Four years after he was lionized for strengthening the Massachusetts public records law, Gov. Charlie Baker has now quietly put forth a stunning proposal to restrict access to records of births, deaths and marriages.

Tacked onto the governor’s multi-billion-dollar state budget plan unveiled last month, the sleeper provision would change state law by scaling back public access to documents known as vital records, including birth and death certificates. Currently these records can be viewed or purchased by the public, with a few exemptions, at town or city halls and via state records registry.

Under the new provision, only people requesting their own records would be allowed to see them or get copies. There are a few limited exceptions, but in most cases, the records would become publicly available only ninety years after a person is born or married, or fifty years after a person’s death.

The proposal is at best puzzling and at worst an unsettling setback to the public right to know.

In small towns, including the six towns on Martha’s Vineyard, records of births, deaths and marriages are historically published in annual town reports. And community newspapers, including this one, routinely carry the weekly news of babies born, people who have died and marriage celebrations.

So why would these records be suddenly shielded from the public?

The rationale for the proposal is mostly murky, but a spokesman for Governor Baker’s office told the Boston Globe that the change aims to better shield sensitive personal information in the digital age, and mirror “national best practices.”

The proposal would need legislative approval to take effect. First amendment attorneys and other advocates for the public right to know are already lining up to oppose it, including the Massachusetts Genealogical Association and the Massachusetts Publishers Association.

The Gazette joins the opposition.

With his moderate fiscal policies and strong support for environmental and public health initiatives, Governor Baker has been generally good for the commonwealth, and good for Martha’s Vineyard.

But this proposal, buried deep in the governor’s budget, is way off target. It deserves a quick burial of its own.