In the seventh Rappaport Roundtable discussion, United Independent Party candidate Evan Falchuk pledged “smart, brave reform” on issues including health care, fiscal policy, taxes, education and campaign finance if elected to the corner office.
Falchuk, an attorney who spent 15 years on the executive team of Boston-based Best Doctors Inc. and has been active with organizations such as the National Coalition on Health Care, said he founded the United Independent Party on the premises that everyone is equal; everyone’s civil rights have to be protected; and government must spend the state’s money wisely.
“I was always someone who looked for candidates who believed in fiscally sensible solutions, forward thinking, pragmatic new ideas, but what I found were a lot of candidates that wanted to argue about left versus right and big government versus small government and high taxes versus low taxes,” Falchuk said during the seventh in a series of gubernatorial roundtable discussions sponsored by the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service at Suffolk University Law School. “So rather than just complain about it, I decided to do something about it. That’s why I'm running for governor.”
'Health care monopolies'
Falchuk, 44, said he would work to stop ongoing hospital consolidations and mergers, which he dubbed “health care monopolies” responsible for causing health care costs to spike.
“As hospitals consolidate and get bigger, they increase their prices,” he said. “They use their market power in that way, and that passes through to consumers and businesses in the form of higher insurance premiums. It has to stop.”
Falchuk said his administration would conduct a “thorough line-by-line” review of the state’s budget to target misallocation of finances and stop unnecessary, large tax breaks for corporations. Falchuk called for the formation of a Massachusetts tax modernization commission responsible for envisioning a more progressive 21st century tax code. He also wants an independent state budget office comprised of members of a Falchuk administration who would be tasked with providing concrete fiscal numbers.
Investment in foundations of growth
Falchuk said that the state must continue making substantial investments in “foundations of economic growth” over the next 100 years in housing, transportation initiatives —including the South Coast Rail project —and education.
Falchuk said he favors enriching students’ lives through greater emphasis on creative arts and learning a second language.
“Students should be graduating in Massachusetts with independence, with resilience, with critical thinking skills, with grit, with the knowledge that they can overcome obstacles,” he said. “We have to re-think the way our education system works to focus on those outcomes.”
He said that investment in community colleges and technical schools would serve to better meet employers’ job needs. Falchuk said he would consider initiatives whereby Massachusetts high school graduates could be offered grants for a free tech school or community college education so that they could gain the skills to be productive citizens of the commonwealth.
Falchuk said his reforms also would target “corrupt” campaign finance laws that show greater partiality towards defined parties.
Asked whether he would vote for or against the casino referendum if he were a Revere resident, Falchuk said he would vote against a casino if it were being considered in his home town of Newton. Falchuk added that while he did not have an “ideological bent” against casinos, he said state energies should be equally directed towards such issues as health care costs.
Massachusetts must also make greater investments in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar rather than placing primary reliance on natural gas as an alternative energy source, according to Falchuk. He said that the state should prepare for potential global warming consequences by “hardening” infrastructure.
Falchuk said he already is seeing members of his party running for legislative and other offices.
“The mission and the goal here have not been to create a third party in Massachusetts, it’s to create a second party in Massachusetts,” he said. “That’s what United Independent Party is going to be, and I can see it.”
A major priority for Falchuk if elected would be to establish connections with the state’s Senate president and House speaker.
“They will be two of the first people that I talk to, not in January but in November after the election, because I will need their help and support, and I want to make sure that I'm working with them,” he said.
While Falchuk said he supported the legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts, he added that it should be up to the Legislature, not a ballot initiatives, to examine related public health consequences, tax protocol and education initiatives.
“We need to have a broad-based public consensus around the issue,” he said.
Addressing controversies surrounding the state’s drug lab and Department of Children and Families, Falchuk said a governor should to be accountable for fixing problems and instilling confidence that such situations are being remedied.
“In any organization the buck stops with you,” Falchuk said, saying that DCF chief Olga Roche should be removed from office. “You've got an obligation to fix it, to communicate to others, to give them confidence that you know what you're doing and to move on.”
Falchuk said that during his campaign he has traveled to 100 cities and towns throughout Massachusetts with the goal of “earning” votes from unenrolled voters, not “taking” them.
“I think every candidate has an obligation to earn those votes and not to say, well you fit this demographic so you're going to vote in this way,” he said.
The Rappaport Roundtable series, made possible by the support of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, gives all nine gubernatorial candidates the opportunity to introduce themselves, make their case to the electorate, outline their priorities, and discuss pressing policy issues facing the commonwealth today, in 2015 and beyond.