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Mattiello calls Raimondo 'tone deaf' about car tax reform in Twitter rant

In a rare Twitter barrage on Friday afternoon, Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello savaged Gov. Gina Raimondo's car tax plan and her free college tuition proposal.

Mattiello called the governor "tone deaf" in one post.

"I have heard from the citizens of the state and I understand they want the burdensome car tax eliminated," Mattiello posted to his account around 3 p.m. on Friday.

"The Governor is tone deaf on this issue and should start listening to the people of Rhode Island," he wrote.

Mattiello went on to call Raimondo's proposal to provide two years of free tuition at the state's public colleges "unsustainable and fiscally irresponsible," putting its passage through the legislature in doubt.

"What is truly unsustainable and fiscally irresponsible is her plan to make us the only state in the nation to give away 'free' taxpayer-funded college tuition," he wrote.

Spokesman Larry Berman said the speaker had fielded calls recently from reporters at local papers who had reports that Raimondo’s office felt her car tax reduction plan is better than Mattiello's.

So, Berman said, even though the House is not in session this week, the speaker felt it necessary to defend his plan.

While Raimondo didn't rebuttal Matiello's tweets, as she is at the National Governor's Conference in Washington, D.C., one of her staff members came to her defense.

David Cruise, Raimondo's legislative liaison, sent out at least 10 tweets in the governor's defense.

"The Governor hears from people across the state," he wrote.

"The car tax comes up on occasion. It’s an unfair tax. And it’s why she’s proposed a 30 percent cut for all Rhode Islanders," Cruise posted.

"The Governor’s car tax plan is sustainable and doesn’t repeat past mistakes," he wrote.

Cruise, who hadn't posted anything on Twitter since July, also defended Raimondo's tuition proposal.

“#FreeCollegeRI will give at least 5K kids from the Class of 2017 the opportunity to attend CCRI, RIC or URI tuition free," Cruise wrote. "I’ve been at the SH for 35+ years. I was COS [Chief of Staff] to last two Democratic governors. Democrats lead the fight for opportunity."

Then, he added for good measure, “BTW: That includes at least 450 in Cranston," as Mattiello represents the city.

Matiello's spokesman told NBC 10 News he was not available for an interview, while the governor's spokesman said they've been trying to explain Raimondo's policies on the car tax and free tuition and her team looks forward to working with lawmakers.

NBC 10 Political Reporter Bill Rappleye will have more Friday night at 6.

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