Governor Charlie Baker has imposed a three-month freeze on new regulations.
The regulatory pause is part of a broader effort to cut red tape, Baker said, and will allow the administration to focus on its most pressing task: tackling an immediate budget shortfall the governor has pegged at more than $500 million and developing a new budget for the fiscal year that begins in July.
In a memo to Cabinet secretaries imposing the freeze, which was announced Thursday, Secretary of Administration and Finance Kristen Lepore wrote the aim is to “modernize and simplify the Commonwealth’s regulations.”
The freeze, and the larger effort to streamline regulations, won praise from business groups.
Christopher P. Geehern, spokesman for Associated Industries of Massachusetts, said stopping “to look at regulations, without piling them one on top of the other, is a good idea.”
The freeze, in effect until March 31, will not apply to regulations that must be developed by a certain date by law; that cut red tape (by replacing more onerous regulations); that are “essential for the public health, safety, environment, or welfare;” or “meaningfully” address “an unforeseen matter of public import.”
Baker, a former state budget chief and health insurance executive, campaigned on creating a more efficient government.
And the state’s budget woes have put immediate pressure on the administration to rein in costs.
Since he took office, the governor has put a hiring freeze in place and ordered state agencies to conduct a 100-day review of their offices focused on finding savings.
Governor explains his sick day
Despite a recent illness, Charlie Baker sounded cheery Thursday afternoon as he answered a barrage of questions — on topics ranging from his recent illness to the Olympics to a morning traffic snarl — in his first appearance as governor on a monthly call-in radio show.
Early on in his hour-long appearance on WGBH-FM’s Boston Public Radio program, Baker addressed the sickness that prompted him to miss Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s State of the City address Tuesday and two public events Wednesday.
“I’m doing fine. I think I was mostly tired,” he told hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, who also hosted former governor Deval Patrick on a monthly “Ask the Governor” segment.
Baker said he started to feel really sick on Monday, it got worse on Tuesday, and he was concerned he might infect people he met.
He said he did “the public-health appropriate thing to do” and went home.
Baker’s sick day on Wednesday led to him missing a meeting with top legislators and a joint radio interview with Walsh.
A referendum on the Olympics?
During his appearance on the WGBH-FM radio show, Governor Charlie Baker was asked by a caller whether Boston should be able to hold a citywide vote on the Olympics. The city was named last week as the US candidate for the 2024 Summer Games.
Baker noted that there are state laws in place that allow for citizens to collect signatures and put a referendum on the ballot, and he has always been a big believer in the process. “If people want to collect signatures to support referendums, they can do that,” he said, adding that it could be done on a statewide or citywide basis.
“But part of the point behind making people collect signatures and engage in that civic endeavor if they want to put something on the ballot is to determine whether or not, in fact, there is any level of support for it,” he said.
Baker affirmed that he’d like no public money to be spent on the Games, other than what is already in the pipeline to be spent.
So how do the taxpayers know that they won’t be handed a massive bill after the Olympics, Braude asked.
“Part of that is there’s going to be an open process here, and the way I think about this is: This process is just starting now,” Baker said.
He noted he was a private citizen until last week, doesn’t have a lot of access to what’s been discussed with the US Olympic Committee, hadn’t read the city’s bid, and is “looking forward to being brought into that conversation.”
Braude asked whether it is conceivable at the end of the process Baker would determine that it’s not affordable and he’s not going to support it.
“I’m thinking about it the other way around, Jim, which is that it’s important that it
be something that people believe can work financially,” he said.