Baker pushes tax breaks, trust
Governor delivers his seventh and final State of the Commonwealth
IN HIS SEVENTH and final State of the Commonwealth speech, Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday night tried to encapsulate his political philosophy, extolling the fiscal discipline that enabled him to propose five new tax cuts and the trust he has built up over the last seven years with voters, lawmakers, and municipal officials that has allowed his administration to deal with snowmageddon in 2015, Lawrence gas explosions in 2018, and the coronavirus pandemic over the last two years.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who took a bow, introduced Baker as a different type of leader who isn’t interested in scoring political points but instead is focused on working hard and paying attention to detail. “We may have lost Tom Brady to Tampa, but when it comes to governing we still have our GOAT,” Polito said.
Baker has given most of his State of the Commonwealth speeches in the House chamber, but Tuesday night he spoke at the Hynes Convention Center in the Back Bay, which offered more room for the many dignitaries in attendance to spread out. It was a big step up from last year’s location — his corner office at the State House.
In his speech Tuesday night, Baker recounted many of the accomplishments of his administration and ignored the failings. He pressed lawmakers for bills he would like to see passed. And he thanked the National Guard for all the help it has provided throughout his two terms.
“The pandemic has proven that we now live in a new world where people have more flexibility about where they live and work,” Baker said. “To encourage our citizens to continue to call Massachusetts home and to help those struggling to make ends meet because of rising inflation, we’ll file several tax breaks in our budget proposal later this week.”
Baker is proposing to double the existing $2,000 tax break for children and dependents, eliminate incomes taxes for the lowest-paid 230,000 taxpayers, give a higher tax break to renters, offer seniors a break on their property taxes, and make the estate tax more competitive with the rest of the country.
The governor also talked about trust. “If we’ve tried to do anything over the past seven years, we’ve tried to build trust,” he said. “Others can debate whether we’ve succeeded or not. I believe we have. And I believe it shows in the work we’ve done during good times and difficult ones over the past seven years.”
Baker said it’s difficult today to build trust and collaborate in public life. “The explosion of social media, the arrival of hundreds of news channels and information distribution platforms, and the ongoing churn of information have made it almost impossible for anyone in public life who wants to collaborate to build trust. Facts are often fungible and curated. Missteps play out in real time and can go viral in the most bizarre and unusual ways. Context is non-existent and, in many cases, history and current events get twisted to support whatever point of view someone is advocating for.”“But the answer to the swirl and chaos of modern life is not more of the same poisonous brew,” Baker said.“The answer is to stand up and accept the responsibility that comes with the work, to understand that trust is earned and collaboration is how difficult things get done. … Trust is where possibility in public life comes from.If you can’t tell someone you work with, partner with, or collaborate with what you really think, it’s very hard to do small things, much less big ones.”
Other items from the State of the Commonwealth:
- Allison Castillo, a junior at Methuen High School, sang “God Bless America.” Baker discovered Castillo earlier this month at a swearing-in for local officials in Lawrence. Castillo was called in just days before the event when the original singer couldn’t make it. Castillo had never sung “God Bless America” before, but she pulled it off. Baker was impressed. “That young woman had never sung that song before and she just crushed it,” he said. “Coming on the heels of all the anxiety and loss and disruption and isolation that has been life under COVID – especially in a community that was hit as hard as Lawrence – yeah, it was very, very special.”
- Baker made the rounds at the Hynes, slapping backs and shaking hands. He also individually thanked many of the dignitaries for turning out. To his old pal, US Labor Secretary (and former Boston mayor) Marty Walsh, he said: “I miss you, man.” He then quickly added a shoutout to the current mayor, Michelle Wu — “There’s no offense meant to you, mayor.”
- Massachusetts Democratic Party chair Gus Bickford issued a press statement shortly after the governor concluded his speech that for once didn’t take a shot at the Republican governor. Instead, it said: “Imagine a State of the Commonwealth delivered by Geoff Diehl. Need another reason to vote Democrat?”