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Mattiello, Ruggerio reach tentative budget agreement

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio announced Monday, July 31, 2017, that they have reached an agreement that will finally move the Rhode Island budget forward. (WJAR)

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio announced Monday evening that they have reached an agreement that will finally move the Rhode Island budget forward.

The announcement was made following a series of “productive discussions” between the two during the last week, as well as after Senate Democrats met at Ladder 133, a restaurant in Providence.

The month-long budget impasse is now expected to end Thursday when the Senate is set to reconvene.

“As part of the agreement, both leaders plan to present stand-alone legislation to their respective chambers that will address concerns related to the sustainability of the car tax phase-out,” according to a press release. “The legislation will mandate that the director of revenue file annual reports with both the Senate and the House and provide recommendations regarding the motor vehicle phase-out. The first report is due January 1, 2021.”

The release also noted that the Senate has agreed to reconvene on Thursday to pass the budget that had been passed by the House on June 30, adding that the Senate will take up the stand-alone bill at that time regarding the car tax phase out.

“I look forward to having the Senate return on Thursday to finalize the budget process,” Ruggerio said. “The concerns of the budget impasse expressed by city and town leaders have not been lost on me, but I needed to balance those concerns with the feasibility of the car tax phase-out, particularly in the out years. I’m pleased the Speaker recognized the concerns of the feasibility of the car tax phase-out that I share with my colleagues in the out years. This compromise allows the budget process to move forward, and I appreciate the Speaker’s willingness to work through our differences.”

Mattiello shared similar sentiments.

“I’m pleased the Senate recognized the importance of moving forward and reconvening on Thursday to finalize the budget process,” Mattiello said. “The car tax phase-out remains in the budget and the relief Rhode Islanders desire from this punitive tax will be implemented as I promised. We also recognize the Senate’s concerns related to the car tax phase-out from a long-term perspective, and I think it makes sense for the Director of Revenue to commission an annual study on how this program and other programs are working in conjunction with projected revenue. The House of Representatives will be reconvening in September to pass the Senate’s car tax legislation in addition to other bills. I thank President Ruggerio for his diligence in resolving our budget disagreement.”

Senators claim the standoff was not a waste of time.

"I think what it showed that the senate had issues and concerns about the sustainability and viability of the car tax in future years," Sen. Michael McCaffrey said, adding that he feels confident that they'll get the 26 votes to pass the budget on Thursday.

The House and Senate have also agreed to reconvene on Sept. 19 to take up other pieces of legislation that did not get addressed before the end of the session. Details regarding which bills will be addressed in September are still being worked out between the House and the Senate.

A statement from Gov. Gina Raimondo noted that the governor "is pleased the legislature is on course to resolve the budget impasse and will sign the budget as soon as it reaches her desk."

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