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Charlie Baker: 'We're nowhere near our full potential'

Gov. Charlie Baker, at his swearing-in today.

Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

Charlie Baker was sworn in as the state’s 72nd governor early Thursday afternoon.

Baker, in his first address as the state’s chief executive, told the packed House Chamber at the State House that Massachusetts needs to become more business friendly and efficient. He said he intends to streamline regulatory requirements for start-ups and small businesses.

Residents shouldn’t have to wait for hours at the registry or be confused and let down by the state’s Health Connector, said Baker.

“We’re nowhere near our full potential,” he said.

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Baker said he wants to ensure transparency in health care costs in the state. Similar health services for similar individuals can vary in cost by as much as 300 percent, he said.

"This must change," he said.

The Swampscott Republican pledged to protect cities and towns from cuts to local aid funding, pushed to increase the number of Massachusetts charter schools and sympathized with the more than 1,500 homeless families in the state that are staying in temporary accommodations like hotels or motels.

He said his top priorities are to close the state’s budget gap, which he said is more than $500 million, confront the state’s ongoing opiate addiction crisis, revitalize urban centers and close the education achievement gap. He invoked Massachusetts native JFK, stressed the need for bipartisanship and said he wants to run a government that is transparent and accountable.

“If we’re honest with ourselves, we can’t blame the deficit on lack of revenue. We have to recognize that this is a spending problem,” he said.

Someone then yelled out from the chamber's gallery, "Blame it on the former governor!"

Baker said his administration would "hold the line on taxes."

"We're already demanding enough from hardworking people," he said.

Baker defeated then-attorney general Martha Coakley, a Democrat, by a margin of just under 2 percentage points, in the general election last November. He succeeds two-term Democrat Deval Patrick, who beat Baker in his first run for governor four years ago.

Baker was sworn in, surrounded by his family -- his wife Lauren and his children Charlie, AJ and Caroline -- by new Senate President Stanley Rosenberg.

GOP luminaries were in the crowd, including former Massachusetts governors Mitt Romney, William Weld and Jane Swift, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown and current New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

 
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