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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Interview with Tim Cahill

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MASSPIRG spent the last few weeks registering students to vote during various events on campus

What is your background before public service?

I graduated from Boston University in 1981, I ran for city council right out of BU with a couple of friends of mine, guys I went to high school with. I was unsuccessful – the first race I ran, the only race I’ve lost. So we were looking for work. It was a similar market to today. We decided we wanted to open our own business, a gym. When we did research we realized it was too expensive. We decided we’d start with a juice bar and expand to the gym later, but the juice bar became Handshakes Cafe and we decided that was the route we were gonna take.

This year, why are you running for governor?

I don’t think the government we have right now is working. I am not only running for governor but left my party and am running as an independent. I did [this] last year based on my frustration with taxes, the lack of any initiatives for small businesses and the general malaise we have here regarding our economy: the fact that it’s not working, that we’re not growing jobs and that government doesn’t seem to understand the needs for small businesses to thrive and grow…

When the recession hit in 2008, I started to warn people that we were heading for a crash, that we had to restrict spending and get control of our finances. Those warnings fell on deaf ears, both in the Governor’s mansion and in the State House. I realized in 2009 that if I was gonna have a true impact it would have to be in the Governor’s office, not the Treasurer’s office.

Governance is a delicate balancing act. People want services but don’t want to pay higher taxes. Right now we have fiscal problems and can’t necessarily rely on help from the Federal government. Are there any programs you would cut?

There’d probably be a number of programs we would cut. I’m not ready to get into specifics right now, but I think we’d have to look at spending less on transportation, health and human services, possibly on education, healthcare, local aid… I think there can be no sacred cows. The next governor is going to have to be prepared to make cuts, more than likely across the board. I think those are the most difficult to get done but also the only way you can effectuate real savings, and let everyone know that there are no sacred cows. If you pick and choose you make it more difficult to make the real cuts when you have to. The key to making government work is at a level where taxes are at a reasonable cost and services are what people expect is to grow the economy.

How will you make up for the revenue shortfall that your tax cuts (sales tax and income tax) would create?

Well, it will only create a revenue shortfall in advance of us growing jobs. The goal is to increase revenue, or at least make up for the revenue through job growth. I think it’s doable. Its a supply-side argument but I believe in it and I know it works. You allow people to keep more of their money, especially small- and medium-size businesses and middle class people, and then their incentive is to spend or invest that money. When we had the last sales tax holiday we saw how much money people spent, how much taxes impact spending… what it shows is money will be spent if taxes aren’t too high.

Jobs can be created. We received in our revenue stream about $2.5 – $3 billion more in revenue when we’re at full employment than we have today. And there really is no other way to grow our revenue without bringing in more businesses, without running lower unemployment and creating more jobs. Cutting taxes will limit government spending, because you can’t spend what you don’t have; but at the end of the day I believe its the only way to grow revenues to a sustainable point where we can meet our needs, our fiduciary responsibility and our commitments to cities and towns.

Students at public institutions have been worried about increasing fees and reduced aid. What’s your policy going to be for public higher education?

As you know the budgets have already been cut. A big reason for that is so much more money has gone into healthcare spending. Reducing the cost and our commitment in the bottom line to healthcare will not only help in terms of reallocating some of that money to higher education but also reallocating some of it to local aid. I can’t promise that we would spend more on education during the first few years of a Cahill administration, but I will promise it will be a priority of ours to get the spending back up and the investment back up to a reasonable level so we don’t have to offset it with tuition or fee hikes. I like the idea of decentralizing the state college and university system so they can keep more of the money and decide on their level where it should be spent instead of having Beacon Hill decide.