Berkshire Eagle 01/09/2015, Page A01
His commitment to deal with prescription drug abuse is applauded
By Dick Lindsay
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BOSTON >> The Democratic Berkshire delegation was encouraged by how Republican Gov. Charlie Baker addressed budgetary, economic and health issues — especially prescription drug abuse — during his inauguration speech Thursday afternoon.
The state’s newest chief executive spoke for about a half hour after being sworn in at the Statehouse with a tone that resonated with the people of Massachusetts as much as it did the state Legislature voters elected in November, according to several local state lawmakers.
Pittsfield state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier said Baker’s commitment to deal with opiate addiction across the commonwealth resonated with her and likely her constituents.
“That not only stood out, but showed a commitment … that clearly got resounding support in the House chamber,” she said.
“This is a gigantic issue that affects family, friends and neighborhoods across the state,” added state Rep. Paul Mark, of the 2nd Berkshire District. Baker’s comments regarding the misuse of powerful painkillers and other prescription drugs drew a sustained standing ovation — the only one he received — from everyone attending the inauguration ceremony in Boston.
“[Opiate addiction] has the ability to wipe out all the good work we do in education, job creation; it can undermine the family foundation,” said Berkshire state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing.
The 58-year-old successor to Democrat Deval L. Patrick, who didn’t seek re-election, made opiate addiction one of his priorities two days after defeating Democrat Martha Coakley and three others in theNov. 4 gubernatorial race.
In an interview with The Boston Globe, he said he was concerned his son AJ Baker would become reliant on Percocet, which was prescribed to the college student after he broke his arm days before the election playing football for Union College in Schenectady, N.Y.
Baker said he believes economic growth will be a key solution to dealing with controlling state spending, both short and long term.
The state’s current fiscal 2015 budget is running a $500 million deficit that he said he and legislators must address immediately.
The two branches working together to erase the red ink will be key to developing a good working relationship, Downing said.
“The budget issue will set the tone, but it won’t necessarily test our resolve,” he said. “Budget challenges will come and go and we’ll have other pressing issues down the road.”
From January 1991 to January 2007 a Republican governor and Democratic- controlled Legislature in Massachusetts achieved some successes, which lawmakers attributed to working together as people, not partisans.
“I don’t think it’s about party, but common sense,” Mark said.
Farley-Bouvier noted Baker’s political neutrality was reflected in his wardrobe during the inauguration.
“He wore a purple tie, not red or blue, but purple,” she said.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413- 496- 6233.