Jun 13, 2022 - Politics

Gov. Baker begins final push for compromise on legislative priorities

Photo illustration of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker with lines radiating from him.
Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Erin Clark-Pool/Getty Images

In his last legislative push as governor, Charlie Baker wants to find middle ground with Democrats on clean energy, mental health care and tax cuts, he tells Axios Boston in an interview.

Why it matters: Before he leaves office Jan. 5, Baker's final opportunity to get laws passed by the Democrat-controlled legislature ends July 31. Lawmakers like to go down to the wire, so the next few weeks will determine whether lawmakers recess for the year with a compromise on the governor's top priorities.

Between the lines: Throughout Baker's eight years in office, the House and Senate have ended their sessions well after the deadline they'd need to override any of his vetoes, meaning the Republican governor, not the Democratic supermajority, has the final say over changes to the law.

Yes, but: Democrats have shown little-to-no desire to pass one of Baker's top priorities: an expansion of "dangerousness" hearings for people charged with crimes that leave defendants behind bars before trial for domestic abuse or other violent criminal charges.

What he's saying: "We're letting a lot of women and a lot of kids down in a way we shouldn't if we continue to perpetuate the status quo here," Baker says.

On tax breaks, Baker says he's pushing for two themes he thinks lawmakers may deliver on: Helping the poorest residents in tough times and making Massachusetts more competitive.

Details: Baker's proposal would hit lower, middle and upper income residents.

  • It would eliminate income taxes for the poorest in Massachusetts.
  • The plan gives bigger tax breaks to senior homeowners and working families.
  • More controversially, Baker's plan would lower capital gains taxes and trigger the estate tax at $2 million instead of $1 million, so wealthy residents and middle-class property owners in expensive areas won't flee to low-tax states.

Baker expects the House to propose mental health reform to match what the Senate passed earlier this year.

  • Baker says he wants any plan Democrats put on his desk at the end of the session to infuse the behavioral health care system with enough funds to build a sustainable industry around mental health and primary care.
  • "That means grow the capacity to serve, because that's what our biggest problem here is," he says. "We don't have enough players. We don't have enough people who are doing the work."

Meanwhile, the clean energy and climate package Baker put forward early in the legislative session was met with a chilly reception by Democrats, as the House and Senate offered competing visions of tougher emissions standards, expanded wind energy production and electrification goals.

  • The governor says he wants to at least see one of his chief priorities in any final bill — a new clean energy technology fund to foster innovation in the private sector as the region, country and globe fight climate change.

The bottom line: "The big win is going to be the advancement of things people never thought could be done that come out of innovation and end up being the things that change the game completely," Baker says.

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