BOSTON — Republican Charlie Baker has called for the repeal of two new tax laws in his first appearances as a 2014 candidate for governor, but says he is also willing to reconsider some of the positions carved out during his first statewide campaign.
Shortly after formally announcing his campaign online with a video, Baker weighed in on the controversial new sales tax on computer and software design services, saying it should be repealed. He also called for the repeal of another law change incorporated in the recent transportation financing plan that linked future increases in the gas tax to inflation.
His stands go hand-in-hand with hopes expressed by rank-and-file Republicans in Gloucester and elsewhere across the state.
“He’s got to be a more aggressive candidate,” said longtime Gloucester Republican Bob Whynott, the former city clerk who is seeking re-election to the City Council this fall in his own campaign.
“We’re not looking for a ‘Leave It to Beaver’ (candidate), we need someone who can get in there and get some of these tremendous tax burdens off our backs,” Whynott said of Baker, who fell short in a 2010 challenge to Gov. Deval Patrick. “I’d like to see something change in Massachusetts. We’re not a business-friendly state, we’ve got to change that — and I think he can do it.”
Baker said his campaign will indeed be focused on improving the business climate to grow jobs, closing the educational achievement gap and “changing the relationship” between the state and cities and towns to foster better partnerships.
Baker also said he supports the Legislature’s decision to require Gov. Patrick to seek a waiver from certain requirements under the Affordable Care Act, and believes the state needs to “get aggressive” in addressing the cost of health care, permitting and energy to improve the business climate.
Speaking on the tech tax, Baker said: “It’s exactly the wrong message at the wrong time to the wrong part of the economy.” He said state officials should be able to find revenues in the $35 billion annual budget to make up for $161 million in lost revenues by rolling back the new tax policies if transportation is their priority.
During his last campaign, Baker took a pledge not to raise taxes and warned voters that Patrick, if re-elected, would likely push to increase the income tax to pay for his policy initiatives, which Patrick did this year.
Baker said he would be signing no tax pledges this time around.
“(But) I’m a reform before revenue guy and I’m going to be the taxpayers’ best friend on that whole question, but one of the things that I learned with respect to the pledge is that if you take the pledge you’re basically singing up for the status quo,” Baker told reporters.
Calling the tax code “extremely messy,” he continued, “I would hate to put myself in a position where if we actually came up with a way to simplify and make the tax code more sensible and more business and consumer and people friendly that somehow I would have a pledge in place that would make it impossible for me to go ahead and execute on that.”
He also said he would not be reprising so-called “5-5-5 plan” to lower the tax rates on corporations, income and sales to 5 percent across the board.
Baker’s entrance into the race last week was greeted by familiar attacks from state Democrats as party chairman John Walsh dusted off the 2010 playbook and rekindled questions about Baker’s role as former Gov. William Weld’s budget chief in crafting the financing plan for the Big Dig that led to large amounts of state debt as the project ran over budget.
“If the Democrats want to blame me for everything that went wrong over the 30-year life of the Big Dig, I certainly hope they’re going to give me credit for everything that gone right over the 30-year life of the Big Dig as well,” he said, suggesting the financing model was crafted in a bipartisan fashion and replicated by the Patrick administration to finance its accelerated bridge repair program.
Baker said the complex borrowing strategies helped sustain the central artery project, and some of the benefits are just now being seen in places like the Seaport District on the South Boston waterfront.
“I think the fact that people are bringing it up now in this political context is just an indicator that they really don’t have much to say about where we ought to be going in the future,” he said.