As Citizens for Limited Taxation prepared to
celebrate 25 years of Proposition 2½ at its
fall membership brunch, I
asked Charlie Baker to be our guest speaker. He was the perfect choice
for a number of reasons.
I first met Baker in 1981, when he was hired by Howard Foley, president
of the Mass. High Tech Council. The council was CLT's partner during the
1980 Prop 2½ ballot campaign, raising the money to make us competitive
with the public employee unions who were funding a TV ad campaign
After the election, it was our job to defend the new law against all the
special interest groups who wanted it immediately repealed. To its
credit, the Legislature decided to abide by the will of the people and
cut state spending in order to share more state tax revenues with the
cities and towns. They also rejected all proposals to "tinker" with the
law, while passing a few changes that we supported.
So all went well until Michael Dukakis beat our friend, Edward J. King,
in the 1982 Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Dukakis began his administration with an attack on Prop 2½, which Baker
helped us resist. His negotiating and people skills also stood him in
good stead when, several years later, he became Secretary of Health &
Human Services, then Administration & Finance, in the Weld and Cellucci
administrations. Before that he was executive director at the Pioneer
Institute, a private sector think-tank advocating for individual
freedom, personal responsibility, and accountable government.
Always principled and firm in his beliefs, Baker had a way of getting
along with, and earning the respect of, allies and opponents alike.
Clearly he liked a challenge, which led him to his next position, CEO
and president of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. He took a troubled
institution and transformed it into what is has been acknowledged as the
"best health plan in the nation" (according to a national accrediting
group) for the past two years.
For all these reasons, he was a prime candidate to receive CLT's Warren
T. Brookes Award for "the economy in mind," which honors those who
exemplify "the universal moral standards, particularly honesty, trust,
self-respect, integrity, and loyalty without which the marketplace
But I was also eager to introduce CLT activists to the next governor of
the commonwealth, since, when we were planning the brunch, Baker was
thinking of running for that office if Mitt Romney moved on.
Instead of falling on their knees in gratitude that someone of Baker's
experience and stature was willing to take on the commonwealth
challenge, however, the governor and major Republican leaders made it
clear they were backing Kerry Healey, who has done an excellent job as
lieutenant governor, but whom I never imagined would run for the higher
office next year.
Faced with a probable primary against Baker, her husband cashed out
stock options in his company to help fund her potential campaign.
Already hesitant to give up his rewarding present job and disrupt his
family, Baker decided to put off his quest for the governorship until
his three children are older.
Now we learn that Sean Healey's company received an unjustifiable tax
break in 2001 when it was building at a site in wealthy Prides Crossing.
The taxpayer subsidy was originally intended to encourage companies to
create jobs in depressed areas, so state Inspector General Greg Sullivan
wants the money returned to the commonwealth. The Republican Party
responded by attacking Sullivan, who was one of the Democratic
legislators most supportive of Proposition 2½, taxpayers in general, and
legitimate tax credits during his years in the Legislature. Small world.
The tax break itself should not be held against Kerry Healey, who wasn't
in office at the time it was granted and isn't responsible for her
husband's business activity. But her inadequate response to the
allegations from Sullivan shows she is not quite ready for prime time.
Yet I know Baker just promised his kids that he wouldn't run next year,
and I admire his family values. So for now, his only political jobs will
be as Swampscott selectman and in an advisory role on state health-care
Along with stories about his years at MHTC and in state government,
Charlie shared his ideas on this reform with the CLT activists, talking
about the need for transparency that will allow both doctors and
consumers to compare various health-care providers and make informed
decisions about their care. Perhaps it's a good thing that he can focus
on this vital issue for now.
I think Romney would make a fine president or second term-governor. If
necessary, I like to think that Kerry Healey would grow quickly into the
role of gubernatorial candidate as she did the role of lieutenant
governor. Because I would NOT like to think that Tom Reilly will be the
next governor of Massachusetts.
As with Mike Dukakis in the '80s, we'd have all Democrats all the time,
only worse. Because in this decade, unfortunately, there are no
pro-taxpayer Democratic legislators like Greg Sullivan in the
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem
News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence
Journal and other newspapers.