NORTH ANDOVER — If elected, Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker said he would push to lower the state sales tax to 5 percent, impose a hiring and wage freeze for state government, and take aim at various laws and policies that give too much influence to labor unions.
At a meeting with The Eagle-Tribune editorial board yesterday, the former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care also continued his call for a receiver or control board to take over financially troubled Lawrence.
As governor, Baker said his priorities would be to create jobs in Massachusetts and shrink state government. He said he's the only candidate with private industry experience creating jobs and any experience at all turning around financially struggling institutions.
"I'm going to take an enormously hard run at shrinking state government to make it less expensive and more efficient," Baker said. "We have more than a dozen health and human service agencies with lots of duplication, when it probably takes one to get the job done."
Baker has held two Cabinet posts under Massachusetts governors — secretary of health and human services and secretary of administration and finance. He joined Harvard Pilgrim in 1998 after eight years in state government. He is credited with turning around the health care benefits company, which found itself in receivership.
Baker is running against Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, Treasurer Tim Cahill, who is running as an independent, and Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein. Baker trails Patrick 45 percent to 42 percent in the latest Rasmussen Poll, with Cahill a distant third at 5 percent. The poll shows 5 percent favoring "some other candidate" and 2 percent undecided. Rasmussen now lists the race as a "tossup."
Baker said he doesn't believe Massachusetts is turning the corner on an economic recovery — a claim Patrick has boasted on the campaign trail.