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Baker says Massachusetts should not be ‘a sanctuary state’

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker at the State House on Wednesday.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker at the State House on Wednesday.Steven Senne/AP

Governor Charlie Baker said Thursday night that he does not expect Congress to repeal President Obama’s signature healthcare law without replacing it with an alternative.

“I haven’t heard anybody in Washington say repeal” solely, said Baker during a forum at the Seaport World Trade Center. “The whole conversation has been repeal and replace. ... I think the likelihood that this thing gets repealed, period, with nothing behind it is very, very small.”

The Republican appeared alongside Mayor Martin J. Walsh, a Democrat, at the forum broadcast by WBZ that was moderated by WBZ reporter Joe Mathieu.

Walsh cautioned that shredding the health care law, commonly referred to as “Obamacare,” could harm many cities and towns where President Trump won handily.

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“It would set those towns back a lot further,” Walsh said, noting that the law has delivered health insurance to tens of millions of Americans who previously lacked it.

Walsh noted that “Obamacare was never finished,” and that policy makers have been working to make adjustments to the law since its passage in 2009.

The comments from Baker and Walsh come amid renewed calls by the Republican majority in Congress, as well as President Trump, to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Baker, who recently sent a 9-page letter to congressional leaders outlining suggestions for fixing the health care system, said Thursday that some changes will have to be made.

He cited his proposal to levy a higher fee on some employers in the state who do not provide healthcare to their workers, noting that swelling MassHealth enrollment is straining the budget.

“There will certainly be adjustments” at the state and federal levels, Baker said.

The two officials also touched on immigration, which has been a flashpoint in recent days after Trump’s actions cracking down on so-called sanctuary cities such as Boston.

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Baker said he believes Massachusetts should not be “a sanctuary state.”

He added, however, that municipalities “should be allowed to make their own decisions” in regards to their approach to enforcing the law and protecting public safety.

Walsh, who has forcefully criticized Trump’s executive orders, said his actions do not address the need for immigration reform.

“The actual issue is, we have a problem in the [US] with immigration,” Walsh said. “Let’s deal with the issue of immigration.”

Also during the forum, Baker said he will veto any pay raise package for state lawmakers that comes to his desk, a stance his office confirmed earlier in the day.

Both men also touched on economic development and said it remains vitally important to continue attracting tech companies and other businesses to the Hub and to the Bay State.

Walsh and Baker also reiterated their commitment to tackling the state’s opioid crisis, and Mathieu called for the crowd of roughly 200 attendees to applaud the officials for their efforts.

The crowd responded with a spirited round of applause.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.