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Baker on 'welcome' federal MBTA inspection, abortion rights, pandemic leadership

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker at WBUR's studios. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker at WBUR's studios. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker joined WBUR’s Radio Boston Thursday to talk about a number of issues, including safety concerns and a dire financial situation for the MBTA, as well as a new settlement the state reached with families of elderly veterans who died in the COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in 2020.

Baker also weighed in on the national conversation around abortion and what it means for the state.

Highlights from the interview have been lightly edited for clarity.

Reflecting on his time in office as the end of his final term approaches:

“In terms of the most challenging thing I’ve ever had to do as an executive, as a professional, there’s never been anything like COVID. I mean, you have this constantly shifting sand around what we know and what we don’t know, with this virus that is also constantly changing, and literally just completely unpredictable. I said at one point that it’s a little bit like fighting Michael Myers from the ‘Halloween’ movies. It dies and then just kind of comes back to life … [but] I think we sometimes don’t appreciate that people here in the Commonwealth — on a wide range of issues and circumstances around COVID — really did wonderful things for each other.”

On his administration’s recent $56 million settlement with the families of veterans who died at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home:

“That was a terrible, terrible, terrible tragedy. And I ended calling 100 families that lost somebody during the spring. I couldn’t have a meeting because of COVID. I talked to 80 of them, plus or minus. Some of those phone calls lasted 5 minutes, and some of them lasted an hour. And that was my opportunity to both express my grief, and to give people a chance to talk to me about their family member, and about the home and the circumstances and situation.

“I’m glad we have a resolution, and I hope it provides people with some closure.”

On the Federal Transit Administration’s safety inspection of the MBTA following recent derailments, collisions and fatalities:

“I actually welcome the FTA for a lot of reasons. The first of all, the MBTA is, as we all know, one of the oldest public transportation systems in the country. What most people don’t know is how wildly underinvested it was for a very long time. I mean, we’ve spent close to $5 billion since we took office, maybe even [$6 billion], which you just won’t find any administration that has ever spent as much on investing in the core system as we have.

“I’ve said to a bunch of people that I never expected to get much political benefit from where the T spent most of the money over the last seven years. And guess what? I didn’t. The only real big political benefit we got was saving the Green Line extension, which was basically dead when we took office. But part of the reason there was political benefit in that was because it was an expansion.”

On the draft opinion showing the Supreme Court preparing to strike down Roe v. Wade:

“In Massachusetts, we have court decisions and laws that enshrine a women’s right to choose. Period. That’s not an issue for people here. I do believe that if that’s really where the [Supreme Court] lands, when they ultimately issue their decision, it’s a major setback for women. And I’ve also talked to colleagues of mine in the legislature about what, if anything, we need to do to be able to support people who are seeking those kinds of services and can’t get them where they live. And that’s one of the reasons why I think the House and the Senate have both put additional resources in the budget.”

On his future political ambitions:

“Well, I’m certainly going to support candidates that I believe in between now and the time I leave office. And then after I leave office, we’ll see what happens after my wife and I spend some time away with one another. But I certainly believe that moderates — and especially moderates who recognize that politics is a team sport, which it is and should be — need to have a role to play and a voice in making policy, not just here in Massachusetts, but around the country.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
Copyright 2022 WBUR. To see more, visit WBUR.

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