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The issue: Mass. exodus
Healey said she believes that the high cost of living and of doing business are driving the exodus from the state. To make Massachusetts more competitive, she said, she would roll back the income tax rate to 5 percent, cut unemployment insurance rates to save employers $100 per worker, and provide for tax-free savings accounts for workers who want to buy their first home. Styled after IRA retirement accounts, Healey's tax-free savings accounts would be available to graduates of Massachusetts universities who agree to stay in the Bay State and work for a local company.
''Lowering taxes: I think that may be the key issue," she said. ''When people have more money in their pockets, everything becomes more affordable."
A Globe poll found 69 percent of those surveyed found people in Massachusetts ''much less courteous" or ''somewhat less courteous" than people in their new state. But Healey disagrees. ''I don't actually think people in Massachusetts are rude," said the Florida native. ''I'm from the South, and they may have a different approach, but I actually think people here are extremely kind and welcoming and generous."
Mihos proposed slashing fees for businesses, to prevent companies from fleeing to lower-cost states. 'It wasn't an easy decision for any of these people to move, and they're not coming back, if things stay the way they are," Mihos said. ''In fact, businesses have put a warning on the state's leaders, saying if things don't change, we're leaving."
Mihos said he could do something about the perception that Massachusetts residents are less courteous than residents of other states: Cut costs. ''There's no chance to breathe and just sit back and smell the roses when the fines, the taxes, the assessments are coming at you every hour of every day," he said. ''That adds stress."
Patrick said that while campaigning, he often hears about the desire of younger Massachusetts residents to leave the state. It comes up from young people who are well educated, and it comes up from their parents who are sad to see them go and are worried, he said. That's our future walking out the door."
Patrick suggested building more housing around commuter rail stations and improving rail service from Boston to New Bedford and Worcester. ''If you worked in downtown Boston, for example, you could take a fast train to New Bedford at the end of the day; it's no cheap housing market, but it's a different housing market, where you can get a start," he said.
Patrick also called for an increase in the minimum wage, a faster permitting process by the state, and statewide high speed Internet access. Like Gabrieli, he supports increased spending on stem cell research.
In contrast to Healey and Reilly, Patrick said that reducing the income tax rate could make Massachusetts a less attractive place to live. ''I don't think we can afford the income tax rollback," he said. ''We've got to invest in cities and towns, so we can make them more attractive, more affordable places to live, and the other target is investment in public transportation."
Grace Ross (Green-Rainbow Party)
Ross said that raising the minimum wage by $2 would give workers more spending power and boost local economies when workers spend more at their neighborhood pharmacy or market. Closing corporate tax loopholes would raise more money for schools and housing, she said.
''What we put in doesn't go far," Ross said of state taxpayers. ''The answer is making sure we move back toward something that's more fair, where publicly traded corporations and higher-income folks are paying their fair share, then we see the same taxes we're putting in go further, and we go, 'Oh, we're getting our money's worth.' It starts feeling worth it."
* Compiled by Boston.com Staff from published reports in the Boston Globe, the candidates' campaigns, and other sources.