Baker told the local committee that he wants to use his 25 years of experience in the public and private sectors to improve the state's economy and school systems.
"We haven't created a single net new job in 13 years. We have the same number of people working that we had in 2000. How can that be? How can a state that brings everything we bring to the table lag when it comes to growing and creating jobs and economic opportunity?" Baker said.
"The answer is pretty simple. We are wicked smart but we finished 48th or 49th in every single survey that has to do with the cost of almost everything."
Baker boasted of his tenure as CEO of Harvard Pilgrim — taking the job when the company was going into receivership. While nobody thought the company could make a financial turnaround, Baker said he "set the bar high" to turn it around. He said the company is thriving, and he left in 2009 to bring his ideas for success to state government.
In 2010, Baker ran for the governor's office but lost to Deval Patrick, who was running for a second term. But in that race, he learned a lot about the concerns of municipalities around the state. In this campaign, Baker says he won't be spending time just learning the issues but instead focusing his conversations on how to solve them.
What he is hearing is that voters "want is a hands-on governor who can get stuff done" and he cited his time working under former Govs. William Weld and Paul Cellucci as being able to work with a Democratic House and Senate to better the state.
"We saw problems. We got stuff done. We made government work and we put people back to work," Baker said, particularly pointing to education reform as leading to rising to SAT scores, to workers' compensation reform and to the jobless rate going from being the worst in the country to one of the best.
But since the 1990s, Baker said the state "lost its fastball." Economic development as his No. 1 priority, with closing the achievement gaps in schools and working with municipalities to create economic strategies being the focus.
His belief is that the state needs a Republican in office to help bring the best ideas to the table — not just one, Democratic viewpoint. And that theory dates back to his childhood dinner table when his Republican father and Democratic mother debated issues. His parents would debate the "means" while trying to achieve the same "ends."
Baker gave a 15-minute speech before fielding questions from the audience.
"What my parents showed me all that time when I was a kid was, in fact, true. You do get a better product when you have both teams on the field," Baker said. "You do get a better result when you have two teams competing. You get a better government and better process when you have more than one set of ideas engaged."
The solutions to the state's problems aren't complicated, he said, because the answers are there. It is just finding the best solutions and "replicating" them.
"I know how to set the bar high. I know how to build teams. I know how to hold people accountable and help them get over the bar," he said.
One thing he'd like to implement if elected is a massive regulatory review. He said government adds regulations to businesses but seldom cleans up prior ones, allowing them to pile up. Now there are cases where complying with one state agency can lead a business to be out of compliance with another.
"The state needs to speak with one voice on this," he said.
He is calling for legislators to do a full review of the regulations every couple of years and debate the need and effectiveness of them. He is also calling for standing committees that will work with those who will are being regulated because "some of the best ideas" will come from them.
Overall, Baker described his leadership as one that "dreams big" and "sets the bar high." He wants the state to work hard and for the taxpayers to get value out of the money they put into the system.
"I don't want Massachusetts to be great just here, here and here. I want Massachusetts to be great everywhere," Baker said.
After a 15-minute speech Baker fielded questions regarding issues of senior care, homelessness, business, veterans and transportation. Baker was also a guest on Berkshire GOP's television program "Out Front TV" on PCTV.
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Voting is from 7 to 8 p.m.
Deadline to register or change party affiliation is Aug. 20; only unenrolled voters may select which primary to vote in. More information on registering can be found here.
Candidates on the ballot in a race for their party nomination; all others on the ballot are unopposed
Republican • Governor: Charles D. Baker & Mark R. Fisher
Democratic • Governor: Donald M. Berwick, Martha Coakley & Steven Grossman • Lieutenant governor: Leland Cheung, Stephen J. Kerrigan & Michael E. Lake • Attorney general: Maura Healey & Warren E. Tolman • Treasurer: Thomas P. Conroy, Barry R. Finegold & Deborah B. Goldberg
The cities of Pittsfield and North Adams will hold municipal elections for mayor, city council and school committee in 2015
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