Radio Boston host Meghna Chakrabarti spoke with Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker on Monday in the first in a series of conversations with the candidates.
Even as Massachusetts leaders decry Arizona’s controversial immigration law, Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker is defending his proposal to bar access to state services for undocumented immigrants.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for people who are citizens of Massachusetts to be waiting in line when folks who aren’t citizens access benefits,” Baker said in a Radio Boston interview Monday.
“This is an idea that’s been around now for two or three years, it keeps getting kicked to study, nobody does the study. At a minimum I think we ought to try it and see what comes of it.”
It’s one of Baker’s 13 budget proposals — “the Baker’s dozen” — and the crux of an amendment introduced by state Rep. Jeff Perry. Baker called that amendment “an appropriate way to deal with what’s mostly on people’s minds these days — which is appropriate and efficient use of state tax dollars.”
Baker said that his proposed budget reforms would save the state roughly a billion dollars, but the Massachusetts Taxpayers’ Foundation estimated a total savings at half that number. Baker said his 13 proposals are just a few ideas to tackle what he calls a $2 billion structural deficit.
“This bottom line here is that the current folks on Beacon Hill are leaving a very big deficit for whomever the next governor is,” he said.
“That governor’s going to have to dig the state out of it and I wish the current leadership was pursuing a lot of these reforms, so that they would start to become enacted and effective right away so that we could start chipping away at what everybody acknowledges is going to be a really big structural deficit.”
Baker charges Gov. Deval Patrick with that deficit — in Patrick’s first year in office, Baker said, he reinstated $383 million of spending that had been cut under Gov. Mitt Romney. In the governor’s second and, Baker said, he approved $500 million in deficit spending.
“We should have been pursuing reform and savings initiatives so that once all that one-time money runs out, we’d be in a position to live with whatever that new normal looks like,” Baker said.
“I think one of the problems we face right now is we’re not making the hard structural decisions we need to make to send the message to the people of Massachusetts that we are gonna get out of this jam, we are gonna put the budget behind us, and we’ll get serious about reforming state government.”
Another major budget issue is health care. Baker said the public should have easy access to information about pricing and performance.
“I think it’s about getting serious about giving the people who are doing a really good job for a reasonable price credit and the ability to brag and promote that, and for us to encourage more of that,” he said.
“Doing almost anything in (health care) was better than doing nothing and nothing happened. I’m thrilled that the governor has finally discovered the health care issue but there are a lot of people out there who have been banging away on the fact that we need to do something about the cost of health care for a long time, and I wish he’d engaged on this question a lot sooner.”
Baker said his decision to run for governor was fueled by both his disappointment with the current administration and the need for balance between governing parties.
“I’m just completely dismayed by the way the state’s handled the current fiscal crisis,” he said. “I think I could bring a lot to the table, having been part of two turnarounds, one in early ’90s in the (William) Weld administration, and one at Harvard Pilgrim, at a point in time when the state faces really serious issues.
“The balance question matters. I think state government is run by one party, one team on the field, one team only, and I think that leads to a lot of bad behavior and a lot of bad decision making.”
Gabrielle Levy compiled this report for wbur.org.