New RI budget set to be released Thursday

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Islanders will get their first chance to see State House leaders’ proposed new state budget on Thursday evening, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s office has announced.

Gov. Gina Raimondo and legislative leaders have been holding closed-door talks for weeks to reach a final compromise on the $9.3-billion tax-and-spending plan for the new fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The House Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing for Thursday at 7 p.m. where the compromise budget bill will be released, though in past years the hearing hasn’t gotten underway until hours after its scheduled start.

Raimondo proposed an initial budget blueprint in January, but in the months since a shortfall of about $134 million has opened up in her plan, which is required to be balanced under the state constitution. Mattiello has also said the budget will include the first installment of his six-year car tax phaseout, which will cost an additional $26 million.

The House Finance hearing will mark the public’s first chance to see how they propose to make the math work and what compromises were reached on hot-button issues including the car tax cut, Raimondo’s college tuition plan, tax breaks for businesses and more.

House Finance members are expected to vote the budget out of committee immediately on Thursday night, which would allow the full House to hold its marathon debate on the plan a week later. The final version that becomes law usually closely tracks what is unveiled before House Finance, though at least some changes are always made.

House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan, whose Republican members hold 11 of the House’s 75 seats, suggested Tuesday they will vote for the budget if it contains four policies they support: an end to prevailing-wage requirements for school construction projects; an independent inspector general; a freeze on the tangible property tax; and changes to disability pensions.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook