Governor Charlie Baker said Wednesday that he would support a ballot question to raise the state cap on charter schools, if advocates are successful in placing the initiative before voters in 2016.
Baker also signaled a willingness to campaign for the passage of such a ballot question, though he said he would prefer to see lawmakers pass a bill to raise the charter cap.
He said he has “made it very clear” that he supports raising the number, especially in underperforming school districts.
Advocates contend that raising the cap in such districts would ensure access to high-quality education.
Massachusetts law allows up to 120 charter schools, with provisions for more in certain cases.
Boston is at its limit of 34. Statewide, more than 30,000 students attend charter schools.
It is not yet clear if advocates will succeed in their efforts to place a question on the ballot to raise the charter cap. Teachers unions and some parent groups fiercely oppose efforts to chip away at the limit, but many parents support the effort.
Baker, a longtime supporter of expanding the cap, spoke to Boston Globe reporter Joshua Miller at Suffolk University Law School on Wednesday during the first installment of LIVE Political Happy Hour, a new interview series sponsored by the newspaper.
The governor also weighed in Wednesday on a second expected 2016 ballot question to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
“I’m going to vote no,” he said, adding that he has spoken with several health providers and addiction specialists who believe legalizing pot for recreational use would be harmful to young people. “I’m with them on that.”
Asked if he had any regrets since his inauguration, Baker cited “the fact that I didn’t reach out earlier” to Beverly Scott, former general manager of the MBTA, when historic winter storms pummeled the state in January and February and wreaked havoc on the train system’s aging infrastructure.
Scott resigned in February after T service was suspended repeatedly during the epic storms. But on the whole, Baker said, his administration has made “a fair amount of pretty good decisions.”
Asked if that contention made Baker “a low-regret governor” at this stage of his term, when he is enjoying exceptionally high approval ratings, he quipped, “So far, I would say I’m a low-regret governor. Don’t put that on our bumper sticker.”
Baker also discussed recent negative comments from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump about Mexicans that have angered many Latinos and prompted Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston to declare that the real estate mogul cannot build a hotel in Boston until he apologizes for his statements.
Baker demurred when asked if Trump is welcome to do business in the rest of Massachusetts.
“It depends,” he said. “I think there’s a certain level of decorum that should be expected of public officials and also of public people who lead big organizations.” At the same time, he said, “I’m not one of those people who thinks one mistake, one mis-phrase and you’re out.”
Other highlights of the conversation included Baker’s pledge to push for more vocational programs in schools and affordable housing statewide; an all-out effort to address the state’s opiate abuse crisis; his support to expand the earned income tax credit for the working poor; his intent to honor a no-new-taxes campaign pledge and to ease the regulatory burden for businesses; and transit system upgrades.
In addition, he said he would reserve judgment on the proposal to bring the Summer Olympics to Boston in 2024 until he sees a state-commissioned report on the potential impact of the Games that a consulting firm is preparing.
The report from the Brattle Group is slated for release in the coming weeks.
Some moments of levity were also part of the interview, including when Baker was shown photos of himself and of his predecessor, Deval Patrick, from their Harvard days.
“What happened to that tie and that hairstyle?” Miller asked, referencing the floppy-haired Baker pictured in the photograph.
Baker noted that Patrick also sported longer hair in his picture.
“I was a kid,” Baker said. “Look at the governor, look at his hair. That was the style of the late 1970s.”
Baker closed out the interview on Wednesday with a nod to his family when asked what he normally toasts.
“I’m a pretty simple guy,” he said. “I usually toast to the health and happiness of my family.”