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.
Baker, who at 6-foot-6 is impossible to miss in a crowd, was accompanied by his running mate, former state Rep. Karyn Polito, in his visit to Lawrence. She ran a strong but unsuccessful race for state treasurer in 2010 and said she’s confident she’ll be a winner this time.
“I got a million votes,” she said of her effort four years ago. Also joining Baker were Alex Vispoli, the chairman of the Andover Board of Selectmen who is running for state senator in the 2nd Essex and Middlesex District (Lawrence, Andover, Tewksbury and Dracut) and former Lawrence Mayor Michael Sullivan.
Vispoli, who lost to former Rep. Paul Adams in the GOP primary two years ago, said this time he’s going to work a lot harder — and win. Sullivan, now working in his family’s real estate business, said he’s solidly behind Baker.
“We’re going to work hard for him,” he said.
Baker visited NxStage Medical, a company that designs and manufactures home hemodialysis machines. Jeffrey Burbank, an entrepreneur with an industrial engineering degree, started the company in 1998.
NxStage employs 300 to 350 people at its Lawrence corporate headquarters, in what used to be the American Woolen Co. mill. Kristen Sheppard, vice president of investor relations and corporate counsel, said these employees include engineers, marketing people and administrators.
While NxStage’s products are designed in Lawrence, the machines are manufactured in Mexico, Italy and Germany, she said. NxStage’s machines allow dialysis patients, whose kidneys no longer function, to receive their treatments at home rather than going to a clinic three times a week, Sheppard pointed out.
Patients using NxStage machines typically undergo dialysis five or six times a week in their homes rather than going to a clinic, she said. This is healthier for the patient because toxins are removed from his or her body more often, she explained.
Burbank, 51, said be and Baker became friends when the candidate was CEO of Harvard Pilgrim.