BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker hailed what he called the spirit of bipartisanship on Beacon Hill as he detailed goals for the new year in his first State of the State address Thursday.
The Republican spoke for about 25 minutes to a joint session of the Legislature — overwhelmingly controlled by Democrats — and a statewide television audience.
“As the administration ends its first year in office, some have lamented how boring we are. I’ll admit, that makes me smile,” Baker said. “No fights. No yelling. No partisan scrums.”
The speech was punctuated by applause in the packed House Chamber.
Here are some highlights:
Baker took advantage of the prime-time address to tout what he said were some of his top accomplishments last year.
Among those was the closing of what Baker said was a $765 million hole in the budget and the creation of a Fiscal and Management Control Board to help manage the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority after service stalled during last winter’s historic snows.
He also pointed to changes at the state Department of Children and Families, the Massachusetts Health Connector, and the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
One initiative Baker highlighted was his push for hydropower from Canada.
Baker said while other renewable energy sources like solar and wind are critical as older power plants go offline, the state must jumpstart its supply of hydropower to reduce its carbon footprint.
Administration officials have said the state can’t meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals without hydropower.
“Governors across New England — Democrats and Republicans — have made clear to me that they’re ready to go,” Baker said. “They’re waiting on us.”
Baker said another top priority is to stem the alarming rise in opioid-related overdoses and deaths.
Baker laid part of the blame on doctors and other prescribers who he said have been “far too casual about the addictive consequences” of opioid painkillers.
“This is a real human tragedy,” Baker said. “Moms, dads, brothers, sisters and friends all tell hauntingly similar stories.”
House and Senate lawmakers are working to hammer out a single, compromise opioid-abuse bill to send to Baker.
Baker urged action on lifting the cap on charter schools.
Baker pointed to a waiting list of 37,000 children hoping to get into a charter school, many of them from minority communities.
Baker has filed legislation to ease the cap. There is a pending lawsuit and a proposed ballot question that would also allow more charter schools — something Baker said the state owes the parents of those children.
“They cry when they talk to me about the hopes and dreams they have for their children, and as a parent, I feel their pain,” he said.
Baker also touched on elements of his budget plan for the 2017 fiscal year that begins July 1.
Baker said the plan, to be filed next week, won’t raise taxes or fees and will add to the state’s rainy day fund.
The proposal also will increase education aid, boost aid to cities and towns, and continue support for public transportation.
Baker also said he’ll be filing legislation to make a modest adjustment to the state’s film tax credit and use the savings to create more affordable housing and “an improved tax climate” for Massachusetts businesses that sell goods and services in other states.
He also hopes to invest $75 million in career and technical schools.
Top Massachusetts Democrats gave Baker largely positive reviews.
Senate President Stan Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo said they’re ready to work with Baker on confronting the opioid crisis.
DeLeo said he would have liked to have heard more specific plans to improve public transportation and reduce gun violence. Rosenberg said he was hoping for more discussion about ways to help working families.
U.S. Sen. Edward Markey said he was encouraged by the governor’s bipartisan tone.
Associated Press writer Bob Salsberg contributed to this report.
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