The Republican candidate for governor of Massachusetts said Wednesday that unless the state reforms its government and cuts taxes, middle-income earners will move away and seniors will be forced to get on planes to visit their grandchildren.
During a debate sponsored by AARP, Charles Baker was relentless in using every answer to argue that Massachusetts had to make major overhauls if it hopes to remain strong. His implied target was Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, who stood two places to his left on the stage at historic Faneuil Hall.
"I think the most important thing we need to understand is if we want to be a great place to grow old, we need to be a great place to grow up, and Massachusetts is not creating net new jobs _ at all," Baker told a crowd of about 600 gathered in a historic debate venue, Faneuil Hall.
Complaining 18-to-35-year olds are moving away, he added: "If this trend continues, if we don' figure out how to be the kind of state where someone who makes $60,000 or $70,000, and is looking to plant a flag and make a life, can stay and grow up, then all of us are going to be getting on a plane to go visit our grandchildren instead of getting in a car."
Patrick expressed exasperation with the repeated criticism at one point, responding both to Baker and independent gubernatorial candidate Timothy Cahill, two advocates of tax cuts.
"You have heard all kinds of ideas here and agreement about investments we would make, but there are fiscal proposals made by gentlemen to my right here which would make all that impossible. And we better start talking to each other honestly about that," the governor said.
The fourth candidate in the race, Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein, repeatedly criticized state tax breaks for corporations, saying they deprive Massachusetts of revenue needed for social programs. A medical doctor, Stein won repeated applause as she complained about medical cost growth.
Seniors are among the most reliable bloc of voters across the country, and AARP is the nation's largest membership group for people aged 50 and over. The audience included silver-haired residents of communities across the state. They playfully and enthusiastically cheered the introduction of their community before the debate began.
The debate was moderated by WBZ-TV anchor Jack Williams.
The candidates meet again Wednesday evening in Springfield, and for a final time on Monday in a statewide televised debate sponsored by a media consortium.
The general election is on Nov. 2.