GOP State Treasurer candidate Mike Heffernan believes Republican leadership needed
PITTSFIELD -- Mike Heffernan, the Republican candidate for state treasurer, thinks he and gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker could provide balance to the Democratically controlled Legislature, leading to more efficient government, lower taxes and job growth in Massachusetts.
During an interview with The Eagle, Heffernan said the election of GOP candidates for key statewide offices would provide the kind of "constructive tension" between the administration and the Legislature he believes led to a stronger economy during the 1990s under the Republican administrations of Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci.
Heffernan is running for treasurer in the Nov. 4 election against Deb Goldberg of Brookline, a longtime Democratic activist, businesswoman and town official. Baker is running for governor against current Attorney General Martha Coakley.
Baker, who served in the Weld and Cellucci administrations, also has stressed what he sees as the beneficial effects of more balanced state government.
"If you look at the state, we haven't created a real job in 15 years. We've created 20,000 jobs since 2000," Heffernan said, adding that 500,000 jobs were created during the 1990s under Republican administrations.
He said he also worries that "we are one of the most leveraged states in the nation," and that a report released in January found Massachusetts 47th in terms of fiscal condition. "That scares the daylights out of me as a taxpayer," Heffernan said.
The state's employee pension system was the only one in the Uniuted States ranked as "failing" by the Urban Institute, he said, "and being underfunded was just one reason."
Bond rating agencies refer to the state's "very high [overall] debt and very unfunded pension liability," he said, adding, "As a numbers person, how do you not want to get up off the couch and help?"
Massachusetts "is a wealthy state, so if we get disciplined now, we won't have to sacrifice later," he said. "This is about bringing some business experience to Beacon Hill."
As a Republican, Heffernan said, he would be better positioned than a Democrat "to bring these discussions out into the light," especially if Baker is elected governor.
The same would be true of issues surrounding state projects and bonding, he said, citing controversial aspects of the $1 billion in bonding for a new convention center in Boston. There was a lack of transparency, he said, which he would have challenged.
A Republican in the treasurer's office could exert "both hard and soft" forms of power, Heffernan said, soft in raising issues about spending questions before the Legislature and hard in terms of having authority to reject bonding proposals he has questions about and in having appointing authority over pension system, Lottery and other state boards.
Heffernan worked for most of his 30-year career with Citigroup, which has employees in 100 different countries. "I know what it is like to have people with different goals, different viewpoints, and get things done," he said.
He said he would call Legislative leaders the day after the election and say, "OK, where do you want to go, how do we want to get there? Here is how I approach it as a Republican."
Much of the time, he said, his role with Citigroup "was very much like the treasurer's job. And I have created jobs."
After more than 20 years with the company, Heffernan co-founded Mobiquity Inc., an information technology company based in Massachusetts, which he said has grown to more than 300 employees.
The candidate, 52, described himself as coming from an Irish working class background "with a tradition of working hard." His grandfather was a police officer in Boston and his father is a retired teacher. He said he learned to work hard "and really know the value of a dollar."
Philosophically, Heffernan described himself "as a classic Reagan Republican," having become caught up in the party's enthusiasm during the former president's campaigns in the 1980s.
On other issues, Heffernan opposes repealing the state's casino legislation, which is a referendum question on the Nov. 4 ballot. Both MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts "will build world class casinos" in Springfield and Everett, he said, referring to the two proposals closest to winning final approvals.
"These are in two of the areas with the highest unemployment," he said, adding that, if those projects are halted, "I don't know where the billions [of promised gaming revenue] will be coming from for Springfield, Everett and the South coast."
He also said he opposes linking the state gasoline tax to inflation. Another question on the ballot seeks to overturn that provision.
"If you want more money [for roads], you need to come back and vote for it," he said, referring to the Legislature. "Tying it to inflation is not being honest with the voters."
Heffernan said he, Baker and other Republicans could work well with the Legislature, as he said Weld and Cellucci did, making government more efficient and helping to boost employment. In that way, Heffernan said, they would be in a better position than the Democratic candidates "to deliver social services."
After attending a public high school and working to put himself through college, Heffernan received a bachelor's degree in economics from Georgetown University and a master's in business administration in finance from New York University. After launching Mobiquity, he returned to college and earned a master's in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
Heffernan said he is optimistic despite the state's solid Democratic leaning and the fact no Republican now holds a statewide office. He conceded "it will be an uphill battle," but added that "in off-year elections, voters tend to be more conservative."
Heffernan, a Southborough native, now resides in Wellesley with his wife, Peggy and their three children.
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