Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker plans to improve education, reform health care and boost jobs, but he won't pay more to do so, he told students at Suffolk Law School.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker plans to improve education, reform health care and boost jobs, but he won't pay more to do so, he told students at Suffolk Law School.

"One thing I learned at Harvard Pilgrim and in state government is sometimes it's not how much you spend, but how you spend it and what you do with it, that determines how successful you are," Baker said to a question about increasing funding for state tobacco cessation programs. "I'm always interested in smarter, better ways to allocate and spend money. I'll start with that rather than say just more, because just more sometimes doesn't get you what you really want."

Baker, a Needham native and former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care CEO who lost the 2010 gubernatorial race to Deval Patrick, was speaking at a roundtable question and answer session at Suffolk's Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service on Feb. 4. More than 100 students, health care professionals and others listened to Baker answer questions on how he would run the state, which frequently revolved around other officials coming up with new ideas as opposed to his administration spending more money.

For example, asked whether he would put state resources toward improving public schools, Baker said he might pay for forums to bring educators together, but would mainly use the state "bully pulpit" to encourage school administrators to share ideas and emulate the outstanding schools in their districts.

Asked by a Suffolk University undergraduate student whether he would fund state universities to help relieve the rising costs of higher education, Baker also urged looking at what's already out there – for example, considering three-year rather than four-year programs, combining online and classroom-based education, and taking lessons from cooperative education programs, vocational technical schools and community college associate's degree programs.

"We don't have to invent something that doesn't exist. We can take great ideas and things people have done on a smaller scale and simply replicate, expand and broaden their influence more generally," Baker said.

Turning to transportation funding, Baker emphasized the role of local over state government. Asked how to improve transportation to help relieve pressure on real estate values, Baker instead said communities should take the initiative and consider creating more affordable housing and public space via projects such as mixed-use downtown development, possibly with strategic state support.

In a similar vein, Baker said it could be tricky to find funding to restore rail service from New Bedford to Boston – in the meantime, New Bedford might explore ways to beef up its downtown. This idea applies to Fall River, Gloucester, Chelsea, Springfield and others who could make better use of their waterfront, he said.

"Cities for the most part need to be able to stand on their own and not be thought of as satellites of some other place. … We need to have strategies that create opportunities for those communities as they stand," Baker said.

To a question about the state budget, Baker said he supports increasing funding for higher education and the Department of Children and Families, but opposes taking money from the state's rainy day fund and raising taxes, because current revenue levels are enough.

"The cost of everything in Massachusetts, including government, is an impediment to our ability to grow and succeed," Baker said.

One big cost driver that needs to be addressed is health care, said Baker, who advocated greater transparency from health care providers and a harder look at administrative expenses that may be boosting costs but not effectiveness. Skyrocketing health care costs are a big impediment to the survival of small business owners, who create most new jobs in the state, said Baker.

"We've got to get at some core underlying factors that are driving up the cost of stuff in Massachusetts if we truly want to create an economy where everyone benefits and we're not simply playing to folks representing the knowledge economy," Baker said.

Asked about his strategy to get things done in a sometimes "fractured" government, Baker emphasized the importance of working with those with opposing views, discipline and endurance, and creating a sense of trust with all players.

"If you actually want to get something accomplished, you need to recognize and appreciate the fact this is still a democracy and you have to be willing and able to engage with people who don't necessarily see the world the same way you do," Baker said.

Asked about his strategy to get elected in a largely Democratic state when he's Republican, Baker pointed out the state has a long history of electing Republican governors, especially when they talk about things people care about such as creating jobs, closing the achievement gap and ensuring all communities succeed.

"These are not Republican or Democrat or independent issues," Baker said. "They are what most people believe are the platform to build a great state and a great life and what we will continue to talk about."