Mattiello, Ruggerio to meet Tuesday on state budget impasse

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s top lawmakers are no longer giving each other the silent treatment.

It’s been seventeen days since House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello stunned Smith Hill by sending the House home to protest an amendment Senate President Dominick Ruggerio wanted to add to the state budget. Now the two Democrats have made plans to meet and discuss the impasse.

Mattiello spokesman Larry Berman said the speaker called Ruggerio on Friday to set up the meeting. (One legislative aide called their conversation “brief but cordial.”) They plan to meet Tuesday afternoon at an undisclosed location away from the State House, Berman said.

Rhode Island has been operating under last year’s spending levels for the first 17 days of the new fiscal year due to the breakdown in the Assembly, which left the $9.2-billion proposed tax-and-spending plan in limbo.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo told reporters late last week it was “welcome news” that the two men planned to meet.

“I hope that results in a productive meeting, which helps get us past this impasse,” she said. “That’s the first step, so it’s a positive step.”

R.I. Republican Party Chairman Brandon Bell argued Mattiello “is beginning to buckle” under pressure, but said he was alarmed by the prospect of “a secret meeting between two men where there will be hugs, handshakes and possibly a deal to shake down the taxpayers in a fall session.”

“This is not transparent and this is not how government should work,” Bell said.

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