“I’m still in the process of unpacking boxes,” said Gov. Maura Healey in a WBZ interview with your faithful columnist on her 28th day in office.
If you’ve ever moved into a new crib after eight years in the old one, you can relate. But in the supersonic world of politics, news and hot takes, sympathy is in short supply. As Craig Sandler put it in last Wednesday’s Massterlist: “Healey is starting to get a bit of a ‘Gov. Wait and See’ rap…. There’s a feeling that with an election that was a foregone conclusion, and a transition that was fairly lengthy, we should be seeing more specifics by now.”
Smart politicians take note of Craig’s observations, and Healey is a smart politician. In the WBZ interview, her first broadcast one-on-one since inauguration day, the governor flashed some clear signals on some key issues. And the results are a telling – if unsurprising – indication of what to expect from this new administration.
Does she think it’s a good idea to give teachers the legal right to strike, as the big teacher unions are demanding? “I don’t,” she said. “Not a fan…. Every day when I see kids out of school because of a strike my heart just breaks because kids have been through enough in terms of learning loss.” Healey acknowledged teacher complaints, but when asked if she’d veto a bill overturning the ban on teacher strikes, she replied “there’s a reason why that is in place. And while I have a lot of sympathy and want to make sure that…educators are getting paid what they should for the important work that they do, it’s still paramount that our kids be in school.”
As for another current teacher-union target, the MCAS test as a graduation requirement, Healey said she was open to “a hard look” at “what else should MCAS be assessing” including “social and emotional learning.” But she’s not buying into Massachusetts Teachers Association President Max Page’s claim that “the focus on income, on college and career readiness speaks to a system … tied to the capitalist class and its needs for profit… the purpose of schools must be to nurture thinking, caring, active and committed adults, parents, community members, activists, citizens.”
Says Healey: “I think we can and should do both. We want to support their social and emotional development, and we want to make sure they are ready for the world. These are not mutually exclusive prerogatives by any stretch.”
The left won’t be thrilled by other Healey remarks, including her assessment that further privatization of aspects of MBTA operation “deserve a look,” and that “we need to change” state regulations, such as sewage treatment rules for large multi-family housing developments that pose a “disincentive” to developers.
But more right-leaning observers hoping for deep tax cuts along the lines proposed last year by then-Gov. Charlie Baker may also be disappointed by her current priorities. Windfall state revenues “need to be used to support the things that people really need right now, housing, workforce, economic development,” she says. “I’m hopeful – I’m confident – I’m hopeful that we can get to a place where we’re making strategic investments through the budget, and also providing tax relief to folks around the state.”
Asked what the most noticeable differences are between her new job and her old one, Healey said “I’m getting used to a different drive in and turning right into the State House instead of left into Ashburton.” The governor laughed when we joked that there was our headline: “HEALEY ADMITS SHE’S TURNING RIGHT.”
That’s not happening. But her move-in process is starting to emerge from the “wait and see” stage. And the early signs are consistent with what the Healey campaign promised – governance to the left of what Baker offered, but not as far to the left as the left might like.