Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker clarified his position on the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision Tuesday, saying he had reconsidered his initial reaction — "It doesn't matter."
"I thought really hard about this thing and sometimes you lose the forest through the trees," Baker told Morning Edition host Bob Seay. " … So I was sort of thinking to myself, 'This is good news for Massachusetts. This won't be an issue for people here. And when that issue was brought up I thought about it a little more. A couple of people raised some other possibilities and I said, 'Geez, OK, I can see how here in Massachusetts this might matter as well,'
Baker said he's since developed a proposal to set aside $300,000 to cover anyone affected by the ruling.
"I made a proposal involving the Department of Public Health that would solve the problem here in Massachusetts, because, obviously, I want to make sure people here and women here have access to a full range of reproductive and contraceptive services," he said. "The proposal I made I think would work, and I would urge the legislature and the governor an my opponents to either endorse or embrace my proposal or come up with their own."
Baker said he ran for governor again, after losing to Gov. Deval Patrick in 2010, because some of the issues he was concerned about in 2010 still linger.
"I talk about it as, sort of, an opportunity gap — people use other words for it — but basically, I think Massachusetts at this point, whether you're talking about jobs or schools or, sort of, community development, we are in some respects, doing very, very well," he said. "And some people are doing very well, but there are a lot of people in Massachusetts who, when it comes to those three issues, are, frankly, either running in place or falling behind, and we need to work on that."
Baker said he wanted to leverage the higher education, biotech, health care and other strong industries within Route 128, and leverage the different strengths — manufacturing in Worcester, for example — in other parts of state.
"What works in Hampden and Hampshire Counties will be different than what works in Worcester, different than what works in Barnstable and Bristol, and my view is, we ought to think about those as economic clusters and create policies to support growing what's already there," he said.
Facing a Tea-Party challenger to his right in Mark Fisher, Baker said his better than 80 percent of vote at the state Republican convention, shows an appetite for his outlook from state Republicans.
"I've always considered myself to be sort of a Bill Weld Republican," he said. "I worked for Bill Weld for eight years when he was governor — four at Health and Human Services, and four at Administration and Finance, in and I'm pretty much cut from his cloth, which I would describe as fiscally conservative and socially moderate. I'm a pro-choice candidate and I support marriage equality. My brother is actually gay and married. But I'm a pretty hard-headed guy when it comes to math and the budget and whether you're getting bang for your buck."
On casinos, Baker described himself as a "one-casino guy," and praised the upcoming casino referendum after previously having said he was against a vote.
"The vote on all of this in the fall is important, and I'm glad the voters are having an opportunity to make the call on," he said. "Somebody goes out and collects 125,000 signatures, they deserve to be on the ballot. I was disappointed the attorney general, for whatever reason, didn't see that."
Baker stressed his opposition to an issue central to another ballot question, automatic increases to the gas tax based on inflation.
"My position on that one separates me, from, certainly, the other Democrats in the race," he said.