Facing a re-election vote in 10 months, Gov. Charlie Baker took the podium Tuesday night to kick off the final year of his four-year term, calling for renewed commitments to mental health treatment, funding for college scholarships and expanded tax breaks for low-income families.
The governor also spoke to his vision for what government can mean to people when it does not get bogged down in the partisan mudslinging that has come to define national politics, and when Democrats and Republicans work together.
Baker, who is riding high in the polls as he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito prepare to make the case for another four years in office, used his final State of the Commonwealth address to run through accomplishments his administration has chalked up over three years.
He also teased some of the priorities that will be featured when he presents the Legislature with his fiscal 2019 budget proposal on Wednesday, including an expansion of the earned income tax credit and an increase of $83 million for community-based mental health services.
"It is our job to create the cohesion envisioned by those who came before us. To move this state forward. To protect and fight for its interests and its people. And to never forget that we are the lucky ones," Baker said. "We live in a great state filled with creative, community minded, hard-working decent people. And what they want from us is opportunity, possibility and hope."
On the opioid abuse front, Baker called on the Legislature to pass his Cares Act, and pledged that over the next five years his administration has plans to add 500 new treatments beds and increase spending on addiction services by $200 million.
For education, Baker, whose budget on Wednesday is expected to clear $40 billion, said he plans to propose a $7 million increase in scholarship funding for community college students who qualify for Pell Grants and to expand early college offerings for high school students looking to get a jump on coursework.
And Baker said his budget will include an extra $2 million to help municipalities and the state prepare and plan for the effects of climate change.
From reducing the number of opioid prescriptions written in Massachusetts to largely closing a budget gap without raising taxes, the governor drew attention to those successes as well as the areas where more must be done, including to make the MBTA more reliable.
He ticked through accollades that have poured in for the state, from being named the best state in the country by U.S. News and World Report to being ranked the healthiest state by the United Health Foundation.
He even squeezed in the fact that the New England Patriots are headed to their third Super Bowl in four years.
"So I can stand here and say without question the state of our Commonwealth is strong," Baker said.
This report was originally published by State House News Service.