Gov. Charlie Baker made the case today for the economic development proposals he wants Democratic lawmakers to put into law.
Baker's comprehensive bill would make investments in sectors he hopes will grow and blossom into more decent-paying jobs.. It features many of the plans he campaigned on in 2014, including infrastructure projects and research grants for new technologies that could pay off in new job sectors.
More than half of the $918 million proposal would go to fund the MassWorks program that serves as a clearinghouse for state grants that cities and towns can use to build job-rich projects on the local level and revitalize business districts.
"If I know anything at all about what's in this bill it's how important MassWork is as a flexible economic development tool in our communities across the commonwealth," Baker testified Tuesday in front of the Legislature's Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee..
The governor wants to fund vocational and technical schools to the tune of $75 million to help develop job training programs in schools to combat the difficulty the business community says it's been having recruiting skilled labor.
"The workforce skills gap is the single most significant threat facing the Massachusetts economy," Baker said.
Many of the programs the governor wants to fund look for ways to integrate transportation and housing solutions into local developments.
Legislative leaders are open to advancing some, but maybe not all, of Baker's wish list before lawmakers recess for the year in August. And with the bill's bottom line at nearly a billion dollars in spending, there's a lot of room for House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg's teams to tweak the bill toward their own priorities.
"We’re all fortunate to live in a state whose citizenry has been blessed with tremendous intellect and grit. And today we’re asking you to give us the tools to capitalize on that intellect and grit and to help connect our citizens with the job skills and the careers that they can build a life and a family with," Baker told lawmakers.
Democrats and Republicans alike had few questions for Baker after he testified and voiced enthusiasm for the bill and could take up some version of it before their summer recess.