RI budget battle exceeds 1 week with no end in sight

Jim Hughes | WPRI-TV

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A stalemate over Rhode Island’s budget has gone on for more than a week now and there’s no indication that a resolution is within reach.

The $9.2-million tax-and-spending plan has remained in limbo since last Friday, when House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello abruptly ended his chamber’s session in protest after learning the Senate planned to pass an amendment to the budget.

Mattiello said the move violated a handshake agreement he had with Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, a claim which Ruggerio refutes.

With the legislative leaders still not speaking to each other, other state officials are starting to make contingency plans for life without a state budget. Gov. Gina Raimondo’s aides sent a memo to all state agencies Friday, saying they’ll need to operate under last year’s budget for the time being.

The memo also warned school districts that unless the budget passes, they will not get the bump in K-12 funding they had expected.

Also watching the standoff closely is the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI), since the pending budget includes Raimondo’s proposal to provide two years of free tuition for new high school graduates, dubbed the Rhode Island Promise.

During a taping of WPRI 12’s Newsmakers on Friday, CCRI President Meaghan Hughes urged families to not be dissuaded by the political drama.

“I’d start by saying absolutely yes, please apply,” Hughes said. “Please move forward as if this is going to happen.”

“If the Promise funding is secured, there will simply be an additional, kind of one-page application that indicates your commitment to fulfilling the parameters of that funding as stipulated,” she added.

Hughes said she’s confident the program will eventually be approved.

“I’ve sat with all three of those leaders who are involved with this conversation, and I am very confident that they support the mission of the college,” Hughes said.

The memo from Raimondo’s aides also says that while the state is not implementing a hiring freeze yet, any requests to fill jobs will receive “an extra level of scrutiny.”