Last week, the Chamber hosted its first Government Affairs Forum of 2018, featuring Mass. Governor Charlie Baker. His speech centered on many key policy issues that are of crucial importance to the Greater Boston business community – such as housing and transportation – but also delved into new plans and initiatives for the Commonwealth moving forward. Here are the highlights:
Baker began his speech with an impressive list of accomplishments that his administration has made in transportation the past three years: $3 billion in road projects, around 80 repaired or replaced bridges, and enough new blacktop to crisscross the Commonwealth five times. He spoke at length about the T, highlighting $450 million worth of new contracts, 23 miles of new third rails, and the creation of a fiscal management control board and a strategic plan for the MBTA. Though Baker admits the T is outdated and needs massive renovations, he believes his plan to replace signals – which would halve the waiting times for trains during rush hour – will solve congestion issues and create a much better environment for riders. Most notably, Baker announced that Longfellow Bridge will reopen in May – after being renovated for more than five years. The project will also remain on budget, with a price tag of $303 million. With an estimated 28,000 vehicles and roughly 90,000 Red Line commuters across the river each day, this development is sure to improve Boston transportation significantly.
Housing is perhaps the most talked-about issue in the Commonwealth – especially here in Boston. Governor Baker spoke about the proposals his administration is currently working on including his Housing Choice initiative. At the core of the housing issue, Baker said, is a supply and demand issue that has been ongoing for years – there are not enough accommodations for those who want them. This fact alone influences much of life in Massachusetts – particularly for the workforce, in terms of talent retention. The Baker administration seeks to rectify this by planning to build 135,000 units of housing over the next five to six years, as well as proposing a housing bond bill that would have the Commonwealth put over $1 billion into housing over the next four to five years.
Governor Baker also spoke about the MassWorks Infrastructure Program, which provides funding for public entities and municipalities to support job growth and housing in Massachusetts, and boasted that 331 out of 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth have signed up to earn funding for a variety of best practices associated with the initiative, over 800 in all. Baker also announced that MassRobotics has been awarded a $2.5 million grant under this initiative to help expand its operations and promote the economic growth of Massachusetts’ rapidly expanding tech industry.
In the speech, Governor Baker stressed that Massachusetts is a great place to live, work, start a business and raise a family – and as proof, he alluded to a company that would announce a big plan to become a more prominent component of the Massachusetts business community. That company was MassMutual, whose plans include building a new Boston campus and adding 2,000 jobs in Massachusetts – a $300 million investment.
Be sure to join us at our next Government Affairs Forum breakfast on March 13, which will feature Speaker of the MA House, Robert DeLeo. Register here.
Watch Governor Baker's full speech below:
If you would like to see photos from the event, click here.