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Did Speaker Mattiello Just Blink in Budget Fight?

Saturday, July 15, 2017


Speaker Nick Mattiello

Despite his claims of never backing down and boasts of “see you in January,” it looks as if Speaker of the House Nick Mattiello has blinked in his standoff with Senate President Dominick Ruggerio. Now, the Mattiello is asking for a meeting with Ruggerio, according to his spokesman Larry Berman.

But, for the past two weeks Mattiello claimed the Senate had to reverse course and remove an amendment from the budget and send the budget to Governor Gina Raimondo for adoption before the House would return. Only then would the House reconvene.

“If the Senate takes up the budget and passes it, we can talk about a fall session perhaps. We’ll see how that develops. If there’s no change, the first Tuesday in 2018 is when the House will be back,”  Mattiello said during a 10 News Conference.

Changing Tune

On Friday, the tune had changed. A statement from Mattiello’s office to GoLocal said, "We have been at a budget impasse and two weeks have gone by.  It's appropriate to have a discussion as to what occurred, why it occurred, and hopefully find a pathway for the Senate to fix it." 

Mattiello is now calling for a meeting with Ruggerio. After two solid weeks of pounding by Progressive Democrats, fiscal expert and former Administration director Gary Sasse, and more recently the mayors and town administrators from across the state, it looks like Mattiello is rethinking his “see you in January” position.

First, in a series of blistering attacks by the RI Progressive Democrats of America, the group said in one statement, “Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello in his latest example of conservative gamesmanship, putting the House in recess immediately after hearing that his Senate colleagues might actually put their two cents into the budget. Mattiello’s childish, thuggish action mimics Trump and is an embarrassment to Democrats and the state of Rhode Island."

This was just one of a series of criticisms of Mattiello by the Progressive Democrats over the past ten days.

On Monday, July 11 on GoLocal LIVE, former Rhode Island Director of Administration Gary Sasse raised a number of concerns about the failure of the State House leaders to pass a budget and warned that the rating agencies may take a dim look on Rhode Island's political stalemate, as rating agencies like Moody's, Fitch, and Standard and Poor's could see the political impasse as destabilizing.

Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian

Sasse said the rating firms are difficult to predict. Regardless, Sasse said the budget delay is not good for the cities and towns, their budgets, and school departments, as it leaves uncertainty about how to handle the implementation of the car tax.

Pressure from Cities and Towns

Then, the League of Cities and Towns in a letter signed by Mayors Scott Avedisian of Warwick, Allan Fung of Cranston, Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien, and seventeen other municipal leaders wrote, “The longer it takes to complete action on FY2018 budget, the greater the impact on our schools, municipal services and our residents.”

The municipal leaders went on to say, “We ask your support in enacting the FY2018 budget as quickly as possible…”

While the mayors and administrators were more gentle in wording then the progressives, the message was clear — Mr. Speaker, you are going to screw-up our budgets and you know who will be to blame.


Related Slideshow: FY18 House Finance Budget

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The state's community college is poised to be the sole beneficiary of the Governor's Promise scholarship program.

It would make Rhode Island the fourth state to have tuition-free community college, allowing every resident the opportunity to earn an associate's degree tuition free. There is no means testing for the program and few standards.

The cost would be roughly $3 million in the FY18 (for the first cohort of students) and then $6 million the following year there are two classes. 

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State Government 

As part of negotiations -- and the fiscal realities facing Rhode Island with a nearly $140 million shortfally, the Speaker announced Thursday that $25 million will be cut in general spending.

"It's something we discussed with the Governor and she thinks she can make [it] work," said Matteillo. 

Also on the chopping block -- funding for the legislative office to the tune of $2 million. 

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Elderly and Disabled Bus Riders 

After levying fares on some of the most needy RIPTA bus riders (the elderly and disabled) for the first time this past year, which resulted in strong public outcry, the House Finance budget contains just over $3 million  -- for each of the next two years -- to refund the program this coming year. 

WATCH: Opponents of RIPTA Fare Hikes to Rally at RI State House Wednesday Afternoon

Mattiello noted that after the two years is up, it is up to the Governor to find the funding. 

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Governor Raimondo

On Thursday, Raimondo learned she is poised to get a piece (jCCRI) of her free college tuition proposal, which had been a major focal point of her budget proposal - and political strategy. 

On the flip side, she is tasked with finding $25 million in government spending to cut, in order to balance the budget. 

Unlike the May estimating conference, where Rhode Island revenues were found to be off nearly $100 million plus, the Governor can't say she didn't see this  coming.

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Medical Marijuana Expansion

In June, Raimondo called for an increase in medical marijuana dispensaries and an increase in licensing fees to generate $1.5 million in revenue for the state. 

She called for "no less than six licensed compassion centers."

On Thursday, Mattiello said it was not in the budget, due the proposal's late timing.

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Davies High School

The House finance budget contains additional help for manufacturing, including $3.6 million to upgrade facilities at Davies Career and Tech.

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Commerce Corporation

While Mattiello made scant mention of cuts in the briefing Thursday - save for the $25 million out of government spending -- the question was raised as to where the rest of the $140 million shortfall will come from. 

"Millions in cuts came from the Commerce Corp budget. The budget kept the Rebuild RI funding, but money for several other Commerce programs were reduced," said Larry Berman, spokesman for Mattiello. 

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Mininum Wage Hike

Workers will be happy, employers might not. 

The FY18 budget proposal calls for a $.50 minimum wage increase as of January 1, 2018, and then an additional $.40 the following year.

Business owners have continuously fought against such hikes. 


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