Exit is imminent, Governor.Baker reflects on legacy, unfinished business – NBC Boston

Next week, Charlie Baker will walk alone out of the executive office suite where he served as governor for the past eight years, through the state capitol where he has roamed in various capacities for the better part of three-plus years, and back to civilians Life.

So how does Baker, the two-term Swamp Scott Republican often considered America’s most popular governor, want to be remembered? During his exit interview Tuesday, Baker told the news agency what he would write down in future coverage as his “who clause” given the opportunity.

If in: Government.Charlie Baker, “has left office more popular than he was when he was first elected and has worked on a bipartisan basis with his colleagues in state and local government on a series of initiatives that have addressed many of the Unresolved issues such as broadband in western Massachusetts, South Coast Railroad and [Green Line Extension] Project, Bridgewater State Hospital reforms, and a series of important legislation aimed at improving the Commonwealth’s ability to educate young people and the workforce,” will officially leave office on January 5 and be replaced by Governor-elect Maura Healy. Lu and Lieutenant Governor-elect Kim Driscoll, both Democrats.

“The other thing I would say, which I think is part of our heritage, is the idea of ​​trying to build a city-state relationship, a community-federal relationship, a local city-state government relationship that is positive and going forward — looking for and Collaboration,” Baker said. “And I do believe that’s legal and it’s here to stay. It’s hard to change that at this point. And I think the fact that the next lieutenant governor will be mayor for 16 years will help a lot.”

Baker’s two terms as governor saw the state budget go from a structural deficit to a surplus so large that the state was legally required to return nearly $3 billion to taxpayers. He has steered the state through its first pandemic in a century, holding nearly daily briefings on a virus little understood and promoting vaccinations to help the economy bounce back.

Under Baker’s leadership, Massachusetts began its most serious pursuit of clean energy sources like offshore wind, Bay State schools received new funding programs, all seven Supreme Judicial Court justices were appointed and confirmed, and Massachusetts’ tollhouses . Toll roads are a thing of the past.

When he left, the MBTA was also operating at a reduced level, with the cloud of federal security investigations hanging over it. The opioid overdose crisis sparked by the advent of fentanyl has proven to be a long-running problem, with state spending soaring along with tax increases and federal aid.

Baker deftly sidestepped questions about his administration’s biggest failure, but pointed to some unresolved issues with his departure. He said he was pleased to hear Healey talk about wanting to invest in clean technology as a way to help Massachusetts meet a commitment he supports to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

“I mean, we’ve tried twice to get the legislature to do something important in this area. Personally, I think innovation is as important as enforcement to get where we need to be by 2030 and 2050. I believe We have the smarts and the skills to make a huge difference in what’s next for clean energy,” Baker said. “Sorry I didn’t manage to sell it. I deeply regret that.”

“I also hope we’re done with the danger bill and the revenge porn thing,” he added, referring to a package he’s presented in three consecutive sessions but failed to win the legislature’s approval, the latest attempt to push the idea With budget riders who make free calls to the incarcerated and their families.

Administrative Legislative Relations

Despite some examples like his dangerous bills, Baker, a Republican, has enjoyed a positive and productive relationship during his eight years in office with the House and Senate, each of which has its own Democratic supermajority.

“They have work to do and we have work to do. I think it’s better for both of us if we spend less time arguing about the little things and instead focus on debating and discussing the bigger projects and issues,” Baker said. said, adding that the Monday afternoon leadership meetings that were more common before the pandemic were “very effective.”

Baker said the decision on how to handle the trade-off between his administration and the Legislature was “not complicated” because he was involved in the dynamic while working for the administration. William Weld and Paul Cellucci in the 1990s.

“People at Weld and Cellucci were more than happy to have their cabinet secretaries go and talk to the legislature. Paul came from the Senate, so he had a certain amount of trust in the body to begin with, and so did Governor Weld simply because of who he is,” Baker said. Say.

He added, “So we came in and we basically said to the legislature and our cabinet secretaries, you know, talking to each other. I remember talking to a member of the legislature who’s been there for a long time. And he Say, “So it’s like a meeting without a partner type? ’ I said, ‘No, there’s no guardian. You want to talk to someone, just call them.’ And I do think people appreciate that and I think it makes a difference … We want people to Make sure they let us know what they’re talking about after they meet so we get an idea of ​​what the messaging is about, but you’re going to try to quote a lot — the whole idea of ​​dequoting seems like a bad idea to us.”

Despite partisan differences, Baker and the Legislature often sang together.

“It feels good, it’s nice to be respected, it feels engaged — he wants to be involved like all his secretaries. It makes me feel good — I’m going to say it’s really crazy, but — there’s no Democrats or Republicans , “Rep. Patricia Haddad, a Democrat from Somerset who has served as pro tempore speaker of the House, said in 2017.

Baker this week attributed some of the optimism in his administration’s relationship with the legislature to “the tone and the attitude, some of it has to do with the substance and some of it has to do with how it works.”

He pointed to the creation of the Sheriff Standards and Training Commission by the 2020 Police Reform Act, “which is a matter of functioning in the most positive way during some of the most difficult times.”

“We’re one of the few states that’s really done big things. Part of the reason we’ve done some big things after all the horrors of the summer of 2020 is that we’ve been talking and debating this with the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. Question for a while. When the pandemic started, we had a bill that was almost ready; we submitted their support in June. Both the House and the Senate were interested in moving it forward. They got some through both branches and we Stuff that we don’t like, we’re trying to send them back something that we think we and they can live with, not something that’s designed to be hard to agree on. Even so, we still have the vote to veto it in the House if If we choose,” the governor said. He added, “We had an honest and open debate that wasn’t so tense in many other parts of the country. I think it’s a good example of how this constructive idea of ​​friction, Especially if people have been building trust with each other … I think that’s important.”

Different Times of Beacon Hill

In December 1990, Baker was introduced by Governor-elect Weld as “Undersecretary of Human Services for Health.” Throughout the 1990s, he observed up close the job of a governor and how the state government functioned as a key member of the Weld and Serucci administrations.

That changed when he became governor in January 2015.

“It used to start the day with everyone reading the morning printout and the previous night’s copy of all the news stories. Obviously, that’s not going to happen anymore. I mean, the whole news cycle is completely tied to the It was different then,” Baker said.He added, “The 24/7 news cycle has almost by definition changed the nature of work. [of governor] …I think the job could be a little more, a little more. I mean, one of the reasons I didn’t run for the third term was that my wife and kids got a little tired of the fact that I wasn’t there. Again, the pandemic stacked on top of that and changed a lot of things. “

Even the way Governors’ Day is organized has changed with the times, Baker said. Weld and Cellucci used to make a lot of decisions in morning meetings in the governor’s office. But in the Baker administration, “we didn’t really have morning meetings like that,” he said. Instead, Baker would talk to his chief of staff every morning at 6:30, and then the chief of staff would have some sort of morning meeting or assembly with the staff.

“Before the pandemic, we had a cabinet meeting every Friday, then it became a virtual meeting. Now it’s a virtual week, an in-person week. But I try to keep the Friday cabinet meeting sacrosanct because I think it’s important The thing is all we talk to each other once a week about what’s going on,” Baker said.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way nearly everyone, inside and outside of state government, worked, Baker said the day-to-day in Beacon Hill was no longer about face-to-face meetings and physical presence.

“You’ve dealt with the media in the past a lot more than what you’re dealing with now — what actually exists. And, you know, every newspaper has people in the newsroom, and I still remember who those people were ,” he said, making a quick list of journalists and their affiliations. Baker added, “Back then physical presence was everything. So almost everything happened with physical presence. You know, the phone was on people’s desk, not in their pocket.”

In addition to “a more personal atmosphere in the building in general,” Baker said, when a governor or cabinet minister travels across the state to visit people in their own communities, “it’s usually a big deal.”

“I would argue that one of the things that the Lieutenant Governor and I have worked very hard to do is pursue the strategy of the 1990s around physical presence. We both spent a lot of time out of the building, out of the state capitol, out of the office, visiting people in their communities ,”He said. “We’re trying to shift the message about state and local government from ‘local government is a problem’ to ‘local government is a partner’.”

final return

After about two months of the post-government shutdown, Baker will begin his new job as NCAA president in March.

But there will likely be at least one more Baker-centric event at the state legislature at some point in the future. Once complete, Baker’s portrait will hang on the wall in the lobby of the Executive Suite along with portraits of governors who came before him. For other governors, the portrait unveiling has become a sort of executive gathering.

“I sat there,” Baker said Tuesday of his portrait. “I don’t know when it will be done, I really don’t know. I think it’s going to be a while.”

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