; he calls for more extensive supportive services for homeless families and families at risk of homelessness … all without increasing taxes or adding to the burdens of cities and towns. We’ve had Republican presidents and governors who made those same kinds of “you-can-have-it-all-and-it-won’t-cost-you-anything” promises, and we know that it just isn’t possible.
Baker does have some good ideas, and makes commitments we would like to believe in. But good CEOs know that with limited resources you have to make choices. When Harvard Pilgrim faced huge budget deficits, Charlie Baker made the decision to withdraw from the Western Mass. Medicare market, and terminate coverage to 3,500 seniors. As the Boston Globe reported, the consequences of Harvard Pilgrim’s fiscal belt-tightening were even harsher for Rhode Island subscribers: “In December 1999, an ailing Harvard Pilgrim Health Care pulled out of Rhode Island with two months’ notice, shuttering the company’s three health centers there and forcing 1,200 physicians and other employees to search for new jobs. Thousands of patients suddenly had to find new doctors, and about 128,000 subscribers scrambled for other health insurance. The Ocean State accounted for about 10 percent of Harvard Pilgrim’s customers but 45 percent of its losses, and to save the company, new chief executive Charles D. Baker essentially cut off its Rhode Island leg.”
These are the kind of decisions you make as a steely-eyed business executive, when you have only one bottom line. As a jurisdictional or state leader, the people you take an oath of office to serve, the environment you are entrusted to protect, and the future you commit to ensuring on behalf of the generations too young to vote are your bottom lines… in addition to taxpayers, bondholders, and campaign donors.
Charlie Baker’s good ideas are only campaign rhetoric … unless there are resources to back them up. And by making a no new taxes commitment, he has boxed himself into a corner, from which he won’t be able to implement them.
#2. Martha Coakley is Right on 3 out of 4 Questions; Charlie Baker Takes All the Wrong Positions
On Question 1, Coakley supports gas tax indexing; Baker opposes it. While none of us think the gas tax is the most progressive alternative, it is some of the only funding consistently available for infrastructure repair and development. If the gas tax was based on the price of gas and not the number of gallons sold, revenues would have gone up over the past decades without any indexing. As it is, with cars getting better mileage — which of course is a good thing — gas tax revenue will go down without indexing. And anyone who expects Mass. Legislators to proactively raise other funds for infrastructure, just hasn’t been paying attention. As it is, the legislatively enacted gas tax increase was only a fraction of what’s needed to address a two decade backlog of infrastructure repair during the Weld, Cellucci, and Romney administrations.
- On Question 2, Coakley supports the expanded bottle bill; Baker opposes it. While 80% of bottles with deposits are redeemed and recycled, only 23% of water and sports drink containers are redeemed or recycled; the rest end up as litter or landfill material. At a recent forum, Martha Coakley was unambiguously supportive, while Charlie Baker was unable to provide a clear reason for voting NO. The bottling industry has been taken to task for its misleading advertisements. Charlie Baker is on their side; Martha Coakley is on ours.
- On Question 3, alas, both Coakley and Baker have been hoodwinked by the gambling industry. Do I wish that Don Berwick was on the November ballot? Next question.
- On Question 4, Coakley is strongly in support of earned sick time (YES on Question 4). Charlie Baker opposes Question 4, claiming that only companies with 50 or more employees should have to offer paid sick time. The ballot initiative requires companies with 11 or more employees to allow workers to accrue paid sick time, and smaller companies to allow workers to accrue unpaid sick time. For thousands of low wage workers who are a paycheck away from eviction or utility shutoff or hunger, Charlie Baker’s proposal would continue to leave only one viable choice: coming to work sick, where they infect their co-workers and customers.#3.CharlieBakersupportstheDeathPenalty;MarthaCoakleyopposesit. AsnotedinaBostonGlobearticleabout Bakers support for capital punishment in his last campaign, in addition to everything else that’s wrong with the death penalty, it costs significantly more to pursue and implement than a prison alternative.#4. Martha Coakley’s education policies are more in line with the realities of working people.
- Recognizing the increasing body of evidence of the importance of pre-school participation and educationalpreparedness in determining educational and professional outcomes, Martha Coakley has made universalaccess to early education a top priority, starting with Massachusetts Gateway Cities; Charlie Baker has not.
- With respect to higher education, Martha Coakley’s platform calls for full-need financial aid for studentsattending the state’s Community Colleges; Charlie Baker has instead called for on-line learning options and three-year degrees … which might be great for high-performing students, but is completely unrealistic for average working class community college students who need to support themselves while they learn.
- Martha Coakley understands and has worked to expose and punish the exploitive practices of for-profit colleges that provide misleading advice to prospective students about the courseloads they can handle and about the employment outcomes they can count on … and then grow rich on the educational loans their students can’t afford to repay; Charlie Baker is silent on this issue.#5.MarthaCoakleymoresquarelyaddressestheneedforcorrectionsreform. Althoughshedoesn’tgoasfarinfavor of sentencing reform and community corrections as many progressives would like, Martha Coakley is explicit in her opposition to the construction of new prisons, so that we can “shift funding from prison expansion to focus on crime prevention and prisoner rehabilitation, including diversion, education and job training programs for court-involved or incarcerated individuals, and an expanded network of supports for individuals transition back into society, including behavioral health counseling. This effort will bring down costs, reduce recidivism and improve public safety.” Charlie Baker agrees about the potential benefit of alternatives to incarceration, including treatment, of non-violent offenders, but is silent on the question of more prisons. Both candidates favor elimination of mandatory minimums for drug- related non-violent crimes.#6. Martha Coakley has the passion to lead on gender-related issues and improving access to behavioral health care. Martha Coakley is clearly committed to addressing gender inequities at the workplace, protecting access to reproductive health and choice, and better addressing domestic violence. And she is equally committed to improving access to behavioral health care. Charlie Baker may not be far behind her on these issues, but they are Martha Coakley’s passion, and that means they will be high priorities, and not get lost in a sea of other agenda items.
#7. Charlie Baker is a health care demagogue. On health care, where you might hope he would excel, Charlie Baker offers the same tired — and misleading — rhetoric about controlling costs by giving consumers more and better cost information upon which to make their decisions and by insisting on the need for a waiver from Obamacare.
First of all, the Commonwealth is already pursuing the path towards transparency with the implementation of http://www.getthedealoncare.org/ pursuant to the Massachusetts Health Care Cost Containment law, Chapter 224 of the Acts of 2012. But realistically, does anyone expect to control health care costs by asking consumers — people like you or me who need medical care to resolve a health problem — to put lower cost ahead of greater reliability or quality when we shop around for care? Do we as individual consumers have the leverage to bargain down providers? When we have an urgent need for care, are we really going to shop around? Are residents of less well-served regions of the state going to seek care halfway across the Commonwealth to save their insurers a few dollars? Or, is Charlie Baker suggesting that the best way to save money is to force consumers to pay more of the cost of their care out of pocket? Health care relationships are based on trust; Making a decision about where to access treatment is not like figuring out which outlet has the cheapest pair of name brand jeans.
What we need is the kind of cost containment with incentives for quality that is part of the financing initiatives in Obamacare … which Charlie Baker wants to make Massachusetts exempt from (although most of his rhetoric is focused on the website). What we really need is single payer, but with Don Berwick off the ballot, there won’t be anyone in the corner office championing the best option.
Did Martha Coakley hand Partners a win in her effort to demonstrate competence on the health care front during the battle for the Democratic nomination? Probably. Is she more likely to advocate for consumers than the industry, given her background and experience as the Attorney General. I believe so. I give the advantage to Coakley on this issue, because good intentions matter more than expertise put to use to protect the wrong interests.
#8. On Gun control, I give the nod to Martha Coakley, because she didn’t choose a running mate with 100% ratings from the NRA and the Gun Owners’ Action League. Both Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker have come out in favor of gun control (although in a nod to gun rights groups, Charlie Baker affirms his support for the Second Amendment; is he suggesting Martha Coakley opposes it?). On the other hand, Karyn Polito, Baker’s running mate (a heartbeat away from the corner office) has a 100% rating from the NRA and the Gun Owners’ Action League. (Baker has discredited a SuperPAC ad by Coakley supporters claiming he opposed an assault weapons ban. http://www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/10/republican_charlie_baker_defen.html )
#9. Martha Coakley has been clear in her opposition to the Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline in Western Mass., an issue on which Baker has failed to take a public stand on. Both candidates understand the need for action to address climate change, and both have stated commitment to pursuing alternative energy sources and lower emission technologies. With her stand on the Kinder Morgan pipeline, Martha Coakley demonstrates her willingness to make hard decisions on energy choices.
#10. Martha Coakley pledged to increase funding for State Public Housing and for the Mass. Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) at a CHAPA-sponsored forum on affordable housing and homelessness at Faneuil Hall in September. At a time when thousands of homeless families are in shelter or motels, MRVPs are funded at half of the 1990 level. (Charlie Baker didn’t attend the forum; Democrats Berwick, Coakley, and Grossman; Republican Fisher; and independents Falchuk and McCormick all did.) Coakley’s platform on housing and homelessness focuses primarily on her excellent work on addressing foreclosures, but pretty much ignores the shortage of affordable rental housing and homelessness. Charlie Baker has little to say about affordable housing, but has given considerable thought to the problem and costs to the Commonwealth of family homelessness, and he deserves credit for that. But, given the historic failure of short-term fixes, and the demonstrated need among so many families for extended housing assistance, Charlie Baker’s failure to recommend increased funding for MRVP subsidies is a glaring and serious omission, and Coakley gets the nod for coming in on the right side of this issue.