Democratic gubernatorial candidate Danielle Allen dismissed Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposed two-month sales-tax holiday for Massachusetts Friday, saying the estimated $900 million Baker wants to return to residents would be better used for targeted investments in high-need areas.
“I think that we should be taking the opportunity of the [budget] surplus to consider strategic investments in our people, in our infrastructure, in our economy,” Allen said Friday in an interview on GBH’s Boston Public Radio.
“I think we should be making strategic investments — in childcare, in our public-health infrastructure, which requires modernization, just for starters," she added. "This is an opportunity for strategic vision, not incrementalism.”
Allen dismissed Baker’s assertion, in a BPR appearance Thursday, that the state can afford to part with a portion of a multi-billion-dollar cushion generated by federal aid and higher-than-expected tax revenues.
“The federal relief funds are a temporary piece,” Allen said. “The federal infrastructure bill plays out over a longer period of time, and that is actually a part of the picture of what we should be working with. But we’ve been running a budget for quite some period of time now that is not about reinvesting in our people, our infrastructure and our economy.”
Baker’s proposal has already received a cool reception in the Democrat-dominated Massachusetts Legislature, which would need to give its assent for the idea to become reality.
Allen also backed the idea of mandatory vaccination for some state employees in the interview, following fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Downing and Attorney General Maura Healey, who is thought to be weighing a run for governor.
“I do think that any job that involves working with vulnerable populations — that includes both elderly populations and incarcerated people — should have a requirement for vaccination,” Allen said. “I think that is a very basic part of ensuring health and safety in the work environment.”
Asked if Baker and Marylou Sudders, the state’s secretary of health and human services, bear responsibility for the COVID-19 outbreak that killed more than 70 veterans at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, Allen suggested they do.
“I think it was just a profound tragedy, and I do think the legislative-committee report that was recently released provides the right set of recommendations,” Allen said.
“There was a lack of oversight because of unfilled positions,” she added. “There was the hiring of somebody without professional qualifications [former Soldiers’ Home superintendent Bennett Walsh]. And then there was the fact that the facility was not a Medicaid-accredited facility. All of those things do land on the desk of our secretary and governor.”
On Thursday, Baker rejected BPR host Margery Eagan’s assertion that Francisco Ureña, the state’s former secretary of veterans affairs, has served as a “fall guy” for the Soldiers’ Home debacle.