GOP's Baker Unveils Economic Development Plan

Republican candidate for governor Charlie Baker unveiled an economic development plan Wednesday that he said will create jobs, strengthen local communities and build better schools.

The plan contains more than two dozen proposals including using tax credits to reward business that hire welfare recipients and veterans and to help small employers offset the cost of a rising minimum wage, which is set to go from $8 per hour to $11 per hour by 2017.

Baker said his plan would also reduce fees for starting a business; increase affordable housing; and give minority business owners better access to the bidding process for public projects. He said if elected he'd also sign contracts with mayors to establish clear expectations for what his administration will deliver.

Baker had already discussed some elements of the plan - including his proposal to require health care providers to post prices for medical procedures and to seek a waiver from President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law.

Baker said his economic plan would cost the state up to $300 million year. He called the potential loss of tax revenue "a small price to pay" and said he wasn't worried about covering the lost revenue.

"We've got a $38 billion budget. Tax and other revenues grow by about $1 billion a year. I think we can figure it out," he said, adding that it's difficult to estimate how many jobs his plan would create.

The former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care said he's used to studying details to solve a problem and has a "passion for getting into the weeds."

"I love the weeds," Baker said.

Baker was joined at the event by former Gov. Bill Weld and described him as his "mentor and former boss." Baker worked for Weld in the 1990s first as his health and human services secretary and later as budget chief.

"This plan was written by someone who really knows what they're talking about," Weld said.

Democrat Martha Coakley has already pledged to make $500 million in funding available over the next decade to help speed up economic growth across the state if she's elected governor.

Coakley said $400 million would go to major infrastructure projects and the rest would be used for grants to businesses and nonprofit groups to help identify economic development strategies.

Asked about Coakley's pledge to eliminate the waiting list of 17,000 children seeking subsidized pre-kindergarten education - a proposal Coakley said would cost about $150 million a year - Baker said the state shouldn't just focus on early education.

"The important thing we need to do with respect to expanding pre-K is we need to make sure that those kids are going into schools where they're going to continue to get the education they need," Baker said. "You can't think about pre-K without thinking about K-8 as well. Those two have to be connected."

There are also three independent candidates for governor - Jeff McCormick, Scott Lively, and Evan Falchuk. The election is Nov. 4.


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