Q. and A. with Charlie Baker

August 10, 2018
By

Gov. Charlie Baker is the former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and served in both former Gov. Bill Weld and former Gov. Paul Cellucci administrations. He was elected governor in 2014, edging out Democrat Martha Coakley in a close election. He will face-off against Scott Lively, a pastor who espouses homophobic and fringe views, in the primary on Sept. 4. The Gazette recently conducted a question-and-answer session through email with Baker about the campaign and about the issues facing the state. For more information about Baker, visit charliebakerma.com. (The session has been edited.) [Editor’s note: The Gazette reached out to the Lively campaign for a question-and-answer session, but it did not respond by the Gazette deadline.]

Q.: What makes you a better candidate than your opponent to be the Republican nominee for governor?

A.: Since taking office, Lt. Governor Polito and I have worked hard to deliver bipartisan, commonsense, results-oriented leadership that is reforming state government, and making our economy, communities, schools and families stronger than ever.

We have been proud to support policies strengthening our economy, which has seen over 150,000 new jobs since 2015, and household incomes on the rise across all demographic groups. We have increased support for local public schools by almost half a billion dollars, bringing education investments to a historic $4.7 billion, and have pursued initiatives like the Commonwealth Commitment program to make college more affordable. We have also focused on tackling the opioid epidemic, signing a first-in-the-nation law that limits new prescriptions to seven days and invests more resources in prevention, education, treatment, and recovery.

Our administration has partnered with the Commonwealth’s cities and towns, boosting support for local aid every year we have been in office, after years of uncertainty and cuts. We have taken a collaborative approach to working with local elected officials and community leaders, signing Community Compact agreements with all 351 cities and towns. And we are proud to have built a strong relationship with leaders in the City of Boston.

We believe with four more years we have a tremendous opportunity to help Massachusetts continue this forward growth and momentum.

Q.: And what does it say about your party that your opponent, who has espoused homophobic beliefs, earned enough delegates at the state GOP convention to earn a spot on Sept. 4 ballot?

A.: I am proud of our administration’s record of supporting the LGBT community and have long spoken publicly about my support for marriage equality. In 2015, Lt. Governor Polito and I signed an amicus curiae brief for the Supreme Court advocating for marriage equality.  In 2015, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to include LGBT-owned businesses in its supplier diversity program.  In 2016, I signed An Act Relative To Transgender Anti-Discrimination, to support the rights of transgender individuals to safely access public accommodations, and have pledged to oppose the ballot question that seeks to repeal this law.  We will continue to offer an inclusive vision that recognizes and celebrates the fact that Massachusetts has always been a leader in supporting the LGBT community.  I was proud to have the overwhelming support of the convention, and believe Mr. Lively’s hateful actions and rhetoric, particularly when it comes to the LGBT community, have no place in public or private life.

Q.: What do you view as the most pressing issues for our state going forward and what will you do to help fix them?

A.: Whether it’s building stronger communities, better schools and a more competitive economy, making state government work harder, smarter and more effectively for taxpayers and our most vulnerable, or addressing our greatest challenges like curbing the opioid epidemic and boosting our housing stock, we will in a second term continue to focus on the collaborative and bipartisan solutions that have been delivering results for the people, students, families, teachers and taxpayers of Massachusetts.

We want to continue Massachusetts’ leadership battling the opioid crisis: We have proposed new legislation, called the CARE Act, that aims to improve access to treatment, prevent opioid misuse and expand opioid addiction education. We want to build on the reforms we have started, which so far have led to a 51 percent drop in prescriptions since 2013, and a drop in overdose-related deaths compared to last year.

We have also proposed legislation to spur thousands of additional affordable, workforce and market-rate housing units and have introduced comprehensive, innovative initiatives and reforms that will diversify our housing portfolio and create 135,000 new housing units by 2025 to alleviate demand and costs. We are also optimizing underutilized state-owned land to spur new transit-oriented developments, and are on track to produce over 2,200 units of housing on state land.

We want to build on our historic investment in our public schools, which has supported Massachusetts’ continued status as a national leader in education. We will continue to explore ways to address gaps in opportunity and learning, working across the aisle on bipartisan legislation that would encourage more communities to consider implementing empowerment zones, letting schools make their own decisions on things like hiring, scheduling, budgeting and curriculum. We are also expanding opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math curricula, and working with our community colleges, vocational technical schools and other higher education institutions to expand opportunities for early college, skill building and training.

Through these and other initiatives, we will continue to build on the successes of recent years, while continuing to solve problems to make life better for people across the Commonwealth.

Q.: The scandals plaguing the State Police agency and the continuing problems at the MBTA have happened under your leadership. How do you think you’ve handled them and how do you reply to those who say you have not done enough?

A.: We are proud to have brought financial and operational accountability to the MBTA through the Fiscal and Management Control Board, and have invested over $100 million in winterizing the system to prevent and mitigate the kinds of crises riders experienced during the winter of 2015. Our five-year capital plan includes over $8 billion in investments to improve the core system, more than double the five-year investment plan for the final year of the previous administration. These investments, along with the recently revitalized Green Line Extension project and other expansion initiatives, will help us continue to improve the T for the people who rely on it every day.

We are also committed to the ongoing improvements to Ruggles Station, having invested over $11 million from the MBTA Revenue Bond fund in the project. In addition to station improvements like new elevators and a new commuter rail platform, we are excited that this project will include new and safer pedestrian walkways, to enable Ruggles to continue to serve as a major hub for the Mission Hill and Roxbury neighborhoods.

In addition, we remain committed to upgrading the Orange Line, which is a critical part of the transportation infrastructure for these neighborhoods. The MBTA is currently testing the first round of new Orange Line cars, part of an $843 million investment upgrading both Red and Orange Line cars – including a total order of 152 new Orange Line cars. We look forward to seeing these new cars augment, and eventually completely replace the existing fleet, which is over 30 years old. These upgrades will reduce the interval between when trains enter the stations to 4.5 minutes, which will increase overall capacity by 40 percent and reduce the number of crowded trains. In addition, a significant part of our five-year, $8 billion capital investment plan will include important signal and switch upgrades for the entire system.

While there is much more work to do, we are proud to have re-oriented the MBTA to be more transparent, efficient, and focused on improving reliability for riders.

When long-standing problems at the State Police that spanned multiple administrations came to light, we moved aggressively to address them, and are working with newly installed Colonel Gilpin to swiftly implement a series of reforms designed to increase oversight and accountability at the department. These include eliminating Troop E, activating GPS technology in cruisers and developing a body camera program. We are glad that the State Police recently brought on former Boston Police Commissioner and Public Safety Secretary Kathleen M. O’Toole to provide strategic guidance for management improvements at the agency. The vast majority of State Police troopers go to work each day to protect and serve the public with integrity, but we recognize that long-standing problems of overtime abuse and other incidents have impacted the public’s trust. We remain committed to restoring that trust by working diligently with the new leadership at the State Police to solve these entrenched problems.

Q.: What are your views of Mission Hill and Jamaica Plain?

A.: As a candidate and now as governor, I have been grateful to be able to spend time in these wonderful neighborhoods, which are both vibrant, diverse, and strong communities. Just this year, we chose to announce our Housing Choice Initiative at the Roxbury Tenants of Harvard on Mission Hill, and I have come to Jamaica Plain every year since taking office to join local students to stock Jamaica Pond with trout, in what has become a great educational experience and tradition.

Our administration remains committed to supporting Jamaica Plain and Mission Hill, along with neighborhoods and communities across the Commonwealth. We are proud to have worked with the City of Boston to invest an additional $3.7 million in the Jackson Square redevelopment through the MassWorks program, which will allow for the delivery of 144 new mixed-income housing units, including 72 affordable apartments, 2,400 square feet of retail space, new pedestrian walkways and bike paths, a new public road and plaza, and critical sewer line improvements.

We are also committed to the ongoing improvements to Ruggles Station, having invested over $11 million from the MBTA Revenue Bond fund in the project. In addition to station improvements like new elevators and a new commuter rail platform, we are excited that this project will include new and safer pedestrian walkways, to enable Ruggles to continue to serve as a major hub for the Mission Hill and Roxbury neighborhoods.

In addition, we remain committed to upgrading the Orange Line, which is a critical part of the transportation infrastructure for these neighborhoods. The MBTA is currently testing the first round of new Orange Line cars, part of an $843 million investment upgrading both Red and Orange Line cars – including a total order of 152 new Orange Line cars. We look forward to seeing these new cars augment, and eventually completely replace the existing fleet, which is over 30 years old. These upgrades will reduce the interval between when trains enter the stations to 4.5 minutes, which will increase overall capacity by 40 percent and reduce the number of crowded trains. In addition, a significant part of our five year-year, $8 billion capital investment plan will include important signal and switch upgrades for the entire system.

Through these and other initiatives, and through collaboration with local leaders like Mayor Walsh and the neighborhoods’ legislative delegations, we will continue to ensure the Commonwealth remains an active partner in advancing initiatives that improve people’s lives in Jamaica Plain and Mission Hill.

Q.: Anything else you would like to add?

A.: Lt. Governor Polito and I remain humbled by the trust placed in us by the people of Massachusetts, and proud of our bipartisan, collaborative record. We believe that our results-oriented approach is working, and that with another four years, we can continue this positive momentum. As former elected officials, we are deeply committed to working with local leaders to improve outcomes for people at the ground level – including right here in Mission Hill and Jamaica Plain – and that’s what we’ll continue to do if we are fortunate enough to be re-elected.

Gov. Charlie Baker, who is running against Scott Lively for the Republican nomination for governor.
Courtesy Photo

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