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With his first annual spending bill due in roughly three months and a mid-year budget shortfall still not fully resolved, Gov.-elect Charlie Baker has named business advocate Kristen Lepore to head his finance office, his transition office announced Monday.
Lepore, vice president of government affairs at Associated Industries of Massachusetts, will become secretary of administration and finance.
"Crafting the next fiscally responsible budget while investing in the people and services instrumental to making Massachusetts great is the administration's top priority and a duty I am humbled to take on," Lepore, of Danvers, said in a statement.
She's the second woman Baker has tapped for his Cabinet. On Friday, he named mental health expert Marylou Sudders as secretary of health and human services.
In turning to Lepore to lead his budget office, Baker is also drawing on another trusted associate with previous ties to the Weld-Cellucci era of state government.
Lepore served as deputy chief of staff to Gov. Paul Cellucci, and as director of fiscal policy in the late governor's Executive Office for Administration and Finance. Baker also worked for Cellucci, as secretary of administration and finance.
After her time in state government, President George W. Bush appointed Lepore as the New England regional representative for the U.S. Department of Education.
She joined A.I.M., the state's largest business advocacy group, in January 2012 with a portfolio that included the trade group's efforts to control the cost of health care and health insurance for Massachusetts employers.
In 2010, Lepore served on Baker's first unsuccessful campaign for governor as policy director. She has also worked as assistant director of the Massachusetts Port Authority.
One of Lepore's first task could be to help close a mid-year budget gap that Gov. Deval Patrick has identified at $329 million. Though Patrick solved for a large portion of the gap with executive spending reductions, he filed a bill last week with $57 million in additional cuts.
Legislative leaders, including House Speaker Robert DeLeo, rejected Patrick's proposal to trim $25.5 million in unrestricted local, and it is unclear whether the House and Senate will try to act before the end of the year or wait until Baker and the new Legislature is sworn in next January.
Lepore, in her role with A.I.M., has also opposed changes to the state's health insurance rating system imposed by the Affordable Care Act, and pushed against legislation that set nurse-to-patient staffing ratios in hospitals.
Baker addressed an Associated Industries of Massachusetts executive breakfast the week after his election victory, promising a top-to-bottom regulatory review to make the state easier for businesses looking to locate here and grow.
"Lots of optimism in the room this morning," Lepore wrote on Twitter that day.
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