Treasurer Candidate Heffernan Calls For More Efficient Money Management
Mike Case and Mike Heffernan pose for a photo in the local Republican campaign headquarters in Pittsfield.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — With Massachusetts being a "wealthy state" Mike Heffernan says there is no reason homelessness should be increasing.
Heffernan has spent 30 years in the financial industry and when he looks over the state's financials, he believes they could be a lot better. The state may be growing its tax revenue but that isn't translating into job creation, he said.
As the Republican candidate for the treasurer's seat, he hopes to change that. By managing the state's finances better, Heffernan says more money could go toward local aid to help towns reduce the cost of living and property taxes. He looks at the number of homeless families as a "litmus test" showing that the money isn't working the way it should be.
"I started looking at the state numbers and I realized we are on an unsustainable path of higher taxes, higher fees," Heffernan said. "I had to get involved. I'm pretty moderate in most things; I just believe government can be more efficient and shouldn't be crowding out the private sector."
The state has placed an emphasis on education and is leading the country in success. Heffernan says the government needs to bring the private sector into the fold to help on the job creation end. He's calling for state regulations on businesses to be cut by a third.
"We're 45th in job creation and we're 1st in education," he said.
He says the office is the second most important in the state and he wants to use it to help bring issues Democrats haven't been talking about to the forefront. Having another viewpoint can help drive focus on issues that otherwise wouldn't be talked about, he said.
"It is hard and soft power. The treasurer is a constitutional officer and the hard power is being able to appoint people to the boards that oversee the [Alcohol Beverages Control Commission], the Lottery and the pension system. And making the ultimate decision of if we should issue debt or not. The soft power is going early on, the day after I am elected, I'd go to the leaders and say how can we solve the common goals," Heffernan said.
For example, the state's pension system is first on his mind. The system vastly underfunded, he said, and has been constantly ranked as one of the worst in the country. Some of those revenues need to be put toward offsetting those obligations, he said.
"We are a very wealthy state. Tax receipts are up more than $6 billion over the past five years and that money should be going to our obligations. Our pension obligations are like a very expensive credit card. It is 8 percent debt. What they've done is not funded the pension system as much as they could for less effective programs," Heffernan said.
The Southborough businessman spent most of his career with Citigroup, rising to oversee the company's seven U.S. regional distribution offices. In 2010, he moved on to founding Mobiquity Inc., an information technology company.
While at Citigroup, Heffernan couldn't be politically active because of the ethical issues that could arise. Now that he is on his own, he wants to give back since his career work has been similar to that of a treasurer.
"Massachusetts is a very expensive place to live but it doesn't have to be," Heffernan said.
He said he'll put more of the state's funds into the community banking partnership program, which loans the state's reserves to community banks to provide a portfolio for loans to smaller businesses. And he'll lower the barriers for banks to participate.
"There are 60 communities that have much higher unemployment and 12 communities that dabble in double digits. We can target those markets," Heffernan said.
The treasurer sits on the Massachusetts School Building Authority board and he sees that as a way to advocate for more money for schools. His career has been focused on getting financing for businesses; the MSBA, he says, is financing towns and districts.
When it comes to local aid, Heffernan said the largest source comes from the Lottery system. "Every dollar we can get out of the overhead is a dollar we can give back to towns," he said.
Heffernan launched his campaign in January but did not have a primary race. Now he's ramping up to reach as many voters as possible. He will be on the ballot against Democrat Deborah Goldberg and Green-Rainbow Party candidate Ian Jackson.