Gov. Baker Touts Success; Calls for Education, Transportation Improvements in State of the State Address

(AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker is calling for improvements in education, transportation and housing in his last state of the state address before seeking a second term.

The Republican said Tuesday that Massachusetts can’t rest on its laurels.

He said the state has seen a drop in opioid-related overdose deaths, but asked lawmakers to pass a bill aimed at expanding the fight against opioid addiction.

He’s pushing a plan to create 135,000 new housing units in Massachusetts and says the state is committed to increasing its reliance on renewable energy.

“When Lieutenant Governor Polito and I began this journey three years ago, we set out to create a state government that worked well for the people who needed it most, and would be as creative, thrifty and hard-working as the people of Massachusetts,” said Baker.

“And while much remains to be done, with your help, we’ve made great progress toward these objectives. We began with a $1 billion structural budget deficit. Today, we’ve reduced that deficit to less than $100 million without raising taxes.”

Baker says he’s also committed to improving the MBTA and making commuter rail from Fall River and New Bedford to Boston a reality.

In an acknowledgement of the nation’s acrimonious political times, Baker called for “a common decency in our debate.”

In his speech, Baker mentioned a few of his budget priorities, including additional aide for communities hosting families from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands after the recent devastating hurricanes.

The governor also said the state has been making progress in the fight against the opiate crisis.

“We began in the midst of an opioid crisis in which deaths, overdoses and prescriptions had been growing by double digits for more than a decade. It was the worst case of negative momentum I’d ever seen,” he said.

“Today, with your help and support, we’ve reduced opioid prescribing by 29%. And overdose deaths have dropped for the first time in over a decade by 10%.”

Baker already has told cities and towns to anticipate a $37 million increase in unrestricted state aid, and school districts to expect nearly $120 million in additional state funding.

He says the spending plan also will include more than $83 million in new funding to strengthen community-based services for adults with serious mental illness.

“Economically, we’re hitting on all cylinders,” said Baker.

“In 2017 we had more people working than at any time in state history.Our economy has added 180,000 new jobs since we took office. And best of all, the number of people looking for work has dropped in every county over the past three years in most cases by more than 35%.

“The progress we’ve made together has been noticed and it should be. Bloomberg ranked Massachusetts #1 in innovation for the past two years,” he said.

The Republican governor is scheduled to submit his election-year spending plan — likely to top $41 billion — to the Democratic-controlled Legislature on Wednesday.

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