Sarah Birnbaum

State House Reporter, WGBH Radio

Sarah Birnbaum is WGBH Radio’s political and State House reporter. When she’s not on the campaign trail, she loves telling stories about health care and education policy, and all the issues that come through the Legislature that matter to voters.

Before coming to Massachusetts, Sarah worked for CBS Network News in New York, where she covered stories ranging from the Virginia Tech shootings to the Clinton/Obama primaries to the Academy Awards. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and CBS Radio, and on stations throughout Massachusetts.

Sarah has a B.A. in art history and English literature from Stanford University.

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Politics & Government
4:19 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

Baker's 1st Budget Proposal Increases Spending, But Not Taxes

Snow falls on the State House in Boston.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH News

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker unveiled his first state budget Wednesday, calling for a 3 percent increase in overall spending, but no new taxes.

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Local News
6:01 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

Baker Administration To Focus On Homelessness Prevention

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced plans today aimed at reducing the number of families in homeless shelters, hotels and motels. 

The last administration pledged to end homelessness, but governor Baker says the number of homeless families is increasing. There are about 5,000, he says. Half in shelters and the other half in hotels and motels.
 
“The amount of family homelessness in Massachusetts must be rethought and reconsidered with respect to how the families are served.”

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Local News
8:44 am
Fri February 27, 2015

Legislature Grills MassDot Head Stephanie Pollack On MBTA

MBTA passengers leave a Green Line train for a shuttle bus handling the remainder of their trip.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH News

Massachusetts lawmakers grilled the state’s top transportation official Thursday about the massive breakdowns on the MBTA and Commuter Rail. The testimony yielded more questions than answers.

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Local News
4:56 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

Watchdog Group Says State's Budget Defecit Will Be $1.5 Billion

A week before Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker is set to release his first budget plan, a leading fiscal watchdog group is estimating a $1.5 billion shortfall.  The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Eileen McAnneny says the state saw larger budget gaps– on the order of $3 billion– in the middle of the recession. "But it’s important to realize that this is happening when we’re in an economic recovery." McAnneny says state spending on things like healthcare and pensions is outpacing growth in tax revenue. Noah Berger, the president of the left leaning Budget And Policy Center s

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Politics & Government
4:48 pm
Tue February 24, 2015

Campaign Finance Lawsuit Unites Conservatives And Liberals — Up To A Point

A new lawsuit against Massachusetts is bringing together opposite sides of the political spectrum — sort of.

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Local News
8:18 am
Tue February 24, 2015

Equal-Pay Bill Proposed In House

Snow falls on the State House in Boston.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH News

A bill making its way through the Massachusetts Legislature aims to close the pay gap between men and women.

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Local News
5:28 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

Bill Aimed At Equal Pay Makes Its Way Through Mass. Legislature

A bill making its way through the Massachusetts Legislature aims to close the pay gap between men and women.
 
The bill would prohibit employers from asking job applicants how much they’re currently making.

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Politics & Government
3:40 pm
Fri February 20, 2015

Baker Creates Commission To Study MBTA Problems

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is creating a commission to study the problems at the MBTA — though this is not a completely original idea.

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Politics & Government
8:27 am
Fri February 20, 2015

Data Shows Spike In Mass. Heroin And Prescription Drug-Related Deaths

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Data released Thursday from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health show a stunning increase in the number of heroin and prescription drug-related deaths.

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Local News
4:33 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

Charlie Baker, MBTA GM Beverly Scott "Exchange Views"

Governor Charlie Baker says he had a "healthy exchange of views” with the leader of the MBTA as the two met on a day of new commuting woes for residents who use mass transit.

Baker said Thursday that he would have more to say later about his meeting with MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott and the agency as a whole.

The MBTA has come under fire for its on-again, off-again service problems during recent snowstorms, including the decision to suspend all rail service on Monday night through Tuesday.

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Local News
4:31 pm
Wed February 11, 2015

Political Shocker: MBTA GM Beverly Scott Will Step Down In April

MBTA GM Beverly Scott spoke to the board of MassDOT Wednesday before announcing she would step down.
Credit Howard Powell / WGBH News

In a move that surprised Beacon Hill, the newly controversial general manager of the MBTA,  Beverly Scott, submitted her letter of resignation Tuesday.

Scott said that she will step down in 60 days, and that she's looking forward to spending quality time with her family.  

The letter made only parenthetical reference to the punishing snow that has hit the region. And it made no reference to the political storm that swirled around her ever since Governor Charlie Baker said he was  "disappointed" in recent T performance, which he termed "unacceptable".

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Politics & Government
10:37 pm
Tue February 10, 2015

MBTA GM Beverly Scott, Gov. Baker Haven't Spoken With Each Other About Snowstorms

MBTA GM Beverly Scott, left, and Gov. Charlie Baker had successive press conferences Tuesday.

MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott is defending her controversial decision to shut down rail service due to the snowstorm, stranding thousands of workers who depend on public transportation, making a stunning admission during a press conference Tuesday.

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Local News
12:00 pm
Tue February 10, 2015

Gov. Baker Puts 500 National Guard Members On Snow Duty; Still Has MBTA In His Sights

Snow falls on the State House in Boston.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH News

Governor Charlie Baker activated 500 members of the Nation Guard Tuesday to assist communities in eastern Massachusetts recover from the record-setting snow of the last two weeks.

50, four-person teams will deploy to help dig out hydrants and other critical pieces of infrastructure.

The remaining 300 guard members will operate heavy machinery to aid in snow removal across the hardest hit areas of the state, especially Boston’s South Shore.

Baker said the state has purchased two snow melters capable of dissolving up to 25 large truckloads of snow per hour.

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Local News
3:22 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

Mass. Snow Brutalizes Local Budgets

Worcester has seen lots of snow over the past two weeks.
Credit Rupa Shenoy / WGBH News

Massachusetts’s cities and towns are plowing through their snow removal budgets faster than the historic snow of the last two weeks has accumulated. There is really no choice but to plow first and then figure out how to pay for it later. 

Geoff Beckwith of the Massachusetts Municipal Association says communities are running into tens of millions of dollars in budget overruns in their snow and ice accounts, and will carry over that deficit into the next fiscal year which begins in July:

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Local News
2:14 pm
Fri February 6, 2015

Mass. Health Insurance Companies To Begin Covering Methadone

Private health-insurance companies in Massachusetts will cover methadone treatment for people recovering from drug addiction starting this summer.

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Politics & Government
7:22 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

Judge Blocks Partners Healthcare Merger

Massachusetts General Hospital, a Partners HealthCare member.
Credit AP Photo

A Massachusetts court has blocked an agreement that would have allowed Partners Health Care to acquire three community hospitals in exchange for capping their prices.

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Local News
2:49 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

Governor Baker Declines Comment On Speaker DeLeo's Power Play

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo
Credit (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo is pressing his fellow lawmakers to eliminate a rule he initially supported limiting speakers to four two-year terms.

A copy of proposed rules to be debated by lawmakers on Thursday would eliminate an existing rule stating "no member shall hold, for more than eight consecutive years, the office of Speaker of the House."

The proposed rule change was sent to lawmakers Wednesday. A vote is expected Thursday in the House following a closed-door Democratic caucus.

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Politics & Government
4:10 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Baker Pegs Mass. Budget Shortfall At $765M

Gov. Charlie Baker
Credit Gretchen Ertl/AP Images for Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker says the state is facing a whopping budget gap that’s far bigger than the previous administration estimated.

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Local News
4:43 pm
Mon January 12, 2015

Charlie Baker Meets With State Democrats For First Time

Republican Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker downplayed any potential areas of conflict as held his first face to face meeting with the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate.

The atmosphere was chummy as Baker, House Speaker Bob Deleo and new senate president Stan Rosenberg emerged from the closed door meeting. Former Governor Deval Patrick held regular private meetings with Democratic leadership. Baker is continuing the tradition.

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Local News
5:05 pm
Thu January 8, 2015

Baker Calls For Fast Action On Charter Schools

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker called for fast action on charter schools in his inaugural speech on Thursday.

Baker said traditional public schools will always be the backbone of the education system, but...

"We need more high performing public charter schools, especially in under performing school districts.”

Baker's predecessor, Democratic Governor Deval Patrick, had been cool to charter schools. Last year, the Massachusetts House passed a bill lifting a cap on the number of charters, but the Senate let the proposal die.

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Local News
9:49 am
Thu January 8, 2015

DeLeo Kicks Off 4th Term As Speaker

House Speaker Robert DeLeo greets the crowd at his swearing-in.
Credit Sarah Birnbaum / WGBH News

Bob DeLeo sailed to a fourth term as speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Wednesday, joining new Senate President Stan Rosenberg in presiding over the 189th session of the Massachusetts General Court. The day was dominated by ceremony.

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Politics & Government
2:14 pm
Tue December 23, 2014

Grading Deval Patrick On Education

Gov. Deval Patrick
Credit Meredith Nierman / WGBH

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is leaving office next month after eight years. Patrick instituted bold and controversial educational policies in the middle of his term, in part to close what's called the achievement gap between students with different economic and racial backgrounds. Did the governor meet his goals?

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Politics & Government
9:32 am
Tue December 9, 2014

Boosters, Opponents Clash Over Boston 2024 Olympics Bid

Critics slammed boosters of a Boston Olympics for a lack of transparency at the first public debate on the city's bid yesterday.

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Local News
5:06 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Olympic Committee Changes May Benefit Boston Bid

Olympic boosters and opponents will host the first public debate on whether Boston should host the 2024 summer games.

Former Boston City councilor Mike Ross will be making the case for hosting the Olympics, alongside the chair of the group No Boston Olympics.
 
Last week a private group formally submitted a bid to host the games. They say the event would cost less than $5 billion - paid for with private funds - although that number does not include road and other infrastructure projects.

Local News
8:01 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Kinder Morgan Re-Routes Mass. Natural Gas Pipeline Through N.H.

Opponents of a proposed natural gas pipeline protest on Boston Common July 30, 2014. Kinder Morgan has proposed the $3.75 billion extension of its northeast pipeline through Massachusetts and says will provide clean-burning natural gas to the northeast.
Credit (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Kinder Morgan is filing paperwork Monday with the Federal government to change the route of a proposed controversial natural gas pipeline. It would bypass central Massachusetts and goes through southern New Hampshire instead.

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Local News
4:11 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Commission Recommends Pay Raise For Mass. Governor

Credit Fogster

An advisory commission created by the Massachusetts legislature is recommending significant pay raises for the governor and other top leaders.

 Right now, the governor makes $150,000 a year. The panel recommends raising that by $35,000 and adding a $65,000 housing allowance. Ira Jackson is a dean at UMass Boston and chair of the commission:

  “The governor is the CEO of the largest institution in the state.  And yet there are 1,254 state employees who earn more than the governor, including every member of the governor’s cabinet and the governor’s chief of staff."

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Politics & Government
1:56 pm
Wed November 26, 2014

Mass. Blue Law Keeps Bay Staters From Shopping On Thanksgiving

In most of the country, national chains like Best Buy and Target open their doors on Thanksgiving Day. But in Massachusetts, a state law keeps shoppers at the dinner table.

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Local News
5:26 pm
Mon November 24, 2014

Health Connector Hiccups For Immigrants

Some immigrants are having trouble signing up for insurance on the Massachusetts health care exchange website. 

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Politics & Government
3:13 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

DeLeo Won't Back Patrick's Plan To Cut Aid To Cities And Towns

Massachusetts House Speaker Bob DeLeo – the top Democrat in the House — says he will not back the governor’s plan to cut $25.5 million in direct state aid to cities and towns. 

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Local News
4:57 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

Markey Slams Keystone XL Oil Pipeline

Credit Richard Vogel/AP via NPR

Massachusetts’ two U.S. senators are planning to vote against the Keystone XL pipeline project.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey say they’re opposed to the crude-oil pipeline, which would run from Canadian tar sands to Gulf coast refineries.

Markey argued on the Senate floor the pipeline would enable Canadians to export oil out of the United States. 

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