Mass. Lt. Gov. Makes Reassurance On Local Aid
The administration of Governor Charlie Baker is seeking to strengthen ties between Massachusetts state government and local municipalities. Baker’s first executive order as governor dealt with municipal relations.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who is the administration’s primary liaison to cities and towns, began a statewide tour Thursday to visit mayors and other officials. Her first stop: Holyoke City Hall for a meeting with Mayor Alex Morse. She offered assurances that when the administration takes steps within days to close a projected $765 million state budget gap, cities and towns will not be burdened.
"We will not re- balance this budget on the backs of cities and towns. We will protect local aid," declared Polito.
The Republican pointed out the administration released $100 million in local highway funds that had been held back by former Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick.
" That brought almost a half million dollars here to Holyoke to fix the sidewalks and the potholes, which you will have many when this winter concludes," Polito said as Morse nodded in agreement.
Baker and Polito both have experience in local government. Baker’s only elective office prior to becoming governor was as a selectman in his hometown, Swampscott. Polito, likewise, served on the board of selectmen in her hometown, Shrewsbury before being elected to the state legislature.
Polito’s role as the go-to person in the Baker administration for municipal officials is similar to the duties Democrat Tim Murray took on during his six-year tenure as Lt. Gov. in the Patrick administration.
" I credit former Lt.Gov. Tim Murray for doing a lot of good work certainly with the Gateway Cities, and we will build on the success they had in those areas," said Polito
The executive order signed by Baker last week created a new entity called the Community Compact Cabinet, chaired by Polito and populated by several members of Baker’s cabinet including those in charge of economic development, housing and transportation.
The order also created a new position, senior deputy commissioner of local services, in the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.
Morse said the new administration is off to a good start.
" I have been very impressed with the Baker administration," said Morse. " They've made great appointments that are going to build ties and relationships with municipal leaders. We're really excited about the partnership."
The Patrick administration was very good to Holyoke funding several projects including a high performance computing center, a canal walk, and a new downtown stop for high speed passenger trains.
" We can't stop the momentum," said Morse. " The governor and lt. gov. recognize we are moving forward and the worst thing would be to stop those investments."
Morse said he and Polito discussed privately the efforts to improve the city’s public schools and avoid a state takeover, which could happen as soon as next year if there is a not a dramatic improvement in student test scores.