SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

April 17, 2014

Time to raise our game

Baker tells forum audience what state needs to be great

(Continued)

“We are wicked smart, and a lot of people will pay up for all that wicked smartness we have, but a lot of people will just simply go someplace else,” he said.

On K-12 education, Baker says there are many great schools and districts in the state, but there are many that “aren’t making the grade.” He said the state needs to focus on excellent schools and educators who are thriving in challenging environments and tap into what makes them successful. The mind-set now, from a budgetary and policy perspective, is to treat everyone the same, when they’re really not, he said.

Baker also said greater effort should be made with vocational and technical schools, many of which are undertaking innovative projects, to connect education to thousands of skilled job opportunities that exist. He noted that some universities are forging their own partnerships with industries to create co-ops and internships across different fields and said the state should pursue similar projects. He added that many vocational schools boast 100 percent graduation rates.

He said he’s not going to raise taxes. Instead, the state should be more creative on generating revenues and spending money.

“We can’t believe that we can tax and spend our way to success,” he said.

Along those lines, local aid continually dwindles, posing more hurdles for cities and towns to meet financial obligations. “If state revenues grows by 5 percent, local aid should grow by 5 percent,” he said.

On health care, Baker argues the Affordable Care Act is nothing like the state health care reform enacted several years ago, and said Massachusetts should be free to continue its own program instead of overlaying it with “disruptive” and “destructive” federal legislation. He’s spoken to many whose insurance costs have risen by 25 to 40 percent for the same coverage — his own insurance rose by 30 percent, he said. Baker supports efforts to seek federal waivers and said the real issue is the determination to keep asking until the answer from the federal government changes.

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