BOSTON (STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE) – Gov. Charlie Baker shared on Monday that he has spoken with President-elect Donald Trump since his Nov. 8 election, downplayed suggestions that Massachusetts could be penalized by Trump’s White House, and said he would not accept a Trump administration post if a job were offered.
During his appearance on Boston Public Radio’s “Ask the Governor” segment, Baker shook off the school of thought that Massachusetts might face repercussions for the state’s support of Hillary Clinton and criticism of the president-elect from Baker and other state officials.
“The idea that there would be some political hit against us, I just don’t see that,” Baker said.
During the campaign, Baker said Trump lacked the temperament to serve as president. On Monday, Baker said that he spoke with Trump before Thanksgiving and offered his assistance in a “polite” but brief conversation.
“I wished him and his family a happy Thanksgiving and congratulated him on his victory,” Baker said.
In the weeks since his election, Trump has been filling out his future Cabinet and vetting possible candidates for positions within his administration, including Trump critic and former Bay State Gov. Mitt Romney for secretary of state. Former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown has interviewed to lead the Veterans Administration and Baker’s fellow GOP governor Nikki Haley, of South Carolina, was tapped as ambassador to the United Nations.
Republican governors – 33 in total – could be natural targets to fill out any administration, but Baker said he’s not interested in following his father’s footsteps to Washington. The elder Baker held undersecretary positions in the departments of transportation and health and human services under Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
Asked by a caller what he would have said if Trump offered him a job, Baker said: “I would have said I was flattered but I really like the job I have. I’m incredibly grateful that the voters of Massachusetts on my second try gave it to me and I plan to continue to do it to the best of my ability.”
The governor voted for neither Trump nor Democrat Hillary Clinton in the election earlier this month, but has since said he will reserve judgment on Trump until he begins to see what the new administration wants to do.
The conversation between the two lasted about four or five minutes, Baker said, and was more of a “social” call than about business.
“It was fine. It was polite and it was cordial and that was kind of that,” Baker said, adding, “I did think it was important for me to reach out and to say congratulations and to offer our assistance if appropriate.”
Since Trump’s surprise victory, many policy leaders in Massachusetts have been questioning what a Trump presidency could mean for a state whose economy is fueled, in part, by federal spending on research and development and that is counting on federal dollars for its budget and at least one major infrastructure project – the Green Line Extension.
Host Jim Braude asked Baker why he thought Trump might be different than Nixon, who shut down the Charlestown Navy Yard after the 1972 election in which Massachusetts was the only state not to vote for Nixon.
“There are so many things on the plate of the president of the United States that my expectation at this is he’s going to worry about the things presidents worry about,” Baker said.
Baker’s team recently completed negotiations with the Obama administration on a new five-year, $52 billion Medicaid waiver that will help the state continue offer health insurance to certain populations and experiment with new payment models.
Health Policy Commission member Don Berwick, who for a time ran the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under Obama, recently said on the same radio show, “You bet I can,” when asked if he could envision Trump rescinding the waiver.
Asked about Berwick’s comments, Baker said he didn’t think the waiver was in jeopardy.
“Given the amount of effort and investment that’s been made by many states – red and blue – to secure these arrangements with the federal government I would be surprised if this was something that rose to the top of the pile,” Baker said.
The governor similarly dismissed the idea that Trump could cancel the $1 billion federal commitment to the Green Line extension project into Medford. Baker noted that Congress authorized that spending, and he has confidence that the federal Department of Transportation will review the revised construction plan on its merits.
“I’m laughing because everyone’s worried about all kinds of things and I understand that on some level, but on the other level we should remember it’s a big complicated federal government,” Baker said.
While Baker seemed certain he would not be leaving Massachusetts for a job in Washington, the governor was not ready to announce a run for a second term in 2018.
“Karyn Polito and I always told each other that we would not talk about that issue until sometime the year before, which would be 2017, and I think the big issue for both of us is we just have to take a look at what our agenda would be for a second term and then we’ll make the decision,” Baker said.
Newton Mayor Setti Warren, a Democrat, has been making moves since announcing he would not seek another term to potentially challenge Baker in two years, but the governor had little to say about his possible adversary or the job he’s done.
“Truthfully, I don’t know that much about what’s happened in Newton over his term there. I just don’t,” Baker said.