McKee hopes to get priorities into state budget plan

PROVIDENCE – Lt. Gov. Daniel J. McKee is hoping there’s time to get some of his priorities into the fiscal 2022 state budget plan and expects as governor to continue focusing on aiding the business community while governing with a bottom-up approach.

McKee, who will assume office as the 76th governor of Rhode Island when outgoing Gov. Gina M. Raimondo departs, intends to make small business a priority, while working closely with the state’s 39 municipalities. Raimondo must be confirmed as the nation’s secretary of commerce before McKee can assume office.

Mike Trainor, a spokesman for McKee, on Tuesday said that although the state budget prepared by Raimondo’s administration has been more or less “fixed,” McKee and his team hope to make some minor changes. Those changes would include addressing funding to aid small businesses and providing an “adequate budget for the vaccination effort.”

McKee is seeking a way into the budget to enact changes that he feels are critical to business in the state and the COVID-19 relief effort.

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Trainor said it is unknown if there will be enough room in the budget for McKee to propose the changes, but there is hope that he will be able to “negotiate some changes to it.”

“He’s going to present the budget on March 10 to the General Assembly,” said Trainor, noting that McKee has formed a budget advisory committee that has not yet been named publicly.

McKee has been in quarantine, which ends Tuesday evening at midnight, and on “wall to wall Zoom conference calls” as he gears up to transition into the governor’s office, said Trainor. So he is conferring with his budget advisory committee to get a handle on the budget, as well as with other advisers to get advice about addressing health and small- business issues.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to questions regarding how much input McKee would have with the state budget.

The McKee team said that McKee will govern with a bottom-up approach versus the top-down approach he felt Raimondo has governed with during her term in office. The team said McKee’s general philosophy is different from Raimondo’s approach and will be geared toward ensuring that input from municipal officials and leaders is available to the administration.

McKee’s team claims it is focused on bridging the gap between state government and the towns, and intends to be more accessible and accountable to the public while governing.

During his campaign for lieutenant governor, McKee toured the state on his “39 cups of coffee” tour, stopping at coffee shops around the state to speak with members of the community. Getting out into the community to hear from the public and local leaders about the issues is something that McKee intends to incorporate into his administration.

As for who McKee will appoint as lieutenant governor, his team says that he is seeking a running mate, and noted that there will be a process involved in evaluating candidates for the position. McKee would like to appoint someone who will be an active and willing partner for a run at the governor’s office in the next election.

As it stands under current law, McKee is allowed to appoint his replacement. Trainor said that, “A number of people have expressed an interest” in serving in the position.

At the same time, legislation has been introduced by Rep. Arthur Corvese, D-East Providence, calling for the General Assembly to have the power to select who serves as lieutenant governor.

On Tuesday, Deputy House Speaker Charlene Lima, D-Cranston, called for a special election to select the next lieutenant governor.

Cassius Shuman is a PBN staff writer. You may reach him at Shuman@PBN.com.

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