By Andrea Asuaje
BU News Service
In his first State of the Commonwealth address, Governor Charlie Baker said he’s proud Massachusetts is considered “boring.”
“I must admit, that makes me smile,” Baker said on Thursday night, noting that the state’s ho-hum status is not because of a lack of innovation or advancement but because there’s no heavy in-fighting between Democrats and Republicans within the Massachusetts government.
Baker credited much of the state’s successes during his first year in office to bipartisan cooperation, including efforts to strengthen and improve the MBTA, fixes to the state’s Health Connector, and continuing campaigns to reform the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families and the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Baker focused most of his speech on three major topics: the expansion of charter schools, the need to increase clean-energy sources and the state’s battle against a rapidly growing opioid crisis.
On clean energy, Baker urged lawmakers to act quickly on legislation, especially in regards to hydropower, which he said could benefit more than just Massachusetts.
“Governors across New England – Democrats and Republicans – have made clear to me that they’re ready to go,” Baker said in regards to expansions in hydropower.
On the opioid crisis, Baker stated the importance of improving education, prevention, treatment and recovery programs. He described the crisis as “a real human tragedy,” stating that four people die every day in Massachusetts from opioids.
“Breaking the back of this beast will take time, creativity and a willingness to be disruptive. We must be thoughtful. We must be bold. Let’s get this done,” Baker said.
On the expansion of charter schools, Baker spoke at length about the efforts of parents who are attempting to create a brighter future for their children by sending them to schools that could give them the best opportunities.
“Parents want their kids to have a shot, a better shot than the one they had. And they see it right in front of them, but they can’t make it happen,” Baker said. “These are families that can’t afford to move, and they can’t afford to send their kids to private schools. This is their chance, and it’s a good one.”
Baker said these efforts should not be stymied; instead, Baker asked the Legislature to lift the cap on public charter schools.
Though ambitious, Baker said he believes Massachusetts and its lawmakers can take on the challenges proposed regarding energy, education and opioids. And though he said with “certainty” that the state of the Commonwealth is strong, Baker also said that the hard work has just begun.
“We have work to do. We always will. But I believe that we have the will to collaborate,” Baker said.