BOSTON PUBLIC RADIO
4:56 pm
Wed October 9, 2013

Steve Grossman On Running For Governor Again: 'I Learned How To Be A Better Listener'

State Treasurer Steve Grossman talking with Attorney General Martha Coakley in 2009. Grossman is running for governor in 2014, as is Coakley.
Credit Martha Coakley / Flickr
Boston Public Radio's interview with MA Treas. Steve Grossman.

Massachusetts State Treasurer Steve Grossman stopped by Studio Three to talk with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan about his run for governor. Grossman is the former Chair of the Democratic National Committee. He ran for Massachusetts governor in 2002.

You were chair of the Democratic National Committee when Pres. Clinton was weathering his own shutdown. What do you make of this shutdown, and Pres. Obama's reluctance to negotiate changes to the Affordable Care Act?

Sit down and negotiate some changes that make good common sense, but don't do it with a gun at the head of the president, and of the country. That is not fair, that's not appropriate. (..) [It's] having a devastating effect, and will continue to have a devastating effect. If we get beyond October 17th, then it's really going to start to hurt, and that's going to hurt the country, our economy, our exports, it's freezing business people — they're not hiring — so, don't negotiate with a gun at your head, but let's negotiate common-sense things like the Medical Device Tax, which I agree should be repealed.

Should Pres. Obama be more conciliatory than he's been, to date?

I think the President always has been a person who's willing to reach out his hand and negotiate. But you've got a relatively small amount of people in the Republican coalition who are holding hostage the possibility of getting beyond the shutdown and getting back to the people's business.

What's the difference between you and AG Martha Coakley in the governor's race?

I think it's experience, and what that experience means in terms of what I'm prepared to focus on when I become governor.

Like what?

I've spent 35 years of my life running a successful business, growing jobs, creating jobs in the private sector. Took that experience into the Treasurer's office, made some commitments to the people of Massachusetts. Said we'd put the checkbook online, we did it. Said we'd put every contract out to bid that I was responsible for, we did it, saving tens of thousands of dollars. (..) My experience is in small business growth and economic development, job creation, and I'm going to continue to work because I do believe the people of this Commonwealth want a governor with proven leadership, who's going to leave no one behind.

The governor has a really big toolbox, with a lot of really big power tools.

What kind of public education do we need?

The governor's right, I agree with him — we need to clear the waiting lists and get the 30,000 kids who are on waiting lists for pre-K off those waiting lists and into programs. (..) If those kids aren't reading by the third grade, they fall behind, and that's not okay.

Where's the money coming from for that?

You find the money from new sources of revenue. One of the most important ones that I've been talking about was actually passed by the United States Senate, bipartisan majority, almost 20 Republican senators, and that's internet sales taxes. This is a matter of 'main street' fairness, by the way. We have 500,000 jobs in this Commonwealth, they come from the retail sector, it's a quarter of a billion dollars of additional revenue. I would use that money both for transportation and education.

Mayor Menino failed in trying to extend the school day in Boston. How will you succeed?

I think we have to sit down together, the business community, parents, educators, political leaders and say, What do we need to incorporate into public education at every level? I mean, we need to make our vocational technical schools far more appropriate. If we want to create 50,000 new manufacturing jobs in Massachusetts (..) then the business community, the vocational technical schools and the community colleges have to work together. We've got to take that graduation rate in our community colleges, which is now hovering at 17 to 18 percent, embarrassingly low, and bump it up to the national average of 24 percent. These things would all matter. Some of them have a price tag, some of them actually don't have a significant price tag.

You ran for governor back in 2002 and you dropped out midway before the seasons before we got to the final election. How do you get your message out in 2013?

Somebody asked me the other day, 'What did you learn from your race in 2002?' I said, I learned how to be a better listener, and listening to the needs of the people of this Commonwealth, listening to citizens and educators, and business people, and innovators, and people who start new companies. I think I have my finger on the pulse of what they need. Combine that with 35 of leadership, running a business, bringing progressive values into that business.

One of the things I care deeply about (..) is that 975,000 people woke up this morning and did not have a single hour of earned sick time. That means when they're sick, they go to work sick because they're afraid of getting fired. It means they send their kids to school sick with 102 temperature because they don't know how to get to work, and they're afraid of losing their jobs. This is an article of faith for me. We've had it in our company for 25 years.

(..) I think the platform that I have, of successful business owner, with progressive values, who became state treasurer, who made commitments and who has kept virtually every one of the commitments he made to the people of this Commonwealth, and now wants to take that into the corner office — because the governor has a really big toolbox, with a lot of really big power tools, and economic growth, job creation — there are resources there. That's why I'm running for governor.

Is Bill Clinton going to endorse you in this race?

He helped me when I ran for governor in 2002.

Have you asked him for his endorsement?

We haven't spoken yet. It's early.

Bus drivers for Boston Public Schools called a strike Tuesday. Why is there animus toward unions in Massachusetts?

[People working the private sector] think there's inequitable treatment with pensions, health benefits, etc. And somehow negotiations go in a direction that they just wouldn't in the private sector be able to take advantage of. So I think it's a sense of unfairness, imbalance, something of that nature. (..) When you look at the facts, the facts don't bear out the emotional response, but people tend to respond emotionally when the world in which they live has changed so dramatically, and they're having a hard time getting their arms around it.

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