EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

February 27, 2014

Governor hopeful Baker visits Lawrence, touting local aid proposal

LAWRENCE — Charlie Baker has a message for cities and towns that are struggling financially: More help is on the way if he wins his second race for governor, he said.

Baker, who visited businesses at Riverwalk yesterday afternoon, said the state can increase aid to cities and towns at the same rate as the growth in revenue without raising tax rates.

Members of the Massachusetts Municipal Association recently asked him if this could be achieved. The state’s financial help to cities and towns has dropped by about $400 million to $500 million during the last few years, he said.

“I told them I would think about it,” he said.

Baker, 57, a Republican who served as secretary of administration and finance under Govs. William Weld and Paul Cellucci, said he did some calculating and concluded that the state could increase assistance to communities without an adverse effect on state government — and without raising taxes, which are now 5.25 percent on incomes and 6.25 percent on most retail sales.

Revenue from taxation, he said, has been growing at 5 percent per year. Aid to cities and towns could increase at that same rate without hurting state services, he said.

Baker, former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, ran unsuccessfully against Gov. Deval Patrick in 2010. He said he thinks his chances are better this year in part because he’s running for an open seat. Patrick is not seeking re-election.

He said he learned from that campaign not to talk to too many people about too many topics.

“I am focusing on three things: jobs, schools and communities,” he said.

Baker began his career in the Weld administration as undersecretary of health and human services, then moved up to human services secretary and finally served as secretary of administration and finance, the state’s chief financial officer.

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