Gov. Baker reflects on accomplishments of first 2 years

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Mass Governor Charlie Baker speaks at 2017 MMA Annual MeetingIn addition to announcing the main local aid numbers from his budget plan, Gov. Charlie Baker reflected on highlights from his first two years in office during his address to hundreds of local officials at the MMA’s Annual Business Meeting on Jan. 21.
 
These include a $1 billion economic development package, which he signed into law last July, the Community Compact Initiative, which he said has resulted in the implementation of 600 municipal best practices across the state, and a regulatory review project, which he said focused on outdated and redundant state rules and cut the total by nearly 25 percent.
 
On a related note, the governor touched on the so-called Municipal Modernization Act, a wide-ranging law, signed last August, that has been popular with local officials for helping to improve the efficiency of municipal operations.
 
Gov. Baker also cited the administration’s Open for Business program, which works with local officials to put vacant or underused state-owned land to productive use in a way that complements local economic development goals.
 
“Massachusetts is the largest landowner in the Commonwealth,” he said. “And we have historically not been very good about identifying and inventorying and putting into use a lot of the land that we own.”
 
Also on the economic development front, he mentioned the administration’s five-year capital plan to put $1 billion into affordable and public housing initiatives, and a brownfields authorization intended to help rehabilitate blighted properties.
 
At the midpoint of his term, the governor said his administration has cut the number of homeless families placed in hotels and motels across the state by more than 90 percent, to fewer than 100.
 
“We are doing a better job of helping people not become homeless in the first place … and continuing to be aggressive about developing permanent housing alternatives,” he said, crediting a partnership between his secretariats of Housing and Economic Development and Health and Human Services, along with local officials, for making strides toward the goal of having no homeless families placed in hotels and motels.
 
On the opioid epidemic, he said he’s “proud of the bipartisan work that’s been done at every level of government to deal with this issue, but we have … a ton of work left to do.”
 
Sounding a familiar theme, the governor discussed the local government experience of numerous key people in his administration, and stressed the high regard in which they hold the leaders who run the state’s 351 cities and towns.
 
“No one’s more accountable to the people who put them there than the folks in local government,” he said, adding that most people form their view of how the state is doing based on how things are going in their city or town.
 
In a nod to the tense political climate, Gov. Baker hit a notably nonpartisan refrain, about how “we’re all Americans first” and “nobody’s got the corner on the best ideas.” He also alluded, however, to the potential battles ahead with the federal government.
 
“I promise you, that we will fight hard to advocate, with our congressional delegation and other governors, for what we believe is in the best interests of the people of Massachusetts,” he said. “And I believe together we can all do great things, and I’m starting 2017 believing that’s where we’re going.”