A Republican candidate for governor of Massachusetts spoke to supporters in Pittsfield Tuesday night.
Charlie Baker gave a stump speech and fielded questions from about 20 Berkshire County Republicans at Zucco’s Restaurant in Pittsfield. Baker, who was the 2010 Republican challenger to Governor Deval Patrick, says he sees benefits in having more than one philosophy at the problem-solving table. He says he learned that by being raised under what he calls a “mixed marriage” with a Democratic mother and a Republican father who worked in the Nixon and Reagan administrations.
“You do get a better product when you have both teams on the field,” Baker said. “You do get a better result when you have two teams competing. You do get a better government and a better process when you have more than one set of ideas engaged.”
Baker is making job creation his number one priority.
“We haven’t created a single net new job in 13 years,” the Republican said. “We have the same number of people working here that we had working here in 2000. How can that be? How can a state that brings everything that we bring to table lag when it comes to growing and creating jobs and economic opportunity? The answer is pretty simple. We are wicked smart, but we finish 48th and 49th on every single survey that has to do with the cost of almost everything.”
While Baker doesn’t expect the cost of living in Massachusetts to be the lowest in the nation, he says replicating methods already being used in pockets of the commonwealth on a statewide level can decrease things like energy expenses. The Republican touted his 25 years of experience in the public and private sectors, having served as Secretary of Health and Human Services and Secretary of Finance and Administration under Governors William Weld and then Paul Cellucci in the 1990s.
“When Bill and Paul took office, Massachusetts had the highest unemployment rate in the country,” Baker said. “When Paul Cellucci left to become the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Massachusetts had the lowest unemployment rate in the country. We solved problems, we got stuff done, we made government work and we put people back to work, which is really in many respects what this fundamentally needs to be all about.”
Baker says economic development should be handled on a regional level and that small businesses are the “lifeblood” of any economy. He says the state needs to constantly review its regulatory measures and hear from business leaders about ways to steamline regulations.
“The state needs to speak with one voice on this,” he said. “There really are legitimate circumstances in which people will find that being in compliance with one agency’s regulation puts you out of compliance with another agency’s regulation. That should never happen.”
Baker also expressed opposition to the state’s handling of a hike in the gasoline tax.
“I’m supportive of getting rid of the automatic inflation adjustment that doesn’t require the Legislature to ever have to vote on the gas tax again, which I think is a mistake,” said Baker.
The Republican says he will work with communities and housing agencies to stop the policy of placing homeless families in motels.
“My big concern with the way the system is set up right now is we’re plopping people into hotels and motels and then not really engaging them in a process or a strategy to get them out,” he said. “This one is as much about hustle as it is about anything else.”
Baker is the only declared Republican candidate so far. The Democratic field includes Attorney General Martha Coakley, Treasurer Steve Grossman, Juliette Kayyem, Joe Avellone and Don Berwick. Governor Patrick, who beat Baker with 48 percent of the vote in 2010, is not seeking reelection. Mike Case is the GOP state committeeman for the Berkshire, Hampden and Franklin District.
“Some people say that it’s really good to have a primary because it gets your name out there,” Case said. “My belief is if you’ve got a really good candidate that’s got a shot, why would try to diffuse the vote a little bit.”
Using his experience from 2010, Baker says he is no longer simply learning the issues across the state, but is engaged in developing solutions this time around. He says this won’t be his last campaign stop in the traditionally left-leaning Berkshires.