After taking the oath of office to serve a second term as governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker signaled that he intends to spend the next four years working on many of the same issues that occupied his time over the last four.
Baker soundly defeated Needham Democrat and former state budget chief Jay Gonzalez in November's election to earn a second four-year term. He is the first Republican governor since William Weld in 1995 to be sworn in for a second term.
In a speech to the Legislature, other constitutional officers and supporters, Baker acknowledged that he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito "had a lot to prove to the people of Massachusetts" after their narrow victory in 2014 and pointed to a series of accomplishments.
"By putting the public interest ahead of partisan politics, we've made our commonwealth a better place to live for our residents," Baker said according to prepared remarks. "But there's always much left to do."
On education, Baker said the state must do more to address the disparities between urban and suburban school districts and, while cautioning that "progress isn't just about money," said he plans to include education funding formula "updates" in his state budget bill this month.
The budget will also feature plans for underperforming school districts to invest jointly with the state in "acceleration academies, professional development, after school enrichment and leadership development programs."
Addressing one of the most public criticisms of his first term, Baker said there is still a lot of work to do to fix the ailing MBTA — an area in which the state "sat on its hands for too many years and we're all paying the price for it." He said it will not be quick work to address the T's myriad problems.
The governor said he sees "huge opportunities to improve service" at the T by leveraging data, due to become available in 2020 under an automated fare system, about how riders are actually using the T.
Like his first term, Baker said controlling health care costs will be a focus of his second term.
The Legislature has rejected previous proposals from the governor but Baker said he plans "later this year" to file a bill addressing struggling community hospitals, telemedicine and scope of practice, mental health parity, and the high health care costs that are saddling small businesses.
As with his state of the commonwealth speeches and other major addresses, Baker's second inaugural address included a healthy dose of Baker's philosophy on governing while Democrats maintain supermajorities in both branches of the Legislature.
"These days, too much of what pretends to be debate is just rhetoric or character assassination. And every time someone joins that chorus they steal time, attention and focus away from finding common ground, creating solutions and doing the work that matters," he said. "Whether it’s the grind of the day to day, or a crisis, we all need to work together because that’s what great public service is all about."
Baker arrived at the State House on Thursday morning accompanied by his wife, Lauren, and recognized law enforcement and public safety personnel from around the state in a brief ceremony on the front steps of the State House.