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|72nd Governor of Massachusetts|
|Assumed office |
January 8, 2015
|Preceded by||Deval Patrick|
|Secretary of Administration and Finance of Massachusetts|
November 1994 – September 1998
|Preceded by||Mark Robinson|
|Succeeded by||Frederick Laskey|
|Secretary of Health and Human Services of Massachusetts|
October 1992 – November 1994
|Preceded by||David Forsberg|
|Succeeded by||Gerald Whitburn|
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 since 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 graduated from Harvard 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.
After working in government for eight years, Baker left to become CEO of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates and later Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a non-profit health benefits company. During this time he served three years as a selectman of Swampscott and considered a run for Massachusetts Governor in 2006. He stepped down in July 2009 to run for Governor of Massachusetts 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.
Running for the office again, on November 4, 2014, he won the general election against Democrat Martha Coakley by a narrow margin. As of October 10, 2018[update], Baker had a job approval rating of 70%, the highest approval rating of any governor in the United States. In 2018, Baker was re-elected in a landslide over Democratic challenger Jay Gonzalez with 67% of the vote, the largest vote share in a Massachusetts gubernatorial election since 1994.
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, before moving to 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 U.S. Department of Transportation in the Nixon Administration, the following year becoming the department's assistant secretary for policy and international affairs, and in both capacities serving under former Massachusetts Governor John Volpe. His father also served as undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Reagan Administration under former Massachusetts Congresswoman Margaret Heckler.
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.
Baker attended Harvard College and graduated in 1979 with a BA in English. He later stated that he went to Harvard "because of the brand", and wrote, "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 consecutive 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 46.6%.
Baker was re-elected in 2018.
Baker was inaugurated on January 8, 2015 as the 72nd Governor of Massachusetts at the Massachusetts State House in Boston. Politically, Governor Baker is considered to be a liberal or moderate Republican.
|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%|
|Morning Consult||April 1–June 30, 2018||69%||17%||14%|
|Suffolk University/The Boston Globe||September 13–17, 2018||72%||18%||10%|
|Morning Consult||July 1–September 25, 2018||70%||17%||13%|
|Western New England University||October 10–October 27, 2018||67%||15%||18%|
|Suffolk University/The Boston Globe||October 24–27, 2018||73%||16%||11%|
|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%|
|Suffolk University/The Boston Globe||September 13–17, 2018||73%||17%||10%|
|WBUR/MassINC||September 17–21, 2018||74%||14%||12%|
|UMass Lowell/The Boston Globe||October 1–7, 2018||78%||12%||10%|
|Suffolk University/The Boston Globe||October 24–27, 2018||73%||15%||12%|
|WBUR/MassINC||October 25–28, 2018||71%||17%||12%|
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. In the same month, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey ruled that municipalities with moratoriums on recreational marijuana sales would be allowed to extend them for another year.
Also in June 2018, with marijuana sales in the state scheduled to begin the following month and no recreational marijuana retail licenses having being issued, 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 other Commission regulators noting that only 53 of 1,145 applications for marijuana business licenses were complete and ready for review. On July 2, 2018, Baker praised the Commission's work in creating the regulatory framework for the recreational marijuana industry in the state, and expressed support for the Commission's decision to roll out the industry more slowly, stating "It's very clear that you only get one shot to roll this out, and it's very hard to change if you don't do what you think you should have done the first time." On the same day, the Commission voted unanimously to grant the first recreational marijuana retail license to a medical dispensary in Leicester. As of October 29, 2018, 179 towns in Massachusetts have either permanent bans (84) or moratoriums (95) currently in place on retail marijuana stores.
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 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 the number of opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts during the first three months of 2018 was 5 percent lower than during the first three months of 2017. 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 January 2015, Baker, in the first executive order of his administration, enacted into law a Community Compact Cabinet chaired by Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito to enable the Governor's office to work more directly with municipal government leaders. In July 2015, Baker announced $26 million in community development block grants to 65 municipalities for housing, infrastructure improvements, childcare vouchers, and other services. In August 2015, Baker's administration announced the formation of the Seaport Economic Council to advise the administration in supporting the state's maritime economy. In December 2015, Baker filed legislation to modernize municipal finance in the state through a series of regulatory reforms. In January 2016, Baker announced the first award in the inaugural round of the state's Urban Agenda Grant Program in Roxbury, and the following day, Baker's administration announced the rest of the program's inaugural round of grants.
In February 2016, Baker, along with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, announced a redevelopment public–private partnership between the state and city governments with Veolia. In June 2016, Baker announced $28 million in community development block grants to 57 municipalities in the state to pursue economic development projects and support the needs of low- and moderate-income residents. In August 2016, Baker signed into law the municipal finance modernization bill he proposed the previous December. In October 2016, Baker administration's announced a $7.5 million grant to the town of Greenfield for a downtown parking garage. The following month, Baker's administration announced $2.3 million in grants to Worcester to redevelop its downtown area, $3 million in grants to Marlborough for commercial development, and $1.93 million in grants to Westfield for upgrades to the segment of U.S. Route 20 in the city. In December 2016, Baker's administration announced $1 million in grants to 72 municipalities and 10 school districts from the Community Compact Cabinet for efficiency and regionalization efforts.
In January 2017, Baker's administration announced $8.8 million in Community Compact Cabinet grants in their state budget proposal for fiscal year 2018, and the following March, Baker's administration announced $850,000 in a second round of Community Compact Cabinet grants to 38 municipalities and 8 school districts for efficiency and regionalization efforts. In May 2017, Baker's administration announced $6 million in tax credits to 48 community development corporations in the state to improve economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income households and communities, and the following month, announced $1.8 million in grants from the state's Site Readiness Fund Program to increase the number of development-ready sites in the state for local development, including a $300,000 grant to Westfield for an industrial park expansion.
In July 2017, Baker announced $30.5 million in community development block grants to 58 municipalities in the state to respond to specific housing, community, and economic development projects that support low- and moderate-income residents, as well as a $2.38 million grant to the town of Winthrop to redevelop its business district. In September 2017, Baker signed the 300th Community Compact agreement with the town of Swampscott, and the following month, Baker's administration announced $343,000 in Collaborative Workspace Program grants to seven organizations in Western Massachusetts. In November 2017, Baker's administration announced the second round of grants from the state's Urban Agenda Grant Program. In January 2018, Baker's administration announced $2 million in Community Compact Cabinet grants to 92 municipalities and 8 school districts for efficiency and regionalization. In May 2018, Lieutenant Governor Polito signed the 350th and 351st Community Compacts agreements with Wilbraham and Boston. In October 2018, Baker announced a $2.5 million grant to assist a project to restore the Paramount Theater in Springfield.
In March 2015, as part of his budget proposal for fiscal year 2016, Baker proposed eliminating the state's film industry tax credit to pay for an expansion of the state's earned income tax credit, and later in the same month, Baker's administration announced that the state had approved a tax credits package to support an expansion project by Amazon.com into Fall River and Freetown. Also in March 2015, Baker signed an executive order initiating a comprehensive review of all regulations enforced by the state government. In July 2015, as part of a compromise for the 2016 fiscal year state budget, the state legislature eliminated a corporate tax deduction instead of eliminating the state's film industry tax credit to pay for the earned income tax credit increase.
In January 2016, General Electric announced that it was moving its corporate headquarters to the Boston Seaport District following $120 million in grants and other programs offered by Baker's administration and $25 million in property tax relief offered by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Later in the same month, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development released jobs estimates showing that the state had gained 7,100 jobs during the previous month and that during 2015 the state had seen the highest levels of jobs growth since 2000. Also in January 2016, Baker proposed a five-year, $918 million economic development bill that he would sign into law the following August. In April 2016, Baker credited expansion of Logan International Airport to include more international flights with General Electric's decision to move their corporate headquarters to Boston the previous January.
In December 2016, the state Labor and Workforce Development Office released jobs estimates showing that the state unemployment rate had fallen to 2.9%, and Baker's administration undertook an economic development mission in Israel. During the mission, Baker signed an agreement with Israeli Chief Scientist Avi Hasson to foster research and development cooperation between the Massachusetts and Israeli governments, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and an Israeli non-profit organization signed a cybersecurity agreement, and Baker met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the same month, Baker's administration also announced $950,000 in grants to 23 organizations as part of the state's Collaborative Workspace Program. In his 2017 State of the Commonwealth Address the following January, Baker stated that the ongoing regulatory reform review he initiated by executive order in March 2015 had "reviewed, updated and eliminated thousands of pages of outdated and obsolete state regulations."
In March 2017, the state Labor and Workforce Development Office released jobs estimates showing that while the state economy had added an additional 13,000 jobs the previous January, the state unemployment rate had increased from 3.1 to 3.2%. The following May, and following further jobs estimates from the state Labor and Workforce Development Office showing that the state unemployment had increased further to 3.6%, Baker attributed the increases to a "slow growth economy" but stated he "[does not] tend to make decisions about the long term based on a month or two's worth of data." In the same month, Baker's administration announced 10 pilot grants totaling $330,000 to 8 business districts in the state to foster small business growth.
In August 2017, Baker's Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash reported that the state was in "active discussions" with the ownership of the Pawtucket Red Sox about moving the team to Worcester or Springfield. The following month, Baker, along with Massachusetts U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, Massachusetts U.S. Representative Stephen F. Lynch, as well as officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the International Longshoremen's Association, the Massachusetts Port Authority, and other local elected officials, announced the beginning of a $350 million dredging project to expand Boston Harbor to accommodate larger ships. Also in September 2017, Baker announced that Massachusetts would bid for Amazon.com's second headquarters. In October 2017, Baker stated that offering Amazon only a single proposed location within Massachusetts for their second headquarters "would be a huge mistake" and that "I think the best thing we can do with respect to Amazon is to give them what I would describe as a menu of options," and Baker wrote a letter of support for the Boston bid.
In January 2018, the state Labor and Workforce Development Office released jobs estimates showing that the state unemployment rate was at 3.5%, Baker's Housing and Economic Development Secretary stated that a potential move by the Pawtucket Red Sox to Massachusetts was "still very much in play," and following Amazon's announcement of its shortlist for potential second headquarters sites that included Boston, Baker, along with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, stated that it was "too early" to discuss tax incentives for the Amazon second headquarters bid. The following month, Baker stated that in order to attract Amazon to Massachusetts that "I would expect that if we were to do something...it would probably be more of a standalone thing than something we would do as part of a general economic development bill", adding that "Amazon is very different than sort of the traditional economic development bill."
Also in February 2018, Baker welcomed an announcement by the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company that it was going to add 1,500 jobs to its Springfield headquarters and build a second $300 million location with 500 jobs in the Boston Seaport District. In March 2018, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts released its business confidence index showing that employer confidence in the state had hit a 17-year high, and Baker filed a $610 million economic development bill. In April 2018, Baker submitted a request to the U.S. Treasury Department that 138 communities in Massachusetts be designated as "opportunity zones" under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The following month, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released data showing that the Massachusetts real GDP had increased 2.6% in 2017, the 11th-highest growth rate in the United States and the highest growth rate in the Northeastern or Midwestern United States. Also in May 2018, the U.S. Treasury Department approved all 138 opportunity zone designations Baker requested the previous month.
In June 2018, addressing concerns about the effects of retaliatory tariffs imposed by the Canadian government in response to protectionist tariffs implemented by the Trump Administration, Baker stated "I've talked to plenty of employers and companies here in the commonwealth that are worried about the lack of clarity associated with that relationship at this point in time" and noted that Canada is New England's biggest trading partner. In August 2018, Baker returned a credit reporting bill to the state legislature with amendments, and in the same month, Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner announced that the Pawtucket Red Sox would be moving to Worcester with the Worcester City Council approving a $100 million stadium financing package the following month.
In January 2015, Baker's administration announced estimates indicating that the state had a $765 million budget deficit for fiscal year 2015. The following month, Baker announced a proposal to close the deficit, which was passed by both houses of the state legislature in the same month. Also in February 2015, Baker announced a tax amnesty program for fiscal year 2016 that would generate $100 million in revenue. In March 2015, Baker announced a $38 billion state budget proposal for fiscal year 2016, which Baker signed into law the following July along with an expansion of the state earned income tax credit. In November 2015, Baker signed into law a $326 million supplemental spending bill for the remainder of fiscal year 2015, and the following month, Baker's administration announced that the state income tax would fall to 5.1% effective January 1 of the following year.
In January 2016, Baker announced $50 million in midyear cuts to reduce a $320 million shortfall in the state budget for fiscal year 2016, and in the same month, Baker submitted a $39.6 billion state budget proposal for fiscal year 2017 to the state legislature. In February 2016, Baker filed a $170 million midyear supplemental spending bill for fiscal year 2016. In June 2016, with the fiscal year ending that month, the Massachusetts state budget had a year-end shortfall of more than $300 million, the state's general fund budget rose by 6.1 percent, and Baker stated his opposition to implementing a "millionaire's tax." In July 2016, Baker signed into law a $38.9 billion state budget for fiscal year 2017, and Baker announced his support for a proposal to extend the state hotel tax to short-term rentals (such as Airbnb), but then retracted that support when revenue estimates for the tax fell shorter than the costs of expanding the state's earned income tax credit.
In August 2016, Baker's administration announced that the state income tax would not fall for the following year, and the following October, Baker's administration proposed $294 million in midyear budget cuts. In December 2016, Baker stated that he would be opposed to across-the-board tax increases for the state budget in fiscal year 2018, and Baker also unilaterally made $98 million in midyear cuts to the state budget, including some of the $230 million in budget items Baker had vetoed the previous July that 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.
In January 2017, Baker proposed a $40.5 billion state budget for fiscal year 2018, and in his 2017 State of the Commonwealth Address, Baker reiterated his opposition to broad-based tax increases for the 2018 state budget. In March 2017, legislative hearings began to review Baker's budget proposal, and with tax revenues coming in 9.1 percent lower than expected the previous month, the likelihood of overturning Baker's midyear budget cuts from the previous December became unlikely, and Speaker DeLeo stated that reversing those midyear cuts would be "very difficult." In June 2017, S&P Global Ratings downgraded the Massachusetts state government's credit rating to its third tier, citing the state government's failure to replenish its budget shortfall reserves as stipulated by the state's own fiscal policies. After missing the June 30 deadline to pass a state budget, in July 2017, both houses of the state legislature approved a $40.2 billion compromise state budget for fiscal year 2018, and Baker signed it into law 10 days later.
In August 2017, Baker filed legislation to renew the state's sales tax holiday weekend, and the following month, the Massachusetts House of Representatives overrode Baker's vetoes of $275 million in spending from the 2018 state budget. In January 2018, Baker proposed a $40.9 billion state budget for fiscal year 2019. In June 2018, Baker signed into law a "grand bargain" bill that created a permanent sales tax holiday weekend and increased the state's payroll tax to fund a new paid family and medical leave program, and the state finished the 2018 fiscal year with a $1 billion budget surplus. The following month, Baker signed into law a $41.2 billion state budget for the 2019 fiscal year, and the state legislature overrode all but one of Baker's spending vetoes. In August 2018, Baker returned a bill creating a tax and regulatory structure for short-term rentals (such as Airbnb) with an amendment creating an exemption for rentals fewer than 14 days. In October 2018, Baker signed into law a $541 million supplemental budget bill for fiscal year 2018 that included a $220 million deposit into the state's budget shortfall reserves, bringing the reserves up to $2 billion and double their balance from when Baker took office.
In July 2015, Baker's veto of $5.17 million in funding for the state's Office of Travel and Tourism was overridden by the state legislature. A month after Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn came to an agreement to resolve a legal dispute over traffic concerns created by Wynn's casino project in neighboring Everett, in February 2016, Baker mediated a dispute between Wynn Resorts and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone over traffic and environmental concerns created by the same project. In July 2016, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection granted Wynn Resorts the permit necessary to begin construction, which Wynn Resorts did the following month. In January 2017, Baker proposed appropriating $3 million in grants to local tourism councils in his 2018 fiscal year state budget proposal, half of what the state legislature had appropriated in the previous fiscal year and that Baker had reduced to $3 million in midyear budget cuts.
In September 2017, Baker, in response to questions about whether he would support allowing the Massachusetts Lottery to conduct sales online, stated that it would depend on "how it would work and what the consequences would be for retailers and others here in the Commonwealth," but that "there are now a number of states that have run online lotteries for a while and we have real-life experience in other states." After multiple sexual harassment and assault allegations were made against Steve Wynn in January 2018, Baker's office released a statement saying that Baker was "deeply disturbed by these allegations" and that Baker's administration "has a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment and expects the Commonwealth's employers to create a safe work environment for all employees where reporting harassment of any kind is encouraged and properly addressed." Baker also publicly welcomed an investigation reviewing the Wynn Everett project by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, and Baker stated that the Republican Governors Association (RGA) should return any donations from Wynn given since the previous election cycle and should not accept any money from Wynn in the future.
After Wynn resigned as CEO of Wynn Resorts the following month, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission concluded that Wynn Resorts was not in violation of the state's gaming or campaign finance laws when Wynn Resorts made a donation to the RGA (which in turn donated that money to a political action committee that supported Baker's 2014 election campaign), and Baker stated that requiring the removal of Wynn's name from the company's casino project in Everett should be considered by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. In March 2018, Wynn Resorts reportedly considered selling the Everett casino to MGM Resorts International, and the following month, Wynn Resorts changed the name of the Everett casino to Encore Boston Harbor. In May 2018, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in the Murphy v. NCAA case, Baker stated that Massachusetts should look into legalizing sports betting. In June 2018, Baker toured the MGM Springfield casino nearing completion, and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission approved a proposal to allow the MGM Springfield casino to serve alcoholic beverages until 4 AM.
In October 2015, Baker announced a strategy to leverage unused or underutilized state land for economic development and market-rate or affordable housing. In May 2016, Baker announced that his administration would devote $1.1 billion to the development and preservation of affordable and workforce housing over the subsequent five years in the state's capital budget, and Baker also started a $100 million fund for creating workforce housing through MassHousing. In August 2016, Baker announced $90 million in subsidies and tax credits to 26 affordable housing development projects in the state. In December 2016, Baker's administration announced that the state government had sold or leased 22 pieces of state-owned property over the preceding 14 months that would create 1,500 units of new housing, 100,000 square feet of new commercial space, and that would generate $413 million in revenue for the state.
In March 2017, Baker's administration awarded $20 million to seven affordable housing developments to create 177 units of supportive housing, and the following month, Baker's administration filed a $1.3 billion housing bond bill to continue the state's support of affordable housing projects as well as provide funds for the maintenance and improvement of public housing in the state. In August 2017, Baker's administration awarded $72 million in housing subsidies and announced $28 million in state and federal tax credits to 25 affordable housing projects across the state to create, preserve, or rehabilitate nearly 2,000 units of housing. In December 2017, Baker's administration announced a $10 million initiative and zoning reform legislation to create 135,000 new housing units in the state by 2025, and the following month, Baker testified before the state legislature in support of the zoning reform.
In March 2018, Baker received an award from the Greater Boston affiliate of Habitat for Humanity for his administration's policies to create more affordable housing in the state. In May 2018, Baker's administration announced the designation of 67 municipalities in the state as "housing choice communities" in partnership with MassHousing, and Baker signed into law a $1.8 billion affordable housing bill. In July 2018, Baker announced $57 million in subsidies and tax credits to 19 affordable rental housing projects in the state. In November 2018, Baker stated that he would support raising the state's Registry of Deeds fee associated with funding the state's Community Preservation Trust Fund so that each town participating in the state's affordable housing program under the Community Preservation Act will each receive at least a 50 percent matching funds rate from the state.
In February 2015, Baker issued an executive order creating a Workforce Skills Cabinet to formulate a strategy to address the state's workforce skills gap, and the following month, Baker issued a second executive order establishing a task force to formulate a plan to address chronic unemployment among specific target populations. In July 2015, Baker signed into law an $11.5 million budget for the state's YouthWorks summer jobs program for low-income youths between the ages of 14 and 21. In November 2015, Baker announced the first round of initiatives developed by the Workforce Skills Cabinet he formed the previous February. The following month, Baker signed into law a bill forming a state Workforce Development Board, announced $9.2 million in job-training grants, and along with the Massachusetts congressional delegation, wrote a letter to President Obama to request federal matching funds for workplace safety programs for commercial fishermen.
In January 2016, Baker, following the recommendations of the task force he formed the previous March, announced a $5 million appropriation to his 2017 fiscal year budget proposal to address chronically high unemployment in specific populations, and the following month, Baker announced $9.3 million in capital grants to 35 high schools, community colleges, and vocational training providers to purchase workforce skills training equipment for vocational-technical education. In April 2016, Baker's administration announced $20 million in job creation tax incentives to 28 life science companies in the state and awarded $2 million in grants to 14 regional competitive workforce partnerships for job training for in-demand occupations. The following month, Baker's administration finalized an agreement with 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East for MassHealth to pay personal care attendants $15 per hour, and Baker filed legislation to cap annual accrual of sick leave by state government employees to 1,000 hours.
In July 2016, Baker instituted a hiring freeze in the state executive branch and vetoed prohibitions on the administration from increasing state employees' contributions to their health insurance from the 2017 fiscal year budget. In September 2016, Baker's administration announced a $12 million round of capital grants for workforce skills development equipment to Massachusetts high schools, community colleges, and community-based nonprofits, as well as $1.45 million in grants for the state's advanced manufacturing training program. In December 2016, Baker announced that the state would follow-up on reports of toxic levels of lead dust at National Guard armories, and 900 state employees opted into the state's voluntary buyout program, which saved the state $12 million in fiscal year 2017.
In January 2017, Baker vetoed a pay raise for state legislators, statewide constitutional officers, and judicial officials, which was overridden by the state legislature the following month. In March 2017, Baker's administration announced $11.8 million in capital grants to 32 educational institutions in Massachusetts for workforce skills development, and Baker's administration also announced the consolidation of the state's Division of Professional Licensure (DPL) and Department of Public Safety, forming an Office of Public Safety and Inspections within the Division of Professional Licensure. The following month, Baker's administration announced a regional planning initiative launched by the administration's Workforce Skills Cabinet aimed at reducing the state's workforce skills gap, and Baker's administration awarded an additional $19 million in job creation tax incentives to 22 life science companies in the state.
In June 2017, Baker's administration announced $2.2 million in grants to ten high schools to purchase vocational training equipment, and Baker's administration also announced, along with the Jewish Vocational Service and Social Finance, the launch of a pay-for-success initiative to improve the employment and educational opportunities of Greater Boston residents with limited English proficiency. In September 2017, in response to questions about raising the state minimum wage to $15 per hour, Baker stated that he would "like to know more about what the impact of the [previous minimum wage increase to $11] has been" before supporting a further increase, and the following month, Baker's administration announced $11.9 million in workforce training fund grants to 121 companies in the state, as well as $9.5 million in workforce skills capital grants to 32 educational institutions in the state.
In November 2017, Baker signed into law a bill creating a registry for home care workers. The following month, Baker's administration launched an advanced manufacturing program for adult students at 10 vocational high schools in the state and Baker proposed a pay increase for active duty soldiers and airmen in the Massachusetts National Guard. 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 and later acknowledged that the changes to the plans were "flawed." In March 2018, Baker signed into law a bill extending OSHA safety standards to municipal workplaces in the state, and Baker defended the hiring practices of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.
In April 2018, Baker stated that he wanted the state legislature to address economic policy issues such as the state minimum wage and paid family leave rather than those issues being resolved by ballot initiatives. In June 2018, Baker signed into law a "grand bargain" bill that will incrementally increase the state minimum wage to $15 per hour and the tipped minimum wage to $6.75 per hour by 2023, eliminated the state's requirement for time-and-a-half pay for retail workers on Sundays and holidays, and created a new paid family and medical leave program. In the same month, Baker's administration announced an additional $10.9 million in workforce skills capital grants to 33 educational institutions in the state and $20 million in job creation tax incentives to 23 life science companies in the state. In July 2018, Baker signed into law a bill to provide paid leave to firefighters with work-related cancer. The following month, Baker's administration announced that it would unify the state's 29 career centers and 16 workforce boards under the single brand name of "MassHire".
In February 2015, Baker announced that his administration would commit $50 million to expand internet access in rural Western Massachusetts. In January 2016, Baker announced a comprehensive public-private partnership to improve the competitiveness of the state's digital healthcare industry. In April 2016, Baker's administration announced that Advanced Functional Fabrics of America, a non-profit organization founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was selected by the U.S. Defense Department to run a $317 million public-private partnership to develop fiber and electronic textile manufacturing for military uniforms. In June 2016, Baker's administration announced $2 million in Community Compact grants to 52 cities and towns to fund information technology projects, upgrades to existing IT infrastructure, and purchases of new IT equipment.
In August 2016, Baker's administration announced a $5 million grant to the University of Massachusetts Amherst for a data science public-private partnership and cybersecurity research, and Baker's administration also announced a $1.6 million grant to Charter Communications to deliver broadband internet access to the towns of Hinsdale, Lanesborough, and West Stockbridge, as well as a $4 million grant to Comcast to connect 9 other towns in Western Massachusetts to broadband internet access. 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, Baker's administration announced that Massachusetts would enter a $250 million public-private partnership with the Manufacturing USA network to form a biopharmaceutical manufacturing institute in the state.
In January 2017, Baker signed into law a bill allowing 44 acres of unused state-owned land in Worcester to be converted into a biomanufacturing industrial park, and in the same month, Baker's administration announced that Massachusetts would enter a second $250 million public-private partnership with the Manufacturing USA network to form a robotics manufacturing institute in the state. In February 2017, Baker's administration announced $35 million in capital grants for life science facilities at 14 colleges, graduate schools, and research institutes in the state, and the following month, Baker's administration announced the formation of a new broadband internet access grant making program that would award $20 million in grants to over 40 towns in Western and Central Massachusetts. In April 2017, Baker's administration announced a $5 million grant to Worcester Polytechnic Institute to help launch a digital healthcare development center.
In May 2017, Baker's administration announced $4.6 million in grants to the towns of Ashfield, Leyden, Shutesbury, Plainfield, Windsor, and Mount Washington to design and build municipal broadband networks, as well as $2 million in Community Compact information technology grants to 47 cities and towns, and an $11.3 million grant to the University of Massachusetts Lowell for a development and research center to integrate textiles and fabrics manufacturing with electronics. The following month, Baker's administration announced a proposal for a five-year, $500 million life sciences initiative to support the state's biotechnology industry. In October 2017, Baker's administration announced $7 million in grants to seven advanced manufacturing projects, five associated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, or the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
In November 2017, Baker's administration and the Worcester Business Development Corporation signed a land disposition agreement for the biomanufacturing industrial park authorized by the bill Baker signed into law in January of that year. In the same month, Baker's administration announced the launch of a five-year, $1 million initiative to support biotechnology startup companies in the state founded by women, and Baker signed into law a $45 million bond bill for broadband internet access projects in Western Massachusetts. In May 2018, Baker's administration announced $2 million in Community Compact information technology grants to 45 cities and towns, and the following month, Baker signed into law a $623 million life sciences initiative. In July 2018, Baker announced $7 million in advanced manufacturing grants and attended the opening of a fabrics research and development center at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. In September 2018, Baker's administration attended the groundbreaking of a $13.7 million project to build a life sciences center in Pittsfield, and the following month, Baker's administration announced an additional $3 million in Community Compact information technology grants to 44 cities and towns.
In June 2015, Baker announced $5 million in grants to the state's 85 regional public school districts for transportation, as well as $4.48 million to four underperforming schools in Springfield and Worcester. In October 2015, Baker filed legislation to increase the state cap on the number of new charter schools in the state by 12 per year, and later in the same month, testified in favor of the legislation before the state legislature. In January 2016, Baker announced $83.5 million in funding for vocational education in the state, as well as a $72.1 million increase in the state's Chapter 70 local education funding and a $42 million increase in unrestricted local aid for education for fiscal year 2017, and the following month, Baker proposed increasing the state's charter school reimbursement formula to school districts by $20.5 million.
In March 2016, Baker opposed a proposed overhaul to the state's charter school system being debated in the Massachusetts Senate at the time, and the following month, the Massachusetts Senate rejected Baker's proposed charter school cap increase. In July 2016, Baker vetoed a pay increase for pre-kindergarten teachers. The following month, Massachusetts students ranked first in the nation on their average ACT scores. In November 2016, Baker campaigned on behalf of a ballot initiative to raise the state cap on new charter schools which failed to pass, and in the same month, Baker's administration expanded a STEM internship program allowing high school students to work at related companies in the state.
In January 2017, Baker signed into law a bill requiring all Massachusetts schools to have automated external defibrillators on site, announced that the state had received a $2 million grant from the Council of Chief State School Officers and JPMorgan Chase to improve career education in the state, and proposed a $91 million increase (to a total of $4.7 billion) in Chapter 70 local education funding and a $40 million increase (to a total of $1.062 billion) in unrestricted local aid for education for fiscal year 2018. In February 2017, Baker's administration announced $4 million in capital grants to 49 Massachusetts public high schools to purchase science equipment, and in the same month, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released data showing that the four-year graduation rate in the state had increased to 87.5 percent, and that the dropout rates in Holyoke, Lawrence, and Springfield had all declined by more than 50 percent over the previous five years.
In March 2017, Baker proposed a 6 percent pay increase for pre-kindergarten teachers. In May 2017, Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced a dual enrollment program between the John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics & Science and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and in the same month, Baker and Walsh also announced a pilot program making college tuition and mandatory fees free to qualifying low-income Boston public high school graduates attending Bunker Hill Community College, Roxbury Community College, or Massachusetts Bay Community College. In October 2017, Baker attended the launch of an early college program at Lawrence High School allowing students to take courses at Merrimack College or Northern Essex Community College.
In November 2017, Baker signed into law a bill expanding options for schools in fulfilling English as a second language requirements for their immigrant students. In February 2018, Baker's administration announced $2.3 million in capital grants to seven Massachusetts public high schools to purchase vocational training equipment, and as part of a supplemental spending bill, Baker signed into law $15 million to Massachusetts public schools that accepted students from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. In March 2018, Baker signed into law a bill preventing a steep health insurance price increase for retired public school teachers.
In August 2015, Baker announced $5.5 million in capital funding for Holyoke Community College and Springfield Technical Community College for ongoing construction projects on their campuses. In April 2016, Baker announced a college affordability and completion plan for the state's public universities and colleges. In September 2016, Baker's administration announced their intention to work with the state's Department of Higher Education and the University of Massachusetts system to develop a pilot program to support the MicroMasters programs developed by the massive open online course provider edX. In February 2017, Baker's administration announced $35 million in capital grants for life science facilities at 14 colleges, graduate schools, and research institutes in the state, In April 2017, Baker's administration announced $78 million in capital funding towards repairs of the University of Massachusetts Boston underground parking garage.
In November 2017, Baker announced the formation of a new commission on digital learning. In April 2018, University of Massachusetts Amherst and Mount Ida College administrators announced that the former school would acquire the latter's campus in Newton after the latter college's closure. The acquisition received public opposition from University of Massachusetts Boston faculty and students, due to the proximity of Mount Ida's campus to the Boston campus and UMass Boston's budget deficit caused by extensive campus repairs and expansion (ultimately necessitated by the negligent construction of the UMass Boston campus in the 1970s) that have led to cutbacks in academic spending and course offerings. In response, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced that she would investigate the details of the acquisition, Baker expressed disappointment in the Mount Ida administration's financial management, and in response to the criticism of the acquisition from the UMass Boston campus, Baker stated that the selection of a new permanent chancellor "is going to be a big statement about the leadership and the direction of the campus going forward."
The following month, Healey's office approved the sale of the Mount Ida campus to UMass Amherst, the UMass Boston Faculty Council declared it had "no confidence" in University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan, and 10 days after three finalists for the UMass Boston chancellor position were named, on May 21, 2018, all three finalists withdrew from consideration after faculty members questioned the qualifications of the candidates. The day following the withdrawals, Baker stated that he was "disappointed about the whole way this thing has played out" with regards to the UMass Boston chancellor search, and the following month, State Senator Kathleen O'Connor Ives stated that a Massachusetts Senate report to be released later in the month found that the board of trustees of Mount Ida College had violated their fiduciary duties in their closure of the school.
In May 2015, Baker's administration announced a $10 million energy storage initiative. 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 June 2017, Baker's administration announced a 200 megawatt-hour energy storage target in accordance with energy diversification legislation Baker signed into law in August 2016. In December 2017, Baker's 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 same energy diversification law and the administration's energy storage initiative begun in May 2015. 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 November 2018, Baker, along with a bipartisan group of 18 other governors, wrote a letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee urging the Commission to begin discussions with state governments, regional transmission organizations, U.S. Congress, and businesses about unifying the three main power grids in the United States.
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, and the following August, Baker signed the legislation into law, requiring the state to procure 1,200 megawatts of hydropower, as well as 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power. In September 2016, Baker's 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 January 2018, Baker's 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 an 800-megawatt offshore wind farm off the southern coast of Martha's Vineyard, and the following October, Vineyard Wind announced that it had signed an 18-month lease to also conduct their staging operations at the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal.
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 [plant] 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 August 2018, Entergy announced that it had reached an agreement to sell the Pilgrim facility to Holtec International to conduct its decommissioning, and the following month, officials from both companies met with NRC officials in Washington, D.C. to review the agreement.
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, Baker's 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 cut the cost of solar installations to ratepayers in half.
In December 2015, Baker's 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, Baker's administration announced that solar capacity in Massachusetts had increased to 2,000 megawatts.
In January 2016, Baker's 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 December 2016, Baker's administration released regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the natural gas, transportation, and electricity generation industries. 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. In June 2018, Baker's administration announced $5 million in grants to 34 cities and towns for climate change vulnerability preparedness. In August 2018, Baker signed into law bipartisan legislation authorizing $2.4 billion in capital spending on climate change safeguards for municipalities and businesses, reforestation and forest protection, and environmental resource protection, and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection released data showing that while greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts rose by 3 percent in 2015, the level of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 was 19 percent lower than in 1990.
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, Baker's 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, Baker's administration awarded $900,000 in grants to five different public water suppliers. In February 2018, Baker's 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. In June 2018, Baker's administration announced $50,000 in grants to Gosnold and Dartmouth for habitat conservation and water quality protection projects in Buzzards Bay. In August 2018, Baker's administration announced $2.6 million in grants for municipal recycling programs.
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", and Baker expressed opposition to cuts in funding for the National Institutes of Health in the Trump Administration's 2018 U.S. federal budget.
Also in March 2017, 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 February 2016, 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 December 2016, 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). Also in February 2017, 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 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 2018, Baker's administration announced a $2.34 billion capital budget for fiscal year 2019. The following July, Baker signed into law a $3.9 billion bond bill for the maintenance and modernization of the state's capital assets. In November 2018, Baker's administration a $3.5 million grant through the MassWorks program to a redevelopment project in Easthampton and a $400,000 grant to streetscape improvements in Worcester.
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. In July 2018, Baker signed into law a bill transferring ownership of the former Salem Superior Courthouse, in addition to the Essex County Commissioners Building, to the Salem Redevelopment Authority for $1. In August 2018, Baker's administration announced $3.9 million in grants to 75 trail projects across the state, and in the same month, Baker signed into law a bill approving the sale of the historic Lynn Armory to a non-profit organization that plans to renovate the facility into apartments for military veterans.
Baker is pro-choice. In August 2016, Baker signed a bipartisan pay equity bill into law to diminish gender-based pay gaps in the state, which went into effect on July 1, 2018. In January 2017, Baker voiced support for the Women's Marches being held across the United States. In March 2017, after 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, Baker's administration promised to offset the funding gap.
In July 2017, Baker signed into law a bill requiring employers to provide "reasonable accommodations" for female employees who are pregnant and banning employment discrimination in hiring or termination against female employees who are pregnant, which went into effect the following April. In October 2017, when the Trump Administration issued new regulations allowing insurers and employers to opt out of contraceptive mandates, Baker reiterated his support for such mandates, and the following month, Baker signed into law a bill requiring Massachusetts insurers to cover birth control without copayments. In February 2018, Baker's administration announced a supplemental spending bill that included $1.6 million for clinical family planning services that would backfill federal funding for Planned Parenthood clinics, 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."
Following the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court in July 2018, Baker reiterated his support for a woman's right to choose, publicly urged the U.S. Senate to consider Kavanaugh's position on abortion as part of its nomination vetting process, and was one of three Republican governors who declined to sign a letter supporting Kavanaugh's nomination signed by 31 other governors. In the same month, Baker criticized a proposed revision by the Trump Administration to Title X banning health clinics from sharing workspace and financial resources with abortion providers (such as Planned Parenthood), and Baker signed into law a bill repealing state abortion laws that would be retroactively reinstated in the event that the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision is overturned. After multiple sexual assault allegations were made against Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court nomination hearings, Baker stated that he supported a supplemental FBI investigation because he believed the allegations made by Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford, and the day before Kavanaugh's confirmation vote, Baker stated that he believes that Kavanaugh should not be on the Supreme Court.
Following the conviction of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing in April 2015, Baker released a statement supporting the verdict and stated that he supported the death penalty for Tsarnaev, which Tsarnaev was sentenced to the following month. Following the homicides of a police officer in Yarmouth in April 2018 and a police sergeant in Weymouth in July 2018, Baker stated that he supports capital punishment for criminal defendants convicted of murdering a police officer.
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 in January 2017, 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.
In February 2017, Baker stated that the restaurants and other businesses closed for the Day Without Immigrants protest were making a "big statement" with their strike, issued an executive order to reestablish the state's Black Advisory Commission to advise his administration on issues of concern to the black community in Massachusetts, and opposed a Trump Administration proposal to deploy 100,000 National Guard soldiers to increase enforcement of the administration's immigration policies. The following month, Baker stated that his administration was cooperating with an FBI investigation of bomb threats made against Jewish Community Centers in the state, calling the threats "horribly destructive and disturbing". In May 2017, Baker stated that he was opposed to proposed legislation in the state legislature that would make Massachusetts a sanctuary state because he believes sanctuary status decisions are "best made at a local level", but stated the following July that he was "open-minded" about statewide sanctuary status.
Also in May 2017, after a game between the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park, during which Orioles outfielder Adam Jones was taunted with racial slurs and had concessions thrown at him by a spectator, Baker condemned the incident as "outrageous and disgraceful" and stated that "There is no place in Massachusetts, in Boston, anywhere, for that kind of language or that kind of behavior." In August 2017, after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that local police departments cannot detain any person solely based on requests from federal immigration authorities the previous month, 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."
Also in August 2017, following violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Baker condemned the violence there as an act of terrorism, criticized President Trump for his response to the incident, and referring to a similar rally scheduled for later in the same week on Boston Common, Baker stated that "there is no place [in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts] for that type of hatred", and that "those who engage in violent acts of any kind...will be held responsible and we will do everything in our power to prevent any type of threat to the people of this commonwealth and this city going forward." In the same week, after the New England Holocaust Memorial was vandalized for the second time that summer, Baker condemned the act as "disturbing and sad", expressed support for the state's Jewish community, and stated that anyone engaging in vandalism would be fully prosecuted.
In September 2017, Baker opposed the Trump Administration's decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and Baker stated that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids targeting sanctuary cities should focus on arresting convicted criminals in the country illegally and not on illegal immigrants whose only crime is illegal immigration. In the same month, Baker criticized President Trump for his comments about the NFL racial inequality protests for being "unpresidential and divisive". In November 2017, Baker wrote a letter to acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke urging the Trump Administration to continue to allow citizens of Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras to stay in the United States under temporary protected status, and the following month, Baker, along with a bipartisan group of 11 other governors, wrote a letter to the leadership of the 115th U.S. Congress urging them to allow DACA recipients to stay in the United States as well.
In January 2018, Baker criticized President Trump for his comments 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". Despite revisions to sanctuary status legislation proposed the previous year, Baker opposed a revised version of the legislation after it was submitted in state legislature in February 2018, and the following May, Baker stated that he would veto the revised version of the legislation that was attached in the state legislature as an amendment to the 2019 fiscal year state budget. In June 2018, Baker directed the Massachusetts National Guard to not send any assets or personnel to the U.S.–Mexico border to assist the Trump Administration in enforcing its "zero-tolerance policy" towards immigrants, citing the Trump Administration's family separation policy towards children as "cruel and inhumane."
Later in the same week, Baker stated that Massachusetts family resource centers were not aware of any families separated at the U.S.–Mexico border in Massachusetts at the time. The following month, the state legislature removed the sanctuary status amendment from the final version of the state budget, but did include a provision to continue allowing Massachusetts juvenile courts to make decisions on granting legal status to children and young adults who entered the country illegally without a parent and under the age of 21. Following a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018, Baker stated that he was "horrified" by the events, expressed sympathy for the victims, their families, and first responders, and ordered that flags at state buildings be lowered to half-staff through the end of the month. Also in October 2018, Baker opposed a proposal by President Trump to end birthright citizenship in the United States by executive order. In December 2018, Baker called for the suspension of a state district court judge who allegedly assisted an illegal immigrant from being detained by an ICE agent during a legal proceeding from hearing further criminal cases until the federal investigation of the incident is concluded.
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.
In February 2017, Baker criticized the Trump Administration's decision to rescind federal directives to public school districts allowing transgender public school students to use the bathroom of their preference, and the following month, Baker stated that he would not attend the South Boston St. Patrick's Day parade that month if a gay veteran's group was not allowed to march in the parade. In October 2018, Baker gave the keynote speech at a fundraiser for the Log Cabin Republicans in Washington, D.C., and in the same month, Baker made a personal donation to the campaign for the 2018 ballot initiative to uphold the transgender protections law he signed in July 2016.
Before his tenure as governor, Baker supported the 2014 ballot measure that repealed indexing the state gas tax to inflation. In February 2015, Baker directed the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to issue a public notice clarifying the status of transportation network companies (such as Uber and Lyft) while his administration developed a regulatory framework for the industry, and the following October, Baker and the state's Division of Insurance approved a proposed insurance policy by USAA to provide additional coverage to current policyholders who are employed as transportation network company drivers. In June 2016, Baker's administration launched a multi-faceted initiative to reduce motor vehicle accidents during the upcoming summer.
After proposing similar legislation the previous year, in August 2016, Baker signed into law a bill regulating transportation network companies 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 pilot program for a 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. At Springfield Union Station in June 2018, Baker, along with Massachusetts U.S. Representative Richard Neal and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, issued an RFP for a consulting group to study the feasibility of an east-west passenger rail line in the state from Boston to Springfield (or potentially Pittsfield), announced a pilot passenger rail service in between Greenfield and Springfield, and also announced the launch of the Hartford Line commuter rail service from Springfield through Hartford, Connecticut to New Haven. In July 2018, Baker line-item vetoed a pilot program to discount tolls during off-peak driving times, and in the same month, the state legislature rejected an amendment to the state budget Baker proposed for a congestion study as an alternative to the pilot program.
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, MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott 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 temporary 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 attended 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 twice.
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 (which was extended the following September for an additional three months), and the MBTA announced parking fee increases at more heavily used garages and parking fee decreases at underused parking lots. In the same month, the MBTA released estimates showing that the proposed North–South Rail Link would cost between $12.3 billion and $21.5 billion, and Baker attended the groundbreaking of the Green Line Extension in Somerville. In August 2018, for the first time in 10 years, MBTA officials announced that the agency had finished the 2018 fiscal year with a balanced operating budget. In December 2018, MBTA officials announced that MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez would be leaving the position and that he would be succeeded by former interim MBTA General Manager and current vice chair of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board Steve Poftak effective January 1 of the following year.
Baker married Lauren Cardy Schadt, another Kellogg alum, in 1987. Schadt 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.
On June 22, 2018, Baker's son, Andrew "AJ" Baker was accused of sexually assaulting a woman on a JetBlue flight. The following week, Baker responded to questions regarding the incident and stated that his son would fully cooperate with an independent review of the matter by the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's Office.
|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
2010, 2014, 2018
| 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