Republican candidate pitches bid for Governor

Article by: Jeff Fish

Republican Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker came to Suffolk last Thursday to speak about his bid for the Governor’s office in an event hosted by Suffolk Law’s Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service. The event was the first in the 2010 Gubernatorial Speaker Series.

After being introduced, Baker, who was raised in Needham Mass., spoke for roughly half an hour about his background, his reasons for running, and what he would do if elected.

“I’m the product of a mixed marriage. My mom’s a Democrat and my dad’s a Republican and I grew up listening to the two of them battle it out at the kitchen table,” said Baker, stressing the importance of a balanced government.  “I learned at a very early age that checks and balances are a good thing. Both sides make the other smarter if they have to work a little harder.”

Baker served as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the early 1990s under Republican Gov. Bill Weld and used this as an example of how he has had to work with Democrats to get things accomplished.

After serving as Health Secretary, Baker became the CEO of Harvard Pilgrim just after it was placed into receivership. “We put together a really good team and had a good plan and we dug our way out of it.”

Baker said he is uniquely suited to be Governor not only for his experience in both state government and the private sector, but also his time in local government. “I spent three years in local government as a member of my board of selectmen and I learned a lot about what state government looks like through the other end of the telescope when I did that.”

Baker decided to run even after he was told it would be crazy to do so in such difficult times. “This was a race I couldn’t avoid and a race I wanted to be in because I do think I know what state government looks like when it’s working and when it’s not.  Yes we have a fiscal crisis. Yes, we have economic challenges. There’s no question about that.”

Baker put much of the blame of the current financial crisis in Mass. on the current administration, saying that “some was stuff that could’ve been avoided.” Under the Patrick administration, the state went from having $4.7 billion to $2.3 billion, and spent $700 million from the its rainy day fund before the economic collapse in the fall of 2008, according to Baker, who said that the state continued to exacerbate the problems during the crisis.“So when we got into trouble did we reform state government? Did we shrink state government? Did we restructure the operating level? No. What we did was we raised taxes and that is exactly what we continue to do as we go forward.”

To shrink the state government and help it to run more smoothly, Baker said if elected he will consolidate the 120 state agencies into fewer agencies that are more streamlined and efficient.

Regulations on businesses are also a problem, according to Baker. “If you talk to any small businesses in Massachusetts and I’ve talked to many of them, they’ll tell you the regulatory policy is like a head and a body with no neck. The head sort of says all the right things,” while the body is dysfunctional.

Baker said that there are examples where following one regulation would put people out of compliance with another regulation, and that constant rule changes make it difficult for businesses to function in Mass. “How are you supposed to think about investing in the future if you literally don’t know what the rules are going to be from year to year to year?”

Confusing rules and regulations coupled with high taxes have caused both businesses and citizens to leave the state according to Baker. “I have three kids. They’re 19, 16, and 12 and I worry about where they’re going to decide to plant their flag when they grow up and decide where to live.”

Baker said that the way the Mass. government operates sends a message that there are “two sets of rules out there. There’s one set of rules for cities and towns; tighten your belt, figure it out. There’s one set of rules for families; tighten your belt, figure it out. There’s one set of rules for businesses; tighten you’re belt, figure it out. And there’s another set of rules for state government. The message that sends to Joe Q citizen and Jane Q citizen is that we don’t really think we work for you. We think we know best and we don’t have to play by the same rules that all the rest of you who are living with that new normal have to live with.”

As governor, Baker said that he’s “going to signal that [the state] is serious about living with the same belt-tightening rules that everybody else has to live with.”

After Baker finished speaking, he opened himself to questions from the audience before wrapping up the discussion.

“He concentrated on the most important issue—the economy,” said Eva Ovalle, a first-year student at Suffolk Law. “He speaks to a younger generation of fiscal conservatives” that are now emerging.