Baker, bucking GOP, goes green

Governor testifying in DC on climate change initiatives

MUCH HAS BEEN made of Gov. Charlie Baker’s “evolution” on taxes, as the state’s Republican governor, seemingly liberated by his November reelection, has shed his longtime aversion to new revenue-raising schemes.

Baker’s willingness to consider new taxes is a mark of his separation from Republican orthodoxy. Now, in another move that sets him apart from a national party that has moved sharply to the right, Baker is in Washington, DC, today to sound the alarm on climate change.

The Globe reports that the governor will testify before the House Committee on Natural Resources, now back under the control of Democrats, which is holding its first hearing on climate change since 2009. According to prepared remarks shared with the paper, Baker will issue a sweeping call for the federal government to include climate change risks in all federal planning, and will ask for more federal funding for infrastructure spending to deal with climate change effects and new federal emissions targets that could vary by region.

It’s a far cry from the prevailing outlook in his party, whose leader has derided climate change as a hoax, bailed out of the Paris Climate Accord, and didn’t mention the issue once in his State of the Union address last night.

But it’s also a far cry from the Charlie Baker of just nine years ago, who punted on the issue during his unsuccessful 2010 run for governor. Asked at one point about the human role in global warming, he told a Globe reporter, “I’m not saying I believe in it. I’m not saying I don’t. You’re asking me to take a position on something I don’t know enough about. I absolutely am not smart enough to believe that I know the answer to that question.’’

Fast forward to the present and the Harvard-educated governor has apparently gotten a lot smarter on the issue.

“We understand the science and know the impacts are real because we are experiencing them firsthand,” Baker will tell the congressional committee today, according to prepared testimony shared with the Globe.

His openness to new taxes and a more aggressive stance on climate change dovetail in one recent proposal: Baker’s call for a 50 percent increase in the deeds excise tax to fund local climate change “resiliency” projects.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

Baker has been firmly in the never-Trump camp of the Republican Party, declaring in 2016 that he was blanking his presidential ballot, and he seems increasingly comfortable parting ways not only with the GOP’s standard-bearer, but with positions that now define the national Republican mainstream. Baker will reportedly try to cast climate change as a bipartisan issue, a worthy enough aspiration, but one that cuts against the grain of the partisan bent defining much of the climate debate.

A well-known frog famously said “it’s not that easy being green.” For Baker, it seems, it increasingly is.