Mattiello: Perennial deficit ‘not an appropriate way to run a government’

HOUSE SPEAKER NICHOLAS A. MATTIELLO, pictured during a legislative session in 2019, and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio answered questions at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce's annual legislative luncheon on Wednesday. / AP FILE PHOTO/CHARLES KRUPA
HOUSE SPEAKER NICHOLAS A. MATTIELLO, pictured during a legislative session in 2019, and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio answered questions at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce's annual legislative luncheon on Wednesday. / AP FILE PHOTO/CHARLES KRUPA

PROVIDENCE – House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello told business leaders Wednesday that he doesn’t object to many of the economic and educational initiatives contained in Gov. Gina M. Raimondo’s fiscal 2021 budget proposal, but said the final numbers have to add up.

He made several allusions to basic mathematics in responding to questions posed about the fiscal budget now under legislative review. The governor’s budget includes expenditures in educational programs and new projects at a time when the state is facing a $200 million deficit, he said.

“I like all of the ideas, the big picture. But at the end of the day, one plus one has to equal two,” he said.

Mattiello and other leaders in the General Assembly spoke at the annual legislative luncheon of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. Several hundred business owners and employees listened as legislative leaders answered questions about the state budget, a statewide plastic bag ban and other issues.

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Some of the revenue-generating ideas proposed by Raimondo in the $10.2 billion budget, Mattiello said, will likely not be there by the end of the committee process. He did not identify them by name, but Raimondo’s budget includes a plan for the state to legalize recreational marijuana and collect revenue from its sale in state-owned retail stores.

Both Mattiello and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio have said they oppose the idea.

The government is perennially starting its budget process with a $200 million deficit, he noted, which needs to be taken into consideration.

“With me, it’s a math problem, rather than an ideological focus on the issue,” Mattiello said. “We have to have real conversations about how we’re going to address that,” he said of the deficit. “We start every year the exact way, with $200 million deficit. It’s just not an appropriate way to run a government.”

In other statements:

  • Ruggerio said he favors a statewide single-use plastic bag ban but would not want to see people charged for paper bag replacements. The statewide approach would offer more consistency across communities, he said.
  • The Chamber asked audience members to use their phones to vote on two questions. The first, on whether the state should legalize recreational marijuana within two years, drew a response of 52% in favor, 48% opposed. The second question, on whether T.F. Green Airport should change its name, drew a 76% favorable, 24% opposed vote.
  • All of the leaders indicated they would favor a phase-out on taxes applied to retirement income.
  • All of the leaders said they would support increasing the current threshold of $1.75 million on estate taxes being applied.
  • When asked who they supported for president, both Ruggerio and Mattiello said they were backing Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic senator representing Minnesota.

 

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