Spending, budget will be Bailey’s focus

Bailey says budget, spending would be his priority

By Jim Morrison, The Sun Chronicle

Jeff Bailey thinks if voters elect him to the state Senate, sending a Baptist preacher to Beacon Hill “is going to send a message that I think may not be appreciated, but will be heeded.”

The message the tall, former high school athlete would carry to Boston? Lower taxes, less spending and the restoration of integrity.

“Massachusetts doesn’t have a revenue issue. We have a spending issue,” he said. “We need to get a handle on the spending.”

Bailey’s wood-paneled office in his church’s school has two large cast iron radiators, but the room was still chilly in mid-October because he hadn’t turned the heat on yet, an example, he said, of the fiscal conservatism he says he’ll bring to Beacon Hill.

“I’m conservative with my money, and I’ll be conservative with the people’s money, too,” he said.

Bailey says he recently decided that, if elected, he will opt out of the state pension plan. “I don’t intend to be there long enough to earn one,” he said.

He also says he will refuse the Legislature’s per diem travel reimbursement. “There’s all kinds of people taking the train to work every day that don’t get per diems,” he said. “Why would I get one?”

“I’m a completely different animal than what they’re ready for, I think,” he said.

So it is no surprise that Bailey adamantly opposes new taxes during the upcoming session. “I believe that the best way to increase revenue is to lower taxes. I don’t believe that lower taxes lead to less revenue.”

Bailey started out as an assistant pastor in Danbury, Conn., where, in 1801, the Danbury Baptist Association wrote to President Thomas Jefferson of the persecution they felt from local Congregationalists.

Jefferson’s historic response to that letter is the basis of our national wall of separation of church and state.

Bailey, a student and teacher of history, was quick to the point out with a smile that “by the time I was there, we were no longer having problems with anybody.”

He’s been pastor of Attleboro’s Grace Baptist Church for the past 24 years, and has a wife and two children. He has been active in local politics, as well, though this is the first time he’s run for public office.

“I’ve now lived in Attleboro longer than I’ve lived anywhere else in my life,” he said in his booming pastor’s voice. “This is home now. My children were born here, raised here.”

Former City Councilor Cherie Felos, whose unsuccessful campaign for councilor-at-large was run by Bailey, calls him “a refreshing man of the people.”

“He hasn’t spent his life grooming himself for this position. He’s a genuine leader who wants to even the scales on Beacon Hill, where we have a great imbalance of power, which leads to corruption,” Felos said.

Bailey recognizes the potential for conflicts between his job as a senator and his role as a pastor, but considers them internal conflicts of conscience and not inconsistent with the wall between church and state. He cited casino gambling as an example of the conflict he might encounter as both a pastor and senator.

“Here’s the dichotomy. It’s a little schizophrenic,” he said. “Monday through Saturday, I’m going up there to make those casinos as successful as possible, and on Sunday I’m preaching about people not going to them.”

Bailey says that both he and his opponent, Sen. James Timilty, are working hard to keep the contest civil. In debate, he praises Timilty for opposing the proposed MBTA expansion, but disagrees with specific issues, such as the state’s bailout of the city of Lawrence.
“I’m running for the office. Yes, Sen. Timilty and I are going to have disagreements. I like him. He seems to like me. This is about the people of the district. It’s not about me or Sen. Timilty. I’m going to make it about what’s best for the district.”

Bailey has no illusions about what kind of changes he could make if elected.

“We have challenges. I’m not saying that I’m going to go up there and as one of 40 senators, I’m going to fix them all, but you have to be able to sit down with others and focus on these issues,” he said.

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