Coming off a landslide reelection victory two months earlier, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker launched his second term Thursday with a mostly forward looking optimistic tone.
With his hand placed on a bible held by his 90-year-old father, Baker recited the oath of office from Senate President Karen Spilka and became the first Republican in 24 years to begin a second term in the Corner Office.
In a 35-minute address in a packed House Chamber at the State House, Baker said he would continue the get-the-job-done collaborative style that marked his first four years as governor – an approach to governing that he said made people proud to be from Massachusetts.
" Let others engage in the cheap shots and low blows," said Baker adding," Let our brand of politics be positive and optimistic instead of cruel and dark."
As expected, Baker made no new promises nor pledged to begin any bold initiatives. The familiar issues of education, transportation, housing, and the opioid crisis were the substantive highlights of the speech, which was warmly received.
"When it comes to the difference in performance between urban and suburban school districts we can and we must do better," said Baker in announcing he would propose changes to the formula for distributing state aid to local schools in the budget he'll file later this month.
Following a plan developed in his first term, Baker said $8 billion would be spent over the next five years to repair and upgrade the core infrastructure of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). He also said the state should build more infrastructure for new zero-emission and autonomous vehicles.
Baker said he would take another stab this legislative session at a bill on healthcare cost containment, and on a bill that would make it easier for local communities to change zoning laws and spur the building of more housing across the state.
" We absolutely, positively, must get this one done in this session," said Baker.
During Baker’s first term, the legislature passed two major bills to address the opioid epidemic that Baker said helped make Massachusetts one of just a few states were overdose deaths have come down since 2017.
Highlighting accomplishments in his first four years, Baker citied the elimination of a structural budget deficit, the buildup of the state’s rainy day fund, reforms at the state’s child welfare agency, and an end to the practice of putting homeless families in motel rooms.
"As I look forward, I am greatful we are taking on difficult policy issues from a position of strength," said Baker.
Also sworn in for a second term Thursday was Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito.
"And I for one am filled with optimism and excitement and gratitude for the opportunity to stand with each of you and continue this great journey," she said.
Baker and Polito have inauguration events scheduled Friday in Springfield and Worcester.