It doesn’t bother Charlie Baker that he’s a high-profile Republican looking to lead traditionally Democratic Massachusetts. In fact, it’s something he’s likely to thrive on. Speaking at Suffolk University Law School’s Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service, Baker urged those in attendance to put aside party politics and consider the possibility of lucrative collaboration.
“I grew up believing not only that this stuff mattered, but that when you had both teams on the field and you had more than one point of view, it actually got to a better solution and a better result,” said Baker.
It’s a notion that was sculpted by an upbringing at the hands of a Democratic mother and Republican father (who, Baker noted happily enjoyed a marriage of more than 50-years) where dinnertime chatter was centered around “public policy, public service, civics” and one that he emulated with his time as the secretary of Administration and Finance during the Celluci and Weld administrations.
“If you actually want to get something accomplished,” continued Baker, “you need to recognize and appreciate the fact that it’s still a democracy with a small d, and you have to be willing and able to engage with people who don’t necessarily see the world the same way you do, and have the discipline and the persistence and, frankly, the endurance to see a lot of this stuff through to get something done.”
Charlie Baker, a Needham-native and Harvard graduate, made his bones in healthcare where, as CEO of Harvard Pilgrim, he brought the plan to prominence, helping it earn the highest ranking member satisfaction and clinical effectiveness healthcare plan for 10-years in a row.
After his first bid for Governor of Massachusetts in 2010 was squandered by then-incumbent Deval Patrick, he realized that he couldn’t run on his managerial chops alone and needed to pad his strategy with more than just a healthcare reform agenda.
Professing that it was on the campaign trail in 2010 that he fully realized the intellectual wealth afforded by Bay State higher-ed institutions, Baker came to the understanding that when it comes to governing a national leader like the commonwealth he needed to streamline education, job creation, transportation and housing in order to better serve the needs of the residents.
“I bring a passion for Massachusetts and a desire to see every single community be a great place where everybody believes they can raise a great family and build a great future,” noted Baker further.
When it comes to public higher-ed in Massachusetts, Baker offered a number of original ideas that could lower the cost of learning for those struggling to accumulate knowledge. “The argument on interest rates on loans misses the point,” opined Baker. “we need less expensive models” and one way to trim the substantial debt students have accrued due to the high price of a collegiate education is to simply make it a three-year experience as opposed to the traditional four.
And by students graduating in less debt than they currently are, Massachusetts will be able to retain the abundance of talent and plug them into the workforce. But Baker knows it’ll take more than that. Together with reducing healthcare costs without compromising quality of care, wielding the bully pulpit of the Governor’s office to encourage local communities to develop projects that create public space and affordable housing, and reformulating the state budget so that the rainy day fund isn’t depleted and new taxes aren’t imposed, Baker hopes to continue fostering the commonwealth’s status and reputation as a world-class innovative center.
“I left [Harvard Pilgrim] believing all that stuff my parents taught me about why it matters, why it’s important, why people should be willing to step into the public square, was true” Baker said. Perhaps what Massachusetts needs most right now is to put its partisan politics aside and embrace experience that touts collaboration and teamwork.
For more information about Baker’s Rappaport Center roundtable session, be sure to check out their video and recap of the event here.