|72nd Governor of Massachusetts|
January 8, 2015
|Preceded by||Deval Patrick|
|Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finance|
November 1994 – September 1998
|Preceded by||Mark Robinson|
|Succeeded by||Frederick Laskey|
|Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services|
October 1992 – November 1994
|Preceded by||David Forsberg|
|Succeeded by||Gerald Whitburn|
|Born||Charles Duane Baker Jr.
November 13, 1956
Elmira, New York, U.S.
|Education||Harvard University (BA)
Northwestern University (MBA)
Charles Duane Baker Jr. (born November 13, 1956) is an American businessman and politician serving as the 72nd and current Governor of Massachusetts, having been sworn into office on January 8, 2015. He was a cabinet official under two Governors of Massachusetts and spent ten years as CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.
Raised in Needham, Massachusetts, Baker is the son of a Republican executive official who worked under Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. He graduated from Harvard College and obtained an MBA from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.
In 1991, he became Massachusetts undersecretary of health and human services under Governor Bill Weld. In 1992, he was appointed secretary of health and human services of Massachusetts. He later served as secretary of administration and finance under Weld and his successor, Paul Cellucci.
During this time he served three years as a selectman of Swampscott, Massachusetts, and considered a run for governor in 2006. He stepped down in July 2009 to run for governor on a platform of fiscal conservatism and cultural liberalism. He was unopposed in the Republican primary, but lost in the general election to the Democratic incumbent, Deval Patrick.
Baker was born on November 13, 1956 in Elmira, New York. Of English ancestry, his family has been in what is now the northeastern United States since the Colonial era. He is the fourth generation in the family to bear the forename Charles.
His great-grandfather, Charles D. Baker (1846–1934), was an assistant United States attorney in New York, who served several years in the New York State Assembly. His grandfather, Charles D. Baker Jr. (c. 1890–1971), was a prominent politician in Newburyport, Massachusetts.
His father, Charles Duane Baker (born 1928), a Harvard graduate, was a buyer for the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, while his mother, Alice Elizabeth "Betty" (née Ghormley), remained at home.
Baker grew up with two younger brothers, Jonathan and Alex, in Needham, Massachusetts, with a second home in Rockport. He grew up playing football, hockey, and baseball; he has described his childhood as "pretty all-American".
Baker's father was a conservative Republican, his mother a liberal Democrat, and the family was often drawn into political arguments at the dinner table. His father became vice president of Harbridge House, a Boston management consulting firm, in 1965.
In 1969, the family moved to Washington, D.C., where the elder Baker was named deputy undersecretary of the Department of Transportation in the Nixon administration, and the next year became the department's assistant secretary for policy and international affairs. His father also served as undersecretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services in the Reagan administration.
The family returned to Needham in 1971, where Baker attended Needham High School. He served on the student council, played basketball, and joined DeMolay International, a youth fraternity organization. In a Bay State Conference championship basketball game, a ball he inbounded with 2 seconds left on the clock, was tipped away by a player from Dedham High School, causing Needham to lose by a single point.
He reluctantly attended Harvard College "because of the brand", graduating in 1979, with a BA in English. He later reflected negatively on the experience, writing, "With a few exceptions ... those four years are ones I would rather forget." While at Harvard, Baker played on the JV basketball team, utilizing his 6 foot 6 inch stature. He then attended Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, where he received an MBA in management. After graduating, Baker served as corporate communications director for the Massachusetts High Technology Council.
In the late 1980s, Baker was hired as codirector of the newly founded Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based libertarian think tank. Lovett C. "Pete" Peters, the institute's founder, later recommended him to Bill Weld, the incoming Republican Governor of Massachusetts. Weld took office in January 1991 and hired him as Undersecretary of Health and Human Services.
In cutting back state programs and social services, Baker caused controversy from early on. However, some government officials called him an "innovator" and "one of the big stars among the secretariats and the agencies". Baker was promoted to Secretary of Health and Human Services in November 1992, and was later made Secretary of Administration and Finance, a position he continued to hold after Weld resigned in 1997 and Paul Cellucci took over as acting governor. In mid-1998, Cellucci offered him the lieutenant governor spot on the ticket, but Baker declined.
As Secretary of Administration and Finance, Baker was a main architect of the Big Dig financing plan. In 1997 the federal government was planning to cut funding for the Big Dig by $300 million per year. The state set up a trust and sold Grant Anticipation Notes (GANs) to investors. The notes were secured by promising future federal highway funds. As federal highway dollars are awarded to Massachusetts, the money is used to pay off the GANs.
According to a 2007 blue-ribbon panel, the cost overruns of the Big Dig, combined with Baker's plan for financing them, ultimately left the state transportation system underfunded by $1 billion a year. Baker defended his plan as responsible, effective, and based on previous government officials' good-faith assurances that the Big Dig would be built on time and on budget. However, as he was developing the plan, Baker had also had to take into account that Governor Cellucci was dead-set against any new taxes or fees. Former State Transportation Secretary James J. Kerasiotes, the public face of the Big Dig, praised Baker's work on the financing and said, "We were caught in a confluence of events," adding that "Charlie had a job to do, and he did his job and he did it well".
In September 1998, Baker left state government and became CEO of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, a New England–based physicians' group. In May 1999, he was named president and CEO of Harvard Vanguard's parent company, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a non-profit health benefits organization. The company had lost $58 million in 1998 and was predicted to lose over $90 million in 1999. Baker responded by cutting the workforce by 90 people, increasing premiums, establishing new contracts with Massachusetts physicians, reassessing the company's financial structure, and outsourcing its information technology. During his tenure as CEO, the company had 24 profitable quarters in a row and earned recognition from the National Committee for Quality Assurance as its choice for America's Best Health Plan for five straight years.
In mid-2007, Baker was invited to join the board of trustees of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Because of Baker's role in the insurance business, the appointment caused controversy, but he and the hospital's CEO, Paul F. Levy, denied any conflict of interest. Baker also serves on the board of directors of the Kenneth B. Schwartz Center, which, according to its website, is a "national nonprofit leading the movement to bring compassion to every patient-caregiver interaction."
Baker ran for the board of selectmen of Swampscott, Massachusetts, in 2004, and won by a "landslide". While on the board, he was noted for a businessman-like approach to local issues; his fellow selectmen described him as "low key" and budget-oriented. After serving three years, he chose not to run for re-election in 2007.
In mid-2005, there were indications that Governor Mitt Romney would not seek re-election in the 2006 Massachusetts gubernatorial election. Baker was widely considered a top contender to take Romney's place as the Republican candidate. Analysts wrote that Baker was unlikely to defeat Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, who had already announced her candidacy. Healey was the 2–1 favorite among Republican voters in a Boston Globe poll and had much stronger financial backing. Furthermore, ethics guidelines at Harvard Pilgrim prevented Baker from carrying out any political fundraising while he held an executive position. After "giving serious consideration" to the idea, he announced in August 2005 that he would not run, citing the burden it would be on his family and the difficulty of campaigning against Healey.
In late 2006, Baker was named to a Budget and Finance working group for incoming Governor Deval Patrick's transition committee. In 2008, he joined the Public Advisory Board of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics (NHIOP) at Saint Anselm College.
In 2009 Baker was again rumored to be a contender for the Massachusetts gubernatorial election. Former governor Weld strongly encouraged him to run, calling him "the heart and soul of the Weld–Cellucci administration". On July 8, 2009, Baker announced his candidacy, and on July 17 he stepped down from his position at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. His campaign formally began on January 30, 2010. His opponents were Democratic incumbent Deval Patrick, Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein, and an Independent, State Treasurer and Receiver General Tim Cahill. For his running mate, Baker chose Senate minority leader Richard R. Tisei. At the state Republican Convention on April 17, 2010, Baker beat former Independent candidate Christy Mihos for the Republican nomination, winning with 89% of the delegate vote, thus avoiding a primary fight with Mihos.
Baker ran as a social liberal (in favor of gay marriage and abortion rights) but a fiscal conservative, stressing job creation as his primary focus. His campaign centered on "Baker's Dozen", a plan outlining 13 areas of state government reform. Baker's campaign said that his plan, which included consolidation of government, welfare reform, and restructuring of public employee pension and retirement benefits, would lower state expenditures by over $1 billion. Baker, a former member of the Massachusetts Board of Education, advocated increasing the number of charter, magnet, and alternative schools. Believing that education is a "civil right", he also aimed to close the educational achievement gap among underprivileged and minority students. At a town hall meeting in Chilmark, Massachusetts, on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Baker voiced his opposition to the proposed Cape Wind project supported by Governor Deval Patrick.
Baker ran against Patrick in an atmosphere of voter discontent, with a slow economy and high unemployment, which he used to his advantage during the campaign. Patrick, facing low approval ratings, criticized Baker for his role in the Big Dig financing plan, and for raising health premiums while head of Harvard Pilgrim. Despite an anti-incumbent mood among voters, Baker was defeated in the November 2 general election with 42 percent of the vote. Patrick was re-elected with 48 percent of the vote. "We fought the good fight," said Baker in his concession speech. "We have no cause to hang our heads and will be stronger for having fought this one."
On September 4, 2013, Baker announced that he would run again for Governor of Massachusetts in 2014 when incumbent Governor Deval Patrick, to whom he lost in 2010, retired. On November 25, 2013, Mark Fisher, a businessman and Tea Party member announced that he would run against Baker in the Republican primary.
At the Republican State Convention on March 22, 2014, Baker received 2,095 votes (82.708%), Fisher received 374 votes (14.765%) and there were 64 blank votes (2.527%). The threshold for making the ballot is 15% and the party announced that Baker had thus received the nomination without the need for a primary election. However, Fisher argued that according to the Convention Rules, blank votes are not counted for the purposes of determining the winner and that he thus received 15.148%, enough to make the ballot. He sued the Massachusetts Republican State Committee and was certified for the primary ballot after a lengthy battle. In the primary election held on September 9, Baker defeated Fisher with 74% of the vote.
In July 2014, Baker was criticized by Democrats for refusing to say whether he supported a provision in the new gun control law that gave police chiefs discretion to deny firearms identification cards, which are required to purchase shotguns and rifles. He later stated in a debate that he would have signed the gun control bill as it was signed by Governor Patrick.
On October 27, 2014, The Boston Globe announced that it was endorsing Baker marking the first time in twenty years that newspaper has supported a Republican candidate for governor. "One needn't agree with every last one of Baker's views to conclude that, at this time, the Republican nominee would provide the best counterpoint to the instincts of an overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature," the endorsement reads. The newspaper also supported Baker because it claimed Baker would be the better candidate to "consolidate" outgoing Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick's legacy on reforms tied to education, health care and public transportation.
On October 29, 2014, controversy arose over a story that Baker told the previous night about a fisherman and his two sons in New Bedford. In the following days, The Boston Globe and The Standard-Times were unable to find the fisherman. This story, which Baker claims to have occurred in 2009, has been attributed by a professor from Northeastern University as a potential false memory. Coakley seized on this moment to launch an attack on Baker, and visited New Bedford to meet with fishing industry leaders.
In the early morning of November 5, 2014, preliminary results showed that Baker won the gubernatorial election. Later in the morning of November 5, Democratic opponent Martha Coakley conceded the race to Baker. The final election tally showed Baker with 48.5% of the vote against Coakley's 46.5%.
|Western New England University||April 6–14, 2015||63%||10%||27%|
|Suffolk University||April 16–21, 2015||70%||6%||23%|
|Morning Consult||May–November 2015||74%||14%||12%|
|Western New England University||November 8–15, 2015||72%||12%||16%|
|Suffolk University||November 18–22, 2015||70%||12%||17%|
|Morning Consult||January–May 2016||72%||16%||12%|
|Suffolk University||May 2–5, 2016||71%||11%||17%|
|Morning Consult||May–September 2016||70%||18%||12%|
|UMass Amherst/WBZ-TV||September 15–20, 2016||63%||23%||15%|
|Suffolk University/The Boston Globe||October 24–26, 2016||69%||10%||19%|
|Morning Consult||January–March 2017||75%||17%||8%|
|Morning Consult||April 1–July 10, 2017||71%||17%||12%|
|Morning Consult||July 1–September 30, 2017||69%||17%||14%|
|Morning Consult||October 1–December 31, 2017||69%||16%||15%|
|Western New England University||October 24–November 7, 2017||68%||13%||19%|
|WBUR/MassINC||January 5–7, 2018||74%||13%||13%|
|Morning Consult||January 1–March 31, 2018||71%||16%||13%|
|Suffolk University/The Boston Globe||June 8–12, 2018||60%||19%||21%|
|Western New England University||April 6–14, 2015||56%||13%||31%|
|Suffolk University||April 16–21, 2015||74%||8%||18%|
|WBUR/MassINC||June 4–6, 2015||69%||10%||17%|
|WBUR/MassINC||July 6–8, 2015||64%||14%||18%|
|Suffolk University||November 18–22, 2015||70%||15%||12%|
|Suffolk University||May 2–5, 2016||66%||12%||17%|
|WBUR/MassINC||September 7–10, 2016||62%||16%||17%|
|UMass Amherst/WBZ-TV||September 15–20, 2016||63%||24%||14%|
|WBUR/MassINC||October 13–16, 2016||55%||17%||22%|
|Suffolk University/The Boston Globe||October 24–26, 2016||64%||12%||18%|
|WBUR/MassINC||January 15–17, 2017||59%||18%||20%|
|WBUR/MassINC||June 19–22, 2017||64%||15%||18%|
|WBUR/MassINC||November 9–12, 2017||67%||14%||19%|
|WBUR/MassINC||January 5–7, 2018||66%||17%||17%|
|WBUR/MassINC||March 16–18, 2018||66%||14%||20%|
|WBUR/MassINC||May 22–26, 2018||67%||9%||23%|
|Suffolk University/The Boston Globe||June 8–12, 2018||64%||18%||18%|
In July 2016, the market research firm Gravis Marketing conducting a poll on ballot questions and state politics for Jobs First, a conservative political action committee, found Baker having a two-thirds favorability rating.
Baker, along with the Speaker of the State House of Representatives Robert DeLeo, State Attorney General Maura Healey, State Treasurer Deb Goldberg, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, opposed the 2016 ballot initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state, but after its passage stated "Our view on this is the people spoke and we're going to honor that, but we need to make sure that we implement this in a way...[that protects] public safety and [ensures] that only those who are supposed to have access to these products will." The month following the ballot initiative's passage, Baker signed into law a six-month delay in the issuance of licenses for retailing marijuana in shops from January 2018 to July 2018, and in July 2017, signed into law a compromise bill that increased the excise tax on marijuana sales, expanded the size of the Cannabis Control Commission created by the ballot initiative, mandated background checks for Commission and marijuana shop employees, shifted control of the state's medical cannabis program from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to the Commission, and created rules for town governments to restrict or ban marijuana shops based on the results of the 2016 ballot initiative within their jurisdiction.
In August 2017, Baker appointed State Senator Jennifer Flanagan to the Cannabis Control Commission and five members of the Cannabis Advisory Board that advises the Commission, and the following month, the Commission met for the first time. In January 2018, Baker proposed a $7.6 million budget for the Commission in his state budget proposal for fiscal year 2019. Also in January 2018, after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Obama Justice Department's Cole Memorandum, as well as making personal requests to congressional leaders to not renew the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment in the previous year, Baker expressed opposition to the rescission, with his administration stating that it "believes this is the wrong decision and will review any potential impacts from any policy changes by the local U.S. Attorney's Office", and Baker reiterated his support for implementing the legal and regulated recreational marijuana market as passed by voters on the 2016 ballot initiative. In addition, Baker has also expressed concerns about federal prosecutors creating confusion and uncertainty in states where marijuana has been legalized for either medical or recreational usage, and argued that the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's Office, instead of prosecuting local marijuana businesses, should focus its resources on resolving the opioid epidemic in the state (identifying fentanyl in particular).
After meeting with the incoming U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling in February 2018, Baker stated the following month that Lelling "made pretty clear his primary focus is going to be on fentanyl and heroin", and that after speaking with governors in other states with legal recreational marijuana markets at a National Governors Association meeting, Baker said that he "did not get the impression any of them felt there had been a significant change in their relationship with the U.S. attorneys in their states as a result of the change in the administration... because people are pretty focused on the opioid issue." Also in February 2018, Baker argued that the Cannabis Control Commission should create its regulatory framework in incremental steps by prioritizing marijuana shops over cafés, saying "that if they try to unwrap the entire package straight out of the gate, the role and responsibility they have as an overseer and as a regulator is going to be compromised", reiterating that the purpose of legalization was to create a "safe, reliable, legal market" in the state.
In March 2018, The Boston Globe reported that 189 of the 351 Massachusetts cities and towns had either indefinitely or temporarily banned retail marijuana stores. In June 2018, Baker, along with 11 other governors, wrote a letter to Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urging the passage of the bipartisan STATES Act sponsored by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Colorado Senator Cory Gardner. Also in June 2018, with marijuana sales in the state scheduled to begin the following month, Cannabis Control Commission Chairman Steven Hoffman stated that "We have said from the start that July 1 is not a legislative mandate, it's our objective and we are going to try to meet that objective, but we are going to do it right," with Commission regulators noting that only 53 of 1,145 applications for marijuana business licenses were complete and ready for review.
In February 2015, Baker announced the formation of a working group to write a report formulating a statewide strategy to address the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts, which was released in June 2015. In the same month of the report's release, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health began a public awareness campaign on opioid addiction, and Baker announced a $34.5 million proposal following the working group's recommendations that included a $5.8 million program to move civil commitments for substance abuse from state prisons to hospitals operated by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services, with Baker himself saying, "Opioid addiction is a health care issue that knows no boundaries across age, race, class or demographics."
In August 2015, the Coalition of Northeastern Governors under Baker's leadership as vice chair, sent a letter to acting Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Ostroff recommending that the FDA require labeling changes for opioid analgesics packaging and a letter to Canadian Health Minister Rona Ambrose urging the alignment of Health Canada's regulatory framework with the U.S. FDA's framework for oxycodone product guidelines. In September 2015, Baker met with the deans of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Harvard Medical School, Boston University School of Medicine, and Tufts University School of Medicine, as well as the leadership of the Massachusetts Medical Society, to discuss improving medical school education on pain management in the state.
In October 2015, Baker filed legislation to increase access to recovery high schools, provide and require training for parents, public school nurses, public school sports coaches and trainers on the dangers of opioid use, allow hospitals to involuntarily hold addiction patients for 72 hours while attempting to place them in treatment, and restrict first-time opioid prescriptions to a three-day supply. In November 2015, Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh testified before the state legislature in support of the legislation, and the legislation received the endorsement of several Massachusetts county sheriffs, as well as Boston City Police Commissioner William B. Evans. In the same month, Baker announced a statewide anti-stigma media campaign to combat stereotypes about drug addiction, a core competencies program in prevention and management of prescription drug misuse at the state's medical schools, and signed into law a bill making fentanyl trafficking a crime.
In January 2016, Baker's administration announced $6.8 million in grants to prescription drug misuse prevention programs for youth in 16 towns and $700,000 in grants to police and fire departments in more than 30 towns to facilitate bulk purchases of naloxone, and Baker signed into law a bill legally prohibiting the civil commitment of women for substance abuse to MCI Framingham and diverting those commitments to treatment centers, such as Taunton State Hospital. In February 2016, Baker announced $2.5 million in federal grants for opioid and heroin crime reduction to Massachusetts criminal justice agencies, as well as a core competencies program on prescription drug misuse at the state's dental schools, and spoke in support of the Obama Administration's $1.1 billion proposal to expand access to treatment for drug addicts.
In March 2016, Baker spoke in support of new Centers for Disease Control opioid prescription guidelines, signed into law a bill repealing automatic driver's license suspensions for people convicted of drug crimes, and Baker signed into law a compromise version of the comprehensive opioid legislation he proposed the previous October. In May 2016, Baker and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey launched a statewide campaign to promote awareness of protection for people calling in drug overdoses under Good Samaritan laws. In June 2016, Baker met with the five other New England governors at a panel in Boston to coordinate reforms to address the opioid epidemic, such as setting limitations on opioid prescriptions, and the following month, Baker organized a nationwide compact signed by 44 governors to agree adopting the same strategies for addressing the opioid epidemic modeled after the policies Baker has implemented in Massachusetts.
Also in July 2016, Baker's administration expanded the women's drug addiction program at Taunton State Hospital. In August 2016, Baker launched an improved version of the state's prescription monitoring program and expanded the state's core competencies program in prevention and management of prescription drug misuse to advanced practice nursing and physician assistant programs, as well as to training programs for employees at community health centers, and the following month, Baker announced a statewide medication disposal program at Walgreens pharmacies. In December 2016, Baker announced a pilot workers' compensation program to provide alternative treatments to opioids for workers with settled claims for on-the-job injuries.
In February 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released data showing that estimated opioid-related deaths had increased to nearly 2,000 during 2016, after increasing from estimates of under 1,400 in 2014 and to under 1,800 in 2015. In March 2017, Baker was appointed to a Trump Administration commission to address the nation's opioid addiction epidemic that was chaired by former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and in June 2017, attended the commission's first meeting. In April 2017, Baker announced additional funding aid for criminal justice agencies on opioid and heroin abuse reduction programs in Massachusetts gateway cities and Massachusetts received $12 million in federal funding for its opioid epidemic policies. Also in June 2017, Baker's administration awarded an additional $2.3 million in a second round of federal grants for opioid and heroin crime reduction to Massachusetts criminal justice agencies. In August 2017, Baker proposed increasing penalties for illegal drug distribution of substances that lead to death to a maximum of life imprisonment and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years, equivalent to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and the following month, Baker's administration announced a pilot treatment and diversion program with the Worcester Police Department for low-level substance misuse.
In October 2017, Baker's administration extended the core competencies program on prescription drug misuse at the state's medical and dental schools to the state's nine social work schools, traveled to the National Academy of Medicine in Washington, D.C. to speak at a panel discussion about the opioid epidemic, and spoke in support of the Trump Administration's declaration of the opioid epidemic as a national public health emergency and called on the administration to fully fund the proposals of the commission Baker sat on chaired by Chris Christie. In November 2017, the Trump Administration opioid commission released its final report, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released data showing opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts declined by 10 percent over the first nine months of 2017, and Baker proposed an overhaul to the reforms he signed into law in March 2016.
In January 2018, Baker announced that CVS was adding drug disposal boxes to 42 pharmacies across the state, and Baker also proposed a separate bill to reintroduce a proposal that had been removed from the opioid legislation Baker signed into law in March 2016 to allow hospitals to involuntarily hold addiction patients for 72 hours while attempting to place them in treatment. Also in January 2018, Baker and his Secretary of Health and Human Services testified before the state legislature on the overhaul bill he proposed the previous November, and during his testimony, expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of supervised injection sites. In February 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released data showing that opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts fell by 8 percent in 2017, and the following May, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released further data showing a continued decline in opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts by 5 percent during the first three months of 2018. In June 2018, Baker spoke in support of a lawsuit filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey on behalf of 670 Massachusetts residents against OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma.
In February 2016, Baker launched a $15 million initiative creating an inter-secretariat working group between state agencies to write a report identifying better means of allocating funding to low- and middle-income residents to access clean energy. In September 2016, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Massachusetts first in energy efficiency for the sixth straight year. In April 2017, the inter-secretariat working group formed by Baker in February 2016 issued its final report and Baker announced the release of $10 million in grants to increase access for low-income Massachusetts residents to energy efficiency projects, such as solar panels, as the final component of the same initiative. Also in April 2017, the Union of Concerned Scientists ranked Massachusetts first in energy efficiency standards and third in overall clean energy progress. In April 2018, Baker filed legislation to increase access to information for current and prospective Massachusetts homeowners about the energy efficiency characteristics and recommended cost-effective energy efficiency improvements to their residences.
In July 2015, Baker's administration filed legislation to stabilize electricity rates in Massachusetts by increasing access to hydroelectricity with Baker himself stating that "This legislation is critical to reducing our carbon footprint, meeting the goals of the Global Warming Solutions Act and protecting ratepayers already stuck by sky high energy prices". In March 2016, the legislation received the endorsement of all three of the Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretaries of the Patrick Administration. In August 2016, Baker signed the legislation into law, requiring the state to procure 1,200 megawatts of hydropower, with the legislation also requiring a 200 megawatt-hour energy storage target and that the state procure 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power.
In September 2016, the Baker Administration announced that the offshore wind companies Deepwater Wind, DONG Energy, and OffshoreMW agreed to use the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal built during the Patrick Administration as a staging area for their projects. In June 2017, Massachusetts utilities issued the first RFP under the energy diversification law signed by Baker in August 2016, and the following month, five major bids were submitted. In December 2017, the Baker Administration announced that it was awarding $20 million in grants to 26 projects to develop the state's energy storage market, in accordance with the energy diversification law and the administration's energy storage initiative begun in May 2015.
In January 2018, the Baker Administration announced that Eversource Energy's Northern Pass Project had received preliminary approval for the hydropower procurement under the energy diversification law. The following month, the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee rejected the Northern Pass Project's permit application to build a transmission line through New Hampshire, raising uncertainty to the status of Eversource's proposal. In March 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources announced that the state's electric distribution companies had "terminated the conditional selection of the Northern Pass Hydro project", and were concluding negotiations on the RFP runner-up proposal with Central Maine Power's New England Clean Energy Connect project as a replacement. In May 2018, Baker's administration selected Vineyard Wind to construct a 800-megawatt offshore wind farm off the southern coast of Martha's Vineyard.
In September 2015, after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) downgraded the safety rating of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, Baker sent a letter to the nuclear operations of the Entergy Corporation that owns and operates the plant, urging them to "perform an appropriate root cause analysis of the shutdowns and to complete all necessary repairs and corrective actions." The following month, after Entergy announced that they would close the plant by June 1, 2019 rather than make expensive safety upgrades required by the NRC, Baker said that the closure was "a disappointment but it's not a surprise", with his administration stating that it "will work closely with Pilgrim's leadership team and federal regulators to ensure that this decision is managed as safely as possible, and we will continue to work with ISO and the other New England Governors to ensure that Massachusetts and New England has the baseload capacity it needs to meet the electric generation needs of the region."
In February 2018, Baker, along with the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation, wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke urging the Trump Administration to not include Massachusetts or North Atlantic waters in the administration's 2019–2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing program of offshore drilling.
In July 2015, the Baker Administration announced that it would file legislation to raise net metering caps on solar energy, with officials stating that "The administration looks forward to filing legislation that builds upon the success and continued growth of Massachusetts' solar industry while ensuring a long-term, sustainable solar program that facilitates industry growth, minimizes ratepayer impact and achieves our goal of 1,600 megawatts by 2020". The administration submitted the legislation the following month, and on April 11, 2016, Baker signed the legislation into law. The cap increase prompted a subsequent overhaul the following year of the state's solar incentive program that has cut the cost of solar installations to ratepayers in half.
In December 2015, the Baker Administration launched a $30 million residential solar loan program to increase direct ownership of solar electricity by lowering fixed interest rates to homeowners purchasing solar panels, with Baker himself stating "Massachusetts is a national leader in solar energy, and this program provides another way for residents to access solar energy while diversifying the Commonwealth's energy portfolio and reducing our overall carbon footprint". In January 2018, when President Trump imposed tariffs on solar panels manufactured outside the United States, Baker's administration criticized the decision, stating that it was "disappointed" but "remains committed to supporting solar energy as an important component of the Commonwealth's diverse energy portfolio and source of clean energy jobs." In February 2018, the Baker Administration announced that solar capacity in Massachusetts had increased to 2,000 megawatts.
In January 2016, the Baker Administration announced that Massachusetts was on track to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals. In September 2016, following the record breaking snowfall in Boston from the 2014–15 North American winter and during a severe drought, Baker signed an executive order directing various state cabinet offices to develop and implement a statewide, comprehensive adaptation plan on climate change. In January 2017, in order to meet emission reductions goals, Baker signed into law a bill to promote the sale and use of electric vehicles. In February 2017, Baker joined a bipartisan coalition of governors that sent a letter to President Donald Trump, calling on his administration to support renewable energy.
In May 2017, prior to the United States withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation, Baker along with Vermont Governor Phil Scott wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry urging the Trump Administration to remain committed to the agreement. After President Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the agreement, Baker criticized the decision and was among ten American governors that agreed to continue upholding the standards of the agreement within their states. In November 2017, the Massachusetts Senate passed a Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan for a fifth time, but as of March 7, 2018, is under review by the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee. On March 8, 2018, Baker said that he planned to file legislation the following week on climate change, and on March 15, 2018, Baker submitted a $1.4 billion climate resiliency bond bill that called on all town governments in Massachusetts to formulate vulnerability and hazard mitigation plans to address climate change problems unique to their communities.
On March 31, 2015, Baker ordered a review of the state's environmental regulations, specifying that they not exceed federal requirements if they "unduly and adversely affect Massachusetts citizens and customers of the Commonwealth." In December 2016, Baker's administration released regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the natural gas, transportation, and electricity generation industries.
On April 21, 2016, Baker's administration sided with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a dispute with General Electric over cleanup of the Housatonic River. The following week and after four Boston Public Schools (including the Boston Latin Academy) were found to have levels of lead above the state action level in fountain drinking water, the Baker Administration announced that it would provide $2 million from the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust to fund a testing program operated by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to provide technical assistance to public school districts in assessing samples of water from both fountains and from taps that are used in food preparation, and the following November, Baker provided an additional $750,000 to the program for further technical assistance with sampling and testing.
Also in April 2016, Baker filed legislation requesting that the state Department of Environmental Protection be delegated to oversee Clean Water Act pollution discharge permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency along with 46 other states, and then again in March 2017 after the previous bill received opposition from Democrats on the state legislature's Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. In April 2017, the Baker Administration awarded $900,000 in grants to five different public water suppliers. In February 2018, the Baker Administration announced that 58 clean water initiatives and 28 drinking water projects across Massachusetts would be eligible for $610 million in loans to fund construction projects to upgrade or replace drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, to reduce treatment plant energy usage and costs, and to improve water quality.
During Baker's first two years as governor, the state income tax dropped to 5.1%. Baker has opposed implementing a "millionaire's tax," originally supported but then opposed extending the state hotel tax to short-term rentals (such as Airbnb), and signed into law an expansion of the state earned income tax credit. In 2016, the Massachusetts general fund budget rose by 6.1 percent and the state budget for the 2016 fiscal year had a year-end shortfall of more than $300 million and could be as large $750 million for the following year. In December 2016, Baker unilaterally cut $98 million from the state budget, including many of the $265 million in items that he had vetoed the previous July, $231 million of which the state legislature overrode. The midyear cuts prompted criticism and opposition from State House of Representatives Speaker Robert DeLeo, State Senate President Stan Rosenberg, and State Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Karen Spilka. However, in February 2017, tax revenues came in 9.1 percent lower than expected and the likelihood of overturning the cuts became unlikely, and in March 2017, Speaker DeLeo stated that reversing those midyear cuts would be "difficult."
On January 25, 2017, Baker proposed a $40.5 billion state budget for fiscal year 2018, and on March 9, 2017, legislative hearings began to review it. Tax changes proposed in Baker's 2018 budget proposal include extending the state sales tax to online retailers without physical storefronts or offices in-state, a requirement that credit card companies send a 1099 tax form to individuals earning more than $600 from credit and debit card transactions, extending the state's hotel tax to room-sharing services and individuals who rent out rooms for more than 150 days a year, and a $2,000-per-employee assessment on employers that do not offer health insurance to counter spending growth in the state Medicaid program, MassHealth. Spending increases to MassHealth, local government and local education aid, higher education (including $78 million towards repairs of the University of Massachusetts Boston underground parking garage), an anti-opioid trafficking program and substance abuse services, homelessness prevention, improvement in clinical services at Bridgewater State Hospital, the Department of Children and Families to hire more case workers, a job retraining fund, an MBTA subsidy, and increasing state tax credits to businesses that hire unemployed military veterans are included in the proposal.
In May 2015, Baker sent a request to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell to delay changes under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) to the small business health insurance market in Massachusetts until the state government could formally file for a waiver, which was secured the following month, and authorized the following August. In May 2016, Baker's administration announced that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave permission to Massachusetts to continue allowing small businesses in the state to purchase health insurance year-round, and the following July, secured a one-year waiver from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to allow Massachusetts health insurers to continue using small group rating factors unaligned with the ACA.
In October 2016, Baker criticized the length of the Food and Drug Administration's approval process for generic drugs, stated that progress was being made with the Obama Administration on a waiver extension for the state Medicaid program MassHealth, and expressed support for public discussion about changes to the ACA early the following year, stating "It's my hope that states will be permitted to engage the federal government in an honest conversation about what's working and what needs to be worked on with respect to the ACA". In November 2016, Baker's administration received approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to implement a five-year waiver authorizing a $52.4 billion restructuring of MassHealth. In December 2016, Baker announced his support for the 21st Century Cures Act passed by the 114th U.S. Congress.
In January 2017, in a letter to U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Baker defended certain provisions of the ACA and urged the 115th U.S. Congress to not repeal the law too quickly and disrupt insurance markets. In March 2017, Baker stated that discussions with the Republican Congressional leadership and incoming U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price at a National Governors Association meeting were "mostly a one-way street type conversation", expressed opposition to cuts in funding for the National Institutes of Health in the Trump Administration's 2018 U.S. federal budget, and after writing in a letter to all members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation that the state could lose $1 billion in federal health care funding under the American Health Care Act of 2017 (AHCA), Baker opposed the version of the AHCA being voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives at the time. After its passage by the House the following May, Baker released a statement saying that he was "disappointed by today's vote", but that as "the U.S. Senate takes up this bill, we will continue to advocate for the Commonwealth's priorities so that all residents have access to the health coverage they need" and urged Congress to reject the bill.
In June 2017, Baker, along with Ohio Governor John Kasich, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, sent a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer stating their opposition to the AHCA bill passed the previous month due to its spending cuts to Medicaid and called for U.S. Senate leaders to craft a more bipartisan reform instead. Later in the same month, Baker stated in a letter to Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren that more than a quarter of a million residents of Massachusetts could lose health care coverage under the Senate AHCA amendment, the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA), and the following month, and in a second letter to the U.S. Senate leadership that now also included Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, and Vermont Governor Phil Scott, Baker and nine other governors also opposed the Health Care Freedom Act of 2017 (HCFA).
In August 2017, Baker was called to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on the ACA, which Baker did the following month, as well as writing a third letter to the U.S. Senate leadership with largely the same group of governors (with Alaska Governor Bill Walker joining) opposing the Graham–Cassidy health care amendment. In October 2017, Baker opposed the Trump Administration's decision to end ACA cost-sharing reduction payments, and along with the previous group of governors, Baker wrote a fourth letter to the U.S. Senate leadership supporting the Bipartisan Health Care Stabilization Act of 2017 sponsored by Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander and Washington Senator Patty Murray. In November 2017, Baker wrote to Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urging them to reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
In January 2016, Baker announced a comprehensive public-private partnership to improve the competitiveness of the state's digital healthcare industry, and the following month, Baker signed into law a bill endorsed by the American Cancer Society and the Dana–Farber Cancer Institute that increased the minimum age for using tanning facilities to 18 in order to counter increases in skin cancer among minors. In March 2016, Baker's administration cut $60 million from the state program Health Safety Net and Baker said that he wanted hospital pricing resolved by the state legislature rather than by a ballot initiative. The following May, Baker signed into law a compromise bill on hospital pricing.
In August 2016, Baker's veto of legislation requiring health insurance coverage for long-term Lyme disease treatment was overridden by the state legislature. Later in the same month, Baker signed into law a bill mandating insurance coverage of treatment for HIV-associated lipodystrophy caused by older HIV medications. In November 2016, Baker's administration announced the formation of the Massachusetts Digital Healthcare Council to advise his administration in supporting the Massachusetts digital healthcare industry, and the following month, due to Baker's midyear budget cuts, Baystate Health lost $1 million in funding. In January 2017, in his state budget proposal for fiscal year 2018, Baker proposed a $2,000-per-employee assessment on businesses that do not offer health insurance to counter spending growth in MassHealth, which received opposition from the state business community and support from health care unions.
In February 2017, Baker's administration announced that the Massachusetts Health Connector enrolled the highest number of health insurance applicants since the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). In the same month, Baker's administration also announced that it signed a contract with Correct Care Solutions to provide clinical patient care at Bridgewater State Hospital, and the following April, Baker's administration announced that Correct Care Solutions had transitioned Bridgewater State Hospital to improved patient care. After signaling a willingness to compromise on his proposed employer health insurance assessment the previous March, Baker signed into law $200 million in new fees and fines on Massachusetts employers to counter spending increases in MassHealth in August 2017.
In September 2017, the state government's Center for Health Information and Analysis released data showing that the state curbed the growth of its health care spending for the first time in three years. In January 2018, Baker defended a decision by the state's Group Insurance Commission to change the health insurance plans of the state's public employees, but urged the Commission to better communicate its decisions to its members. In March 2018, Baker signed into law greater patient privacy protections from health insurance companies, and the following month, a commission enacted by Baker the previous year to investigate evidence-based approaches to behavioral health released its final report.
On the same day Baker was inaugurated as Governor, the U.S. Olympic Committee announced that it was selecting Boston's bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics for submission to the International Olympic Committee. Baker released a statement welcoming the announcement, while also saying that he was "looking forward to working with Mayor Walsh and the Boston 2024 organization to address the multitude of issues that need to be discussed, including keeping costs down and continuing to press forward on pledges of a privately funded Olympics as the process moves forward before the IOC." In June 2015, amidst declining public support and organized opposition to the bid, Baker and the leadership of the state legislature commissioned an independent analysis of the potential impacts of hosting the games performed by the Cambridge-based consulting firm The Brattle Group.
Despite the U.S. Olympic Committee and the bid organizers mutually agreeing to drop the bid the previous month, the Brattle Group completed and released its report in August 2015. The report found that the bid organizers had underestimated the construction costs for the games' venues by $970 million (which the bid organizers had only estimated to be $918 million), had underestimated the costs to upgrading the MBTA's power and signaling systems by as much as $1.3 billion, and underestimated the costs for the proposed Olympic Stadium in Widett Circle by as much as $240 million, and the report also noted that hosting the games would not have increased the state workforce or the state GDP by even one percent over the six years in preparation for and during the year of hosting the games. Based upon the report's analysis of the financial risks to taxpayers, Baker stated that he "would not have been able or willing to provide the guarantees the [United States Olympic Committee] was looking for from the commonwealth of Massachusetts", and doubted that the leadership of the state legislature would have been willing to do so either.
On his first day in office, Baker directed the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to release $100 million in aid to local governments to fund upgrades to transportation infrastructure, and in the wake of the 2014–15 winter, started a $30 million pothole repair fund the following March. In both of the first two years of his administration, Baker requested $200 million bills from the state legislature for infrastructure funding aid to local governments through the state's Chapter 90 program, which were both approved. In August 2016, Baker signed into law a bill that expanded a program to improve local street network safety and efficiency that was launched earlier that year, authorized $50 million in spending over the subsequent five years for repairs to small municipal bridges, and included a $750 million authorization request for the federal aid highway program.
For fiscal years 2016, 2017, and 2018, Baker submitted $2.13 billion, $2.19 billion, and $2.26 billion capital budgets respectively. In May 2017, Baker signed into law the annual Chapter 90 funding request, which came to $290 million so as to include funding for a software platform for the state Registry of Motor Vehicles and to reauthorize a mobility assistance program. In July 2017, Baker's administration visited construction projects in Worcester, Salem, Lowell, and Braintree to highlight $2.8 billion spent during his administration on highway construction projects and improvements to bridges, intersections, and sidewalks. In October 2017, Baker's administration awarded $8.5 million to 10 rural towns through the MassWorks infrastructure program. In February 2018, Baker filed the annual $200 million request for Chapter 90 funding for 2018.
In May 2017, Baker's administration announced $9.3 million in grant making funds for the Massachusetts Cultural Council that provides grants for culturally and historically significant sites. The previous July, Baker vetoed a $7.7 million earmark for the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which was overridden by the state legislature. In July 2017, Baker launched the third year of the Summer Nights for Youth Initiative to extend operating hours and expand programming at city parks across the state. In September 2017, Baker's administration announced it would increase the budget of the state Recreational Trails Program by 60 percent from $1.1 million to 1.8 million to construct 10 new miles of walking and biking trails and improve the existing 150 miles that had been planned or completed during the previous two years of his administration. The following month, Baker announced that the state would assume the $3 million costs to repair a culvert at Forest Park in Springfield.
Baker is pro-choice. In March 2017, after Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan and other congressional Republicans in the 115th U.S. Congress proposed a defunding provision to the American Health Care Act of 2017 that would make Planned Parenthood clinics in Massachusetts ineligible for nearly $2 million in Medicaid medical service reimbursements and federal family planning grants under Title X, the Baker Administration promised to offset the funding gap. On February 8, 2018, the Baker Administration announced a supplemental spending bill that included $1.6 million for clinical family planning services that would backfill the federal funding, with Baker himself stating, "Our administration fully supports access to women's health care and family planning services, and is requesting supplemental state funding to support these critical services in the event of an interruption in federal funding. With federal funding set to expire at the end of March and its renewal unclear, our administration is allocating this funding to ensure essential reproductive and preventative health care services remain available to women across the Commonwealth."
When the Obama Administration announced in September 2015 that it would accept 10,000 Syrian Civil War refugees, Baker initially indicated that he would be open to exploring ways in which Massachusetts could be a partner with the U.S. State Department in addressing the refugee crisis, saying "the United States is part of the global community. This is clearly a global crisis, and we should do as a nation what I would call... our fair share", but that he "would want to know what the game plan was, what the expectations were, how we would anticipate paying for whatever it is they would expect supporters to do". In the wake of the November 2015 Paris attacks, Baker opposed allowing additional Syrian refugees into the state until he knew more about the federal government's process for vetting them, and was criticized for his opposition by Massachusetts U.S. Senator Ed Markey, and Massachusetts U.S. Representatives Seth Moulton and Jim McGovern.
However, Baker declined to sign a letter sent by 27 other Republican governors to President Obama that called for the immediate suspension of all efforts to resettle Syrian refugees, with his administration stating that "Gov. Baker believes that Massachusetts has a role in welcoming refugees into the commonwealth and in the wake of recent, terrible tragedies overseas is working to ensure the public's safety and security". After Donald Trump became President, Baker opposed the Trump Administration's original and revised travel bans, arguing that "focusing on countries' predominant religions will not make the country safer", and wrote a letter to then U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly highlighting concerns with the effects of the travel ban on Massachusetts businesses, colleges and universities, and academic medical centers.
Baker has opposed legislation that would make Massachusetts a sanctuary state and has said that sanctuary status decisions are "best made at a local level", but has also said that he is "open-minded" about statewide sanctuary status. In July 2017, after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that local police departments cannot detain any person solely based on requests from federal immigration authorities, Baker's administration filed legislation that would allow the Massachusetts State Police and local departments to detain individuals previously convicted of a felony or "aliens who pose a threat to public safety", but not to authorize local police to "enforce federal immigration law." Baker criticized President Trump for his comments on January 11, 2018 about immigration from Latin America and Africa, stating that Trump's comments were "appalling and disgraceful and have no place anywhere in public or private discourse".
Baker supports same-sex marriage, stating after the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Obergefell v. Hodges case in June 2015, "I'm pleased the Commonwealth has already recognized same-sex marriages in our state, and with today's Supreme Court decision every American citizen across the nation will have equal protection under the law and the right to marry the person they choose." Despite previously opposing legislation that would expand state anti-discrimination laws to include protections for transgender individuals in public restrooms, Baker signed into law a compromise bill enacting such protections on July 8, 2016, and has expressed opposition to a North Carolina law that eliminated such protections.
Before his tenure as governor, Baker supported the 2014 ballot measure that repealed indexing the state gas tax to inflation. In June 2016, Baker's administration launched a multi-faceted initiative to reduce motor vehicle accidents during the summer. After proposing similar legislation the previous year, in August 2016, Baker signed into law a bill regulating transportation network companies (such as Uber and Lyft) by implementing a 20-cent per ride company surcharge, mandating vehicle insurance requirements, and background checks for company drivers. Also in August 2016, Baker vetoed a proposed vehicle miles traveled tax. In October 2016, Baker issued an executive order to create a regulatory framework for the testing of driverless cars in Massachusetts, and in the same month, oversaw the opening of the state's electronic tolling system along the Massachusetts Turnpike.
In April 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities released data showing that more than 8,000 drivers for transportation network companies failed to pass the state background check requirement signed into law by Baker the previous August. In September 2017, Baker's administration announced that it was planning to create a new commission to review the state's transportation needs, and Baker enacted the commission by executive order the following January. In November 2017, Baker called for the state legislature to pass legislation banning handheld cellphone use while driving (as well as other handheld electronic devices), with exceptions for hands-free technology usage and emergency situations.
In February 2015, despite record breaking snowfall in Boston from the 2014–15 North American winter causing severe delays on all MBTA Subway lines, and many long-term operational and financial problems with the MBTA public transit system coming under greater public attention, Baker indicated at the time that he was reluctant to discuss the financing issues but that he would "have more to say about that in a couple of weeks." After blaming the snowfall and a lack of public investment in an aging system for the crisis the previous day, on February 11, 2015, the general manager of the MBTA resigned. Amidst criticism of his emergency management and polling demonstrating public opinion in favor of his administration prioritizing resolving the MBTA's issues, Baker announced the formation of a special advisory panel to diagnose the MBTA's problems and write a report recommending proposals to address them.
On April 8, 2015, the advisory panel released its report. The report was broadly critical of MBTA operational and financial management; it simultaneously noted that the system was in "severe financial distress" with an unsustainable operating budget, was "governed ineffectively" due to frequent changes in leadership and its leadership not being directly accountable to either the Governor or the state legislature, that in the previous five years, the system had only spent $2.3 billion of the $4.5 billion capital construction budget that had already been appropriated to it, and that the MBTA had a workplace culture with high absenteeism causing delays in service. However, at the press conference announcing the report's release, the co-chair of the advisory panel also stated "I want to be clear that the panel rejects the 'reform versus revenue' debate because we feel strongly the MBTA needs both", with the report itself stating "The catastrophic winter breakdowns were symptomatic of structural problems that require fundamental change in virtually all aspects of the MBTA."
Among other reforms, the report recommended replacing the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board with a new Fiscal and Management Control Board directly appointed by the Governor and the leadership of the state legislature. Two weeks after the report was released, Baker filed legislation closely following the report's recommendations. The legislation passed the following July, with Baker appointing the Fiscal and Management Control Board the same day he signed the legislation into law. In the interim, Baker proposed a five-year winter resiliency plan with $83 million being spent to update infrastructure, purchase new equipment, and improve operations during severe weather.
In July 2016, after the Fiscal and Management Control Board completed its first year, Baker addressed the status of MBTA operations and financial management, noting progress made on many of the reforms and concerns highlighted in the April 2015 advisory panel report. These included a leveling of the MBTA operating expense budget between the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years (after a 5 percent per year increase over the previous 15 years), a 25 percent decline in operator absenteeism, a 30 percent decline in overtime expenses, dropped bus runs declining by one third, as well as improvements to system infrastructure. However, at the same time, Baker noted that the MBTA was "still in very tough shape", reiterating concerns about the MBTA pension system, the security of the MBTA's cash handling operations, need for reform to the MBTA's procurement and contracting system, and improvements to its infrastructure maintenance system highlighted in the advisory panel report.
In September 2016, a month after Baker signed into law a regulatory framework for transportation network companies, Baker and the MBTA announced a pilot program partnering the MBTA's The Ride with Uber and Lyft to improve paratransit services for disabled riders, which was expanded in February 2017 to all users of The Ride. In December 2016, the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board approved a proposal to replace all MBTA Red Line fleet vehicles by 2025. Also in February 2017, Baker launched a search for a new permanent MBTA general manager and recommended that the Fiscal and Management Control Board exercise the two-year extension option to continue its governance of the MBTA allowed under the law that authorized its formation, which was formally granted the following May.
After approving a $1.98 billion budget in April 2017 as a Fiscal and Management Control Board member (which reduced the MBTA structural deficit from $42 million to $30 million), the following July, interim MBTA general manager Steve Poftak said in a press briefing that after the "MBTA was in the position of...devouring itself a couple of years ago" and "not spending the amount of money on maintaining the system...to just keep it level, never mind improve it to a state of good repair", that the MBTA would accelerate its capital spending from an average of $437 million (excluding expansion projects) in the previous five years to $702 million for fiscal year 2019. Simultaneously, Poftak also noted that the MBTA is "saving money and...getting better service" by "allowing the MBTA to focus on transporting people, not ancillary things that other people do better than us", referring specifically to outsourcing the MBTA's cash handling operations to the security company Brink's, and transferring warehouse operations to an outside vendor, which led to 65 percent and 40 percent reductions respectively in annual costs.
In August 2017, Baker celebrated the groundbreaking of a $38.5 million project to improve Ruggles Station in Roxbury, and in the same month, the MBTA named former General Electric executive Luis Ramirez to be its new general manager. Ramirez's previous management experience, as well as the process for vetting him, came under public scrutiny and criticism; specifically, his tenure as CEO of the Dallas-based Global Power Equipment Group that was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for accounting statement errors, and that was subject to a class action lawsuit regarding the same accounting statement errors from its shareholders that was later dismissed.
In response to calls for Baker to rescind Ramirez's appointment, Baker spoke out in defense of Ramirez and the vetting process, stating that he was "quite confident in Luis's ability to both do the job and to succeed mightily in doing it. He went through a rigorous search process as part of this initiative and he brings exactly what the MBTA needs." On September 12, 2017, Ramirez took over as general manager of the MBTA. In February 2018, Ramirez announced to the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board that the MBTA would face a $111 million budget gap for fiscal year 2019. In April 2018, the MBTA began a one-year pilot program for early morning bus service along certain MBTA Bus routes in Boston. In June 2018, the MBTA began a 3-month pilot of a summer weekend Commuter Rail fare of $10 for unlimited use.
Baker married Lauren Cardy Schadt, another Kellogg alum, in 1987. Lauren was an assistant account executive at a New York advertising agency and is the daughter of James P. Schadt, the former CEO of Reader's Digest and Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages. They live in Swampscott, Massachusetts, with their three children.
Baker is known to chime in on popular culture issues from time-to-time: in 2015, Boston magazine wrote a piece on the Governor's music preferences, stating that Baker "is shamelessly Top 40 in his tastes, stuck mostly in the classic rock that dominated radio of his teens and twenties, aka the 1970s and ’80s" but holding "a deep knowledge and appreciation for the Ramones, Green Day, and the Dropkick Murphys." That same year, the Governor, a lifelong Star Wars fan, admitted to not being a fan of the prequels nor the sequels that follow the original trilogy.
|Massachusetts Gubernatorial Republican Primary Election, 2010|
|Republican||Scott Lively (write-in)||1,021||0.5|
|Republican||Tim Cahill (write-in)||448||0.2|
|Massachusetts Gubernatorial Election, 2010|
|Democratic||Deval Patrick/Tim Murray (inc.)||1,112,283||48.4|
|Republican||Charlie Baker/Richard Tisei||964,866||42.0|
|Independent||Tim Cahill/Paul Loscocco||184,395||8.0|
|Green-Rainbow||Jill Stein/Richard Purcell||32,895||1.4|
|Massachusetts Gubernatorial Republican Primary Election, 2014|
|Massachusetts Gubernatorial Election, 2014|
|Republican||Charlie Baker/Karyn Polito||1,044,573||48.4|
|Democratic||Martha Coakley/Steve Kerrigan||1,004,408||46.5|
|United Independent||Evan Falchuk/Angus Jennings||71,814||3.3|
|Independent||Scott Lively/Shelly Saunders||19,378||0.9|
|Independent||Jeff McCormick/Tracy Post||16,295||0.8|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Charlie Baker.|
|Party political offices|
|Republican nominee for Governor of Massachusetts
|Governor of Massachusetts
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
as Vice President
|Order of Precedence of the United States
Mayor of city
in which event is held
Otherwise Paul Ryan
as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
as Governor of Connecticut
|Order of Precedence of the United States
as Governor of Maryland
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