By Sarah Toy
BU News Service
Governor Charlie Baker delivered his annual State of the Commonwealth speech on Tuesday night, where he emphasized the need for cooperation in the face of an increasingly bitter political climate in Washington.
“Our obligation to the people we serve is too important to place politics and partisanship before progress and results,” he said.
Baker, who is known by state residents for his pragmatism, sought to distance himself from the divisiveness of Washington. He encouraged lawmakers to listen to each other and declared that that being able to compromise was a strength.
“Our founders worried a lot about the tyranny of the majority,” he said. “They hated the idea of unilateral power and wanted to force advocates and policy makers — through structure and process — to compromise.”
He pointed out that the MBTA and Fiscal and Management Control Board had worked together to cut the MBTA’s operating deficit in half and were now using the savings to invest in core infrastructure. He praised the MBTA and its largest union, the Carmen’s Union Local 589, for being able to come to an agreement on a new contract without “an epic brawl.”
“They chose to be part of the answer,” he said.
The governor gave previews of his state budget proposal throughout his speech. Along with pledging to end the practice of sending women to Framingham State Prison for civic addiction-related crimes, he also discussed a $2 million expansion on law enforcement efforts to arrest and convict drug traffickers. He proposed $37 million in reforms to Bridgewater State Hospital, a prison run by the Department of Correction for those with mental illness. He also discussed $130 million in new funding for cities and towns, including over $90 million for K-12 education.
Baker, who currently enjoys high favorability ratings from both Democrats and Republicans in Massachusetts, used a large part of his State of the Commonwealth to list out his accomplishments over the last two years. Massachusetts added 120,000 jobs, its welfare caseload dropped 25 percent and the state closed its budget gap without raising taxes, he said, to generous applause.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, praised Baker’s speech. “I was very pleased, especially with that portion relative to collaboration of all branches of government working to get things done,” he said, speaking to the State House News Service.
However, DeLeo added that he was “anxious” to see the governor’s state budget proposal. Baker is scheduled to reveal his fiscal 2018 budget proposal on Wednesday afternoon.