Gov. Maura Healey used her speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Thursday to pitch the various components of her tax relief package and $55.5 billion budget as a down payment on the state’s future, saying she sees a “big need” to improve the quality of life for Massachusetts families.

Healey told the crowd of nearly 800 people gathered at the Westin Copley Place that the conversation around quality of life starts with affordability. She said her budget and tax plan propose ways to lower costs, improve schools, train workers and grow the state’s economy, and that those measures are central to keeping Massachusetts competitive with other states.

“We need to make Massachusetts more affordable if we want to attract and retain talent, and we need to connect workers with job opportunities and create that pipeline, and we need to do it yesterday,” Healey said.

As one pathway into the workforce, Healey highlighted a $20 million plan in her budget to make community college free for adults age 25 and up.

Healey’s budget would boost state spending 4% over this year. Along with it, she filed a $742 million package of tax reforms that features breaks for renters, seniors, and people caring for children under 13 and other dependents

Two pieces of Healey’s tax package — a lower tax rate for short-term capital gains and a higher threshold for the estate tax, so it would kick in for estates valued at $3 million instead of the current $1 million — earned praise from business groups like the Chamber, but sparked criticism from progressive circles.

"By spending hundreds of millions of dollars on permanent tax giveaways to the wealthy, the governor’s budget proposal limits the state's ability to make even greater investments in public higher education today, and threatens the state’s ability to fully fund public education from pre-K through college in future years," Vatsady Sivongxay, executive director of the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance, said in her statement.

In an interview later Thursday on GBH’s Boston Public Radio, Healey defended her moves on the estate and short-term capital gains taxes as ways to bring Massachusetts’ tax policy more in line with other states.

“Only 12 states even have an estate tax, and at a million dollars, … we have the lowest cap in the country, along with the state of Oregon, so you know, I understand this is a subject of debate,” Healey said. “But honestly, I am focused on affordability and I am focused on competitiveness and making sure that residents and families are able to grow and thrive here in the state.

She said Massachusetts is an outlier as well on its capital gains tax, as one of only three states that tax short-term capital gains at a higher rate than gains on assets held for longer than a year.

Healey covered several other topics during her radio appearance.

  • In other budget matters, Healey said she’s proposing the highest-ever level of funding for the Massachusetts Cultural Council, at $25 million, as well as the largest amount of funding for K-12 education.
  • She voiced support for banning ghost guns, untraceable weapons that are assembled through parts often bought online or made with 3-D printers. “We need to do everything we can to get rid of them,” Healey said, describing the emergence of ghost guns as a serious issue across the country.
  • Responding to a question from a Barnstable High School student visiting the Boston Public Library on a field trip, Healey said her administration will work to bring younger people’s voices to the table and that she “might even have a youth council of my own” at some point.
  • She said she’ll back President Joe Biden if he seeks another term in the White House as expected.