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MA governor candidates spar over human services

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Charles Baker, Tim Cahill, Gov. Deval Patrick and Jill Stein (AP file)

Charles Baker, Tim Cahill, Gov. Deval Patrick and Jill Stein (AP file)

Gov. Deval Patrick said Tuesday that plans by his political challengers in the governor’s race would require the state to curtail human service programs further, and he claimed to be the only candidate who knows what it takes to achieve results for the neediest in Massachusetts.

Patrick’s adversaries in the four-way contest, though, argued at a candidates’ forum that the state makes it too difficult for people to access the services they need and spends too much money on programs of lesser importance, including tax incentive programs.

Patrick said that despite the sputtering economy he has continued to tirelessly work to preserve essential programs for the homeless and developmentally disabled.

“I have fought for those funds and supported them very well under the circumstances,” he said.

The governor accused his two competitors closest in the polls – Republican Charles Baker and Independent Timothy Cahill – of supporting cutting taxes to levels that would devastate state funding for social support programs.

“The time will come to roll back tax rates and we should, but the time is not right now,” he said.

Baker, who served as the state’s secretary of health and human services in the early 1990s, said that currently, it is too difficult for residents to get access to the necessary services.

“It should be the type of system where the people succeed because of it, not despite of it,” he said.

Baker said he would simplify human service agencies through consolidation. He said that if elected, he would also like to conduct conferences on how to lower the high unemployment rate for people with disabilities.

Cahill, who lost two of his top advisers last week, said the state needs to revive the economy to help boost revenues for social programs. In order to do that, Cahill said, the state needs to cut spending on health care programs, calling the state’s new health care law a “job killer.”

He also said the state needs to lower taxes to get the economy moving again.

“We are not growing the economy by raising taxes and we never will,” he said.

Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein argued for less state spending on tax incentive programs and more on human services.

“When you are told there is not enough money, you are being told there is not enough money for you,” Stein said.

In an apparent shot at Patrick, she said voters need to decide if they want “oratory and beautiful sentiments” or results.

At a second forum on jobs, Patrick defended his administration’s decision to push a handful of sectors including renewable energy, information technology and video game development. He said it’s not about government picking “winners or losers.”

“I’m a capitalist,” he said. “But I don’t think markets always get it right all on their own. I think some intervention is appropriate. And all we are trying to do is to play to our strengths.”

Baker said he would work to create a more predictable business climate and, in response to a question about the Cape Wind offshore wind energy project, said he would instead push for a deal with Hydro-Quebec, which relies mainly on renewable energy sources.

Asked about the last time he had to fire someone, Baker recalled his decision to replace his campaign manager Lenny Alcivar in July. Baker said he and Alcivar were both political novices.

“I said, ‘Look, I’m a first-time candidate,”‘ he said. “‘I don’t think two rookies are going to be able to bring this thing home.”‘

Cahill pointed to his early experience opening a sandwich shop in Quincy as an example of how small businesses can help the individuals who take the risks to create new companies and those who are hired as workers. He said government can create the conditions to help encourage entrepreneurs.

“You have to be willing to fail, as I have,” he said. “The key is to keep going and to have a government that will work for you and on your behalf to give you every opportunity.”

Stein said she would help create jobs in the renewable energy sector.

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