Our Opinion: Baker warns about partisan bickering


Governor Charlie Baker is not a stirring orator and doesn't pretend to be. His wonkishness constitutes a large part of his appeal and that quality was on display Thursday when he took the oath of office for a second term as the state's chief executive.

Still, the Republican governor did conclude his address by calling forcefully for an end to the "bickering and name-calling that dominates much of today's debate," more in Washington, D.C. than on Beacon Hill. It's a call he has made before and it was well worth making again.

The governor talked about education funding, affordable housing and health care costs among other issues in his address before legislators, constitutional officers and members of the public Thursday. The governor echoed legislative leaders in declaring that the state's education funding formula is antiquated and must be addressed. He offered no specifics, but Education Secretary James Peyser said following the speech that there will be "significant new investment" to be included in an overall budget plan to be released in the weeks ahead.

Mr. Baker promised to come up with a plan to address the state's shortage of affordable housing. The Berkshires will have difficult keeping the businesses it has and bringing in new ones if employees are unable to find good housing at a reasonable cost. The shortage of rental properties that are both livable and affordable is a serious problem in Pittsfield and in pockets of the Berkshires.

He also said he would file legislation later this year confronting rising health care costs and the plight of struggling community hospitals. No hints as to what that would contain were offered, beyond expansion of "telemedicine" providing virtual contact between patients and doctors.

The governor is rightly proud that a Republican governor and a largely Democratic Legislature are able to disagree without being disagreeable and can work together to find the compromises necessary to not only keep government functioning but to enact legislation that makes Massachusetts a better state for its residents. No shutdowns here. Mr. Baker, who spoke of his disdain for the "era of Snapchats, tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts, put-downs and smackdowns" that fuel partisanship and paralysis, promised to continue to cultivate a "positive and optimistic" kind of politics that contrasts with the "cruel and dark" brand seen elsewhere.

Mr. Baker made no mention of President Trump, whose statements and tweets are the root of today's ugly brand of national politics. He didn't need to and it was wise not to, as it spared him the backlash among Trumpists that came down upon Republican Utah senator and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney when he dared call out the president for his unpresidential behavior in a Washington Post opinion piece (Eagle oped page, Jan.3).

Massachusetts faces a number of knotty problems in 2019 and the governor and lawmakers are sure to disagree vigorously on how to best address them. We look forward to those debates confident in the knowledge that they will not be tainted by what the governor referred to as "the cheap shots and the low blows" that mar the political process nationally.



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