Governor-elect Charlie Baker has selected an official from a prominent Massachusetts business advocacy group to serve as his budget chief, filling a key Cabinet position that is responsible for managing state coffers and finding budget cuts during lean economic times.
An announcement confirming the appointment of Kristen Lepore, currently a vice president of government affairs for Associated Industries of Massachusetts, as Baker’s secretary of administration and finance could come as early as Monday, according to several people with knowledge of the selection.
Attempts to reach Lepore, a Danvers resident, for comment were unsuccessful on Sunday night.
Lepore worked as deputy chief of staff to Governor Paul Cellucci, a Republican, from 1999 to 2001, and also served as director of fiscal policy at the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, according to a statement that Associated Industries of Massachusetts released when she joined the organization in 2012.
Lepore has also served as assistant executive director of the Massachusetts Port Authority and as a New England regional representative for the US Department of Education, the statement said.
A spokesman for Associated Industries declined to comment on Lepore’s appointment on Sunday night.
She would inherit a challenging fiscal landscape if she were to take over as the state’s top budget official. Last week outgoing Governor Deval Patrick proposed $329 million in midyear budget cuts, including a $25.5 million trim in general aid to cities and towns, to close a looming budget shortfall.
Glen Shor, who holds the post that Lepore will fill, told reporters that “we’re asking cities and towns to help us in solving the state budget gap,” adding that many state agencies will also feel the pinch.
According to Patrick administration officials, a likely decrease in the state income tax in January and a shortfall in anticipated fees and reimbursements are among the reasons for the deficit, which one tax organization said could swell to as much as $600 million.
A gap of that size would force Baker, a Republican who served as Governor William Weld’s secretary of administration and finance, to make budget cuts soon after he takes office. Lepore would play a major role in that process.
Baker’s spokesman told the Globe last week that the incoming governor “hopes local aid is the last place the Legislature would ever look to for cuts because Massachusetts cities and towns deserve a dependable source of funding for crucial projects.”
Representatives of the state Republican Party, House minority leader Bradley Jones, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat who has a prominent role in crafting the state budget, could not be reached for comment on Lepore’s appointment on Sunday.
Lepore’s support for Baker dates back to at least 2010, when she worked on his first, unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign as his policy director.
Earlier this month on Twitter, Lepore posted a link to an Associated Industries blog post about Baker’s pledge to improve the business regulatory environment in Massachusetts and wrote, “Lots of optimism in the room this morning.”
In October, she tweeted out a link to a Globe editorial and wrote, “Great example why businesses don’t want to come to #MA. We are overregulated and not biz friendly.”
Lepore’s selection comes after Baker tapped Jay Ash, Chelsea’s Democratic city manager, to serve as the head of the state’s housing and economic development agency.
Baker has also named Steven Kadish, who like the governor-elect has worked at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and in the state’s health and human services bureaucracy, as his chief of staff.
Matthew Beaton, a Shrewsbury state representative, will serve as Baker’s energy and environmental affairs secretary. Marylou Sudders was chosen as his secretary of health and human services.
• Baker names Sudders as health and human services chief
• 11/13: Baker’s cabinet pick raises eyebrows
• 11/17: Baker fills two top administration posts
• Charlie Baker’s transition advisers are diverse
• 11/11: Democrat Jay Ash is Baker’s first cabinet pick
David Scharfenberg of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JOSreports.