Baker has the experience and temperament for the corner office
© by Barbara Anderson
The Salem News
Thursday, April 22, 2010
So there I was, being carried backward through
the Statehouse by Charlie Baker and Howard Foley of the Mass. High
Technology Council, their arms under mine, my feet kicking uselessly
a few inches from the marble floor, as I insisted I was not going to
meet with Senator Chester Atkins, no way, no how.
Howard was grimly determined that this time, I was going to do as I
was told; Charlie as usual was laughing, supporting his boss while
assuring me that my cooperation was really appreciated.
It was 1983, and the new governor, Michael Dukakis, had filed
legislation attacking Proposition 2½. Under that initiative petition
law, enacted in 1980, several cities still had to cut property taxes
to reach the required 2.5 percent rate. Dukakis' bill would stop the
cuts, taking away the tax relief due many city taxpayers. Citizens
for Limited Taxation immediately declared war and ran to the media,
especially talk radio; at one point calls from taxpayers shut down
the Statehouse phones.
Meanwhile, the Mass. High Tech Council (MHTC), which had funded the
Prop 2½ campaign, quietly lobbied the Legislature to reject the
Dukakis plan. Foley worked out a compromise with Atkins, the Senate
Ways & Means chairman, in which the state would lend money to those
cities that were having trouble cutting their property tax. It was a
reasonable compromise, but I was in full battle mode and not
inclined to be reasonable.
President and CEO of
Harvard-Pilgrim Health Care, Charles D. Baker receiving CLT's 2005 Warren T. Brookes Award for "economy in
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However, in the end, we agreed and it all worked
out. In 2005, CLT celebrated the 25th anniversary of "the people's
law," and Charlie Baker was guest speaker at our brunch, where he
received our Warren T. Brookes award for excellence in economic
Howard Foley, like many business types, didn't enjoy interacting
with the press. He complained that I was quoted more than he on Prop
2½ issues. "You have to return reporters' calls," I explained. So he
hired Charlie out of college to be the MHTC media contact, and soon
the Council began getting the credit it deserved for helping
Massachusetts property taxpayers.
CLT stood pretty much alone against the powerful public employee
unions and the entire political establishment, until Howard brought
MHTC into the ballot campaign; I worshiped him as the big brother I
had always wanted. However, we had occasional disagreements over
strategy, and Charlie became the go-between; I saw him as a little
brother who, though 15 years younger, was calmer, wiser and smarter
than I was, there to keep peace in the family.
We kept in touch over the years. For a while he ran the Pioneer
Institute, created by entrepreneur Lovett Peters just in time to
collect ideas across the political spectrum for "better government,"
helping Gov. Bill Weld address a giant budget shortfall.
Charlie had received a master's degree in management from
Northwestern's Kellogg School, so was prepared when the Weld/Cellucci
administrations asked him to be secretary of Health and Human
Services, then secretary of Administration & Finance. Soon he was
implementing changes in public policy that saved taxpayers millions
of dollars. He was later elected selectman in Swampscott.
My point being: Charlie Baker has experience as a taxpayer advocate,
think-tank idea man, state official and local official. Then there's
his experience turning around Harvard Pilgrim's finances as its CEO.
This put him in a position to become involved in the Massachusetts
health care debate; I remember him telling me about his priority for
Gov. Romney's legislation, the transparency about various plans that
would help consumers make their decisions.
After Romney left, the Legislature never got around to the
cost-control part. If voters want to fix the state health care law,
and all the other things wrong with this state, then they need to
elect Baker. He worked with Weld, cutting taxes and spending during
that state fiscal crisis, overseeing welfare reform.
Another favorite memory of mine, if not Bill Weld's, was the time
his young HHS secretary was negotiating with human service
providers, who were making their usual accusations about budget
cutters not caring about the poor. Charlie was quoted in the Globe
telling them to "cut the crap" and be useful. I sent him a note of
congratulations while liberals screamed. But as I recall it, the
advocates settled down and began working with him to address abuses
while supporting real services.
Having had experience with advocates, the media and negotiating with
unions (and with me, in my difficult phase), Charlie can deal with
anything; He can make the commonwealth work. However, he can't save
it by himself. Voters mustn't do to him what they did to Mitt
Romney: elect him for reform, but give him no help from fresh,
No governor, alone, can change the Massachusetts tradition of
irresponsible spending leading to high taxes, high debt and huge,
unfunded liabilities. Voters must carefully pick "their team" in
both the executive and legislative branches, come November. I've got
my own team lined up, from Charlie Baker down the ticket to a local
state rep. candidate. If you too help some good candidates win, you
will share in the excitement of this revolutionary election year.
The comments made
and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.
Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her
column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune
newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in
the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.
More of Barbara's