March 19, 2017

On Beacon Hill: March Madness, Murphy’s Law and Trumping the budget

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Sam Doran / State House News Service

Activists from 350 Massachusetts and other climate change groups practiced a "shrugging" gesture with their giant puppet of Gov. Charlie Baker before starting a rally across from the State House. Upset by President Trump's recent proposals, including budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, the protesters wanted Gov. Baker to jump into the fray and weigh in on Trump's environmental policies.

Recap and analysis of the week in state, and federal, government
from State House News Service

BOSTON — Maybe it was a little luck of the Irish.

With the forecast showing a monster nor’easter churning up the coast, Gov. Charlie Baker had one eye on the Doppler radar and another on the front gates of the State House early last week where he would welcome Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny to Boston.

Baker and Kenny would chat for awhile about economic ties between Massachusetts and Ireland, and flip through a photo album of the governor’s recent vacation to the Emerald Isle. And then Baker would go downstairs to stand in front of a bank of cameras and do his best Peter Benchley impersonation.

“Just when you think it’s safe to go back in the water,” the governor teased as he approached the mic.

But as the March 14 blizzard fizzled into a run-of-the-mill late-winter storm with a mix of heavy snow and rain in many parts of the state, Baker seemed to have largely avoided the cardinal political sins of executive storm management: over- or under-reaction.

And winter-weary residents didn’t lose sight of spring; it only got a little blurry.

Second guessing will always happen, and the governor even did a bit of that himself when he said he was scratching his head after the final flakes had fallen wondering whether the National Weather Service had kept him in the dark about changing weather patterns.

But Baker did not go all in with a full travel ban (which had been considered, and even used by Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy) nor did he slough it off entirely and run the risk of a real mess on his hands. He took the safe middle, urging people to “work from home” and stay off the roads if they had a choice, and few were going to complain about that.

Preparing for the worst and hoping for the best is also the mantra Bay State Democrats, and even Baker, are taking toward President Trump’s new budget blueprint.

Flickr / Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump

The $1.1 trillion spending plan released by the White House would slash federal research funding, community block grants, low-income heating assistance, Meals on Wheels, environmental protection and on and on and on (though the defense sector could possibly do quite well).

Baker denounced the 22 percent cut to the National Institutes of Health proposed by the president.

“It’s not just bad for Massachusetts, it’s bad for the country,” Baker said on the radio.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Baker rails against deep NIH cuts in Trump budget plan
  • Marijuana panel sets hearing schedule, including Shrewsbury forum
  • MBTA service cuts should be ‘last resort,’ governor says
  • Legislators discuss advantages of permanent daylight saving time


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