Decision 2022

Baker Backs Alcohol Ballot Question, Wary of Dental Insurance Measure

Questions 2 and 3 of the Massachusetts ballot questions focus on dental insurance reform and alcohol license availability

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker offered a peek into his ballot on Thursday, revealing that he'll likely vote no on a dental insurance spending ballot question and yes on a liquor licensing reform measure on Nov. 8 -- though he still won't say who he'll pick to succeed him in the corner office.

Baker made no objection when host of GBH's Boston Public Radio "Ask the Governor" Jim Braude said listeners already knew the Republican governor was voting no on both Question 1 and Question 4, which respectively seek to impose a 4% surtax on personal income above $1 million per year and repeal a new law -- enacted over Baker's veto -- that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for Massachusetts driver's licenses.

Question 3 would increase the number of alcohol licenses a single company could hold, allowing more stores to sell beer and wine, while gradually reducing the number of licenses specifically allowing the sale of all alcoholic beverages including liquor. Baker said the proposal is similar to legislation his administration filed a few years ago.

"It retains local communities continuing to have a certain amount of authority over the number of licenses and the way they get issued," Baker said on GBH. "It also, I think, is an attempt to create some compromise between the mom-and-pops and the big out-of-state chains."

On Question 2, which would add new regulations on dental insurer spending, Baker's projected likely "no" vote came with a stipulation that he'd like the future governor to look into the issue.

The ballot question would require companies to spend at least 83% of premiums on member dental expenses and quality improvements, instead of administrative expenses. Supporters say it would implement a medical loss ratio system similar to the one currently in place for medical insurers.

Baker, who was CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care before his first bid for governor, said there are too many unanswered questions about the measure.

"Is this going to affect where I can go to get coverage? Is this going to change what I pay for my coverage? And is it going to change the relationship that exists currently between insurers and dentists that affects price?" Baker said. "I can't answer any of those. People asked me about this question, and I don't know the answers."

The governor added that he would like to see the next administration get together a committee to study the mandated premium percentage on dental care, then "come back and tell people what it actually means."

Though Baker offered insight on how he will vote on the ballot questions, he again refused to answer how he plans to cast his ballot in the governor's race.

When asked if he will vote for Democrat Maura Healey, Baker doubled down on his support for Republican candidate for auditor Anthony Amore. Amore is the only candidate for statewide office Baker has openly supported.

"The reason I've been working so hard for Anthony Amore to be state auditor is because Anthony Amore is the kind of Republican we all should be supporting and voting for," Baker said in response to Braude's question about Healey. "I said I wasn't going to get involved, I wasn't going to make any endorsements in the other races. And saying who I'm going to vote for is an endorsement for all intents and purposes. So I'm not going there."

Though Baker has not endorsed any other candidates for constitutional offices, he has been busy in local elections endorsing Republicans such as incumbent Tom Hodgson for Bristol County sheriff and Shawn Dooley, who is attempting to unseat Sen. Becca Rausch.

Copyright State House News Service
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