Baker pledges to work with Democratic Legislature
BOSTON (AP) — When Gov.-elect Charlie Baker takes his oath of office in January, he’ll assume a historically familiar role in Massachusetts — that of a Republican chief executive facing off against a state Legislature with a veto-proof Democratic majority.
Navigating through that scenario will likely require political savvy on Baker’s part, not to mention willingness to compromise and broker deals with lawmakers.
Mitt Romney, the state’s last Republican governor, worked with Democratic leaders to forge a first-in-the nation, near universal health care law. Romney’s predecessors in the corner office, Republicans Paul Cellucci and William Weld, also enjoyed their share of policy successes in the 1990s.
Weld famously developed a working relationship with former Democratic Senate President William Bulger, at first criticizing him, but later appointing him president of the University of Massachusetts.
Baker served in key cabinet posts in the Weld and Cellucci administrations, giving him a front-row seat to the maneuvering.
He said Wednesday that he had already begun reaching out to legislative leaders from both parties and that his victory Tuesday over Democrat Martha Coakley — though narrow — was proof Massachusetts voters wanted collaboration and bipartisanship at the Statehouse.
“It will affect the way we govern,” said Baker. “We plan to lead as representatives of 100 percent of the state.”
One of Baker’s first major actions will be to submit a state budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The spending plan will help lay out Baker’s priorities, detailing areas of state government where he might want to cut spending and other areas where he might want to increase resources.
Baker said during the campaign that he would not raise taxes or fees, although he declined to sign a “no new taxes” pledge.
The budget could also provide a first glimpse into Baker’s relationship with Democrats, who will hammer out their own version of the budget and send it back to the governor.
How heavily Baker uses his veto power on the Legislature’s spending plan and how vigorously Democrats opt to override those vetoes will also help lay the groundwork for the give-and-take between the executive and legislative branches over the next four years.
Democratic powerbrokers noted that Baker was no stranger to state government and sounded as eager to work with him as he did with them.
“I congratulate Charlie Baker on his victory. I worked with him when he served as Secretary of Administration and Finance and look forward to working with him in his new role as governor,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo.
Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat poised to become the next Senate President, also said he was confident that lawmakers and Baker would find common ground on major issues.
Yet history also shows that good will can evaporate quickly absent regular communication between the governor and legislative leaders.
Though he steered clear of specific policy pronouncements on Wednesday, Baker did say he planned to continue Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick’s tradition of regular weekly meetings with legislative leaders. Those meetings, Baker said, also took place during the Weld and Cellucci administrations and worked “exceedingly well.”