Following Republican Charlie Baker’s close victory over Democrat Martha Coakley in the 2014 Massachusetts gubernatorial race, Baker must demonstrate to Massachusetts that he can toe the moderate line in order to implement the reforms proposed by his campaign platform.
Abandoning his 2010 campaign’s dogmatic opposition to taxes and welfare, Baker based his platform on the notion of governmental reform, promising to spend his time in office helping government streamline and perform better.
While not as enthusiastically stated, Baker’s platform still supports the conservative ideal of low taxes and low spending.
“I’ve said repeatedly that I will not raise taxes,” Baker affirmed to voters in response to queries posed by the Boston Globe. “I do see great opportunity to make reforms to our tax code, making it simpler, fairer and removing corporate loopholes. I also believe we need to be responsible about building up our rainy day fund (and not spending it in good economic times) so that we are prepared for tough times.”
Underlying this statement is the implication that Baker will indeed rein in government spending and reduce social spending in order to supplement his desire to keep state taxes low. To what degree he intends to cut spending remains to be seen, although the predominantly Democratic legislature will certainly keep him in check.
Historically, Massachusetts has elected Republican governors to serve as checks on the Democratic legislature. While division normally results in gridlock, such a practice in Massachusetts has often freed both branches to address needed governmental reforms. The cooperation between Baker and the state legislature and the state government's ability to accomplish meaningful change is highly dependent on Baker’s ability to stay moderate.
Another large tenet of Baker’s platform is complete recovery from 2008’s economic recession. To accomplish this, Baker hopes to increase jobs in every sector by simplifying the permitting process, phasing out Massachusetts’ inventory tax, which charges businesses $2.60 for every $1000 of inventory, easing regulations that prevent market entry and investing in vocational training to increase the pool of skilled workers.
In addition to supporting the linkage of higher education to the business sector in the form of vocational training investment, Baker seeks to increase the number of charter schools in Massachusetts, hoping to increase the quality and accessibility of education in Massachusetts.
Baker also plans to reduce the amount of money students spend on higher education by introducing competitive public grant programs for Massachusetts public universities, expanding internship opportunities and encouraging the greater use of technology and online learning resources.
On the environmental front, Baker supports former governor Deval Patrick’s current goal of cutting carbon emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, and has made the reliable and affordable access to clean sources of energy one of his top priorities. While Baker does not believe in tax incentives, he has stated that he will encourage innovation and investment in the clean energy sector. Whether or not such encouragement will be effective remains to be seen.
While still forwarding a primarily Republican agenda of further tax cuts and decreased government spending, Baker remains open to the Democratic viewpoint so long as it promotes his idea of a productive state government.
“I am interested in good ideas, no matter where they come from, always have been,” stated Baker when asked if he would consider suggestions raised by Coakley, acknowledging the slim margin he won by. “We certainly plan to lead as representatives of 100 percent of the state.”
Baker’s triumph marks a renewal for the Republican party in Massachusetts, as its relevance had steadily declined during former governor Patrick’s consecutive terms in office. Consequently, resulting from the party’s newly attained influence, the Republican party will gain a greater ability to affect state policy, and major state policy changes should be expected on the horizon.