Daily Hampshire Gazette

Gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez’s experience, views on MassHealth and commitment to western Massachusetts prompted an endorsement from Rep. John Scibak on Monday.

Scibak, who represents the 2nd Hampshire District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, is the first western Massachusetts legislator to endorse Gonzalez.

“I’ve looked at the three Democratic candidates, and I believe that Jay is the best candidate for western Massachusetts, for my district and for the entire commonwealth,” Scibak said Monday.

Scibak said Gonzalez, the former secretary of administration and finance for former Gov. Deval Patrick, was instrumental to pension reform that the public service committee underwent about five years ago when Scibak was chairman.

“He’s very approachable, he understood the issues,” he said.

Scibak said maintaining the state’s bond rating served as an impetus for that work, a rating that has flagged since Gov. Charlie Baker took office in January 2015.

“The pension reform we did went a long way toward preserving our bond ratings. Unfortunately we’ve now been downgraded,” Scibak said. “The budget really is the No. 1 issue that faces the commonwealth, and the budgets when he was secretary of administration and finance — budgets were balanced, on time. Bond ratings were highest in our history.”

As for MassHealth, Scibak said Baker is looking to reduce the number of eligible enrollees. Scibak said constituents are calling and emailing with concerns about losing coverage, and so he looked to endorse a candidate who took a different approach.

“It’s not the way to address it,” he said. “It’s important to me to support a candidate who says tossing people off MassHealth is not the solution.”

And Gonzalez, of Needham, whose wife is from Chicopee, often visits western Massachusetts and is familiar with the region’s unique needs. He said Gonzalez cares about issues of transportation and infrastructure in the area, such as how a road closure in Boston is different from a road closure in Northampton.

“Folks in western Massachusetts have legitimate gripes that they’ve not gotten the attention from state government they should have,” Gonzalez told the Gazette, adding that it’s an issue he’d begun to work on as part of Patrick’s administration. “Western Mass. has been shafted for decades when it comes to transportation infrastructure.”

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